( The above picture of me on top of Whitefish is courtesy of Big Mtn Photos
HOW TO GET THERE
Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is just 19 miles from Whitefish Mountain Resort and is served by three major airlines: Delta, Northwest and United.
This historic railroad-turned-ski town is still a major stop for Amtrak. Trains from the West Coast arrive at Whitefish at 7:30 a.m., leaving time for you to hop on the S*N*O*W* Bus—the complimentary Shuttle Network of Whitefish that runs a circuit around the town and the mountain resorts—and arrive at the slopes in plenty of time to rent equipment, have a hot breakfast at the main lodge and still make the first chair.
WHERE TO STAY
Lodge at Whitefish Lake
Equipped with elegant suites featuring mucho space, crackling fireplaces, wonderful bathroom amenities, gourmet restaurants, and a world class spa, the Lodge at Whitefish Lake is a first-class choice, and perfect for a stellar Girlfriend Getaway.
The lodge is as superb as the view that surrounds it. Located a mile from town and just minutes from the slopes, you can ski all day and then either choose to explore the vibrant nightlife in Whitefish, or just laze around this warm, full-service resort. Get toasty in front of the fireplace, soothe those pleasantly aching thigh muscles in their outdoor hot tub, or recount your day’s adventures over a gourmet dinner at The Boat Club lounge and restaurant.
Arrange a getaway with your girlfriends, but be advised: you must (and I mean must) plan to spend some serious time chilling at the spa. You might even consider splurging for one of their blissful half-day ritual treatments. It’s worth it. MY masseuse, Zionah, was incredible. I think her name must mean “hands of magic.”
I created my own afternoon delight package which I call “A Huck of a Good Time.” It starts with a little sustenance from the Coffee Shop—a cup of huckleberry tea and a steaming hot huckleberry muffin. Off to the spa for a life-altering Deep Tissue Bodywork massage followed by their fragrant Huckleberry Body Scrub. You’ll finish in time to grab a seat at the bar, camera poised to capture an extraordinary sunset shot over Glacier National Park, while sipping a signature Huckleberry Martini. Highly advised is that you pair the martini with the fantastically fattening Boat Club Chips—homemade sweet potato chips that you dip in a sauce of melted blue cheese/ranch dressing. Divine!
GRAB SOME GRUB:
Tupelo Grill: The hunky owner Pat, a Louisiana transplant (ergo the wide selection of home-style Southern dishes on the eclectic menu) runs a jumping Whitefish restaurant that combines a good ol’ time with some seriously good food. A girlfriend and I shared almost every Cajun/Creole dish on the menu and found each to be better than the last—manageable if you order “tapas style” and stick with the starters and second plate offerings.
Can’t miss selections: Grilled crawfish cakes, the hot and sassy Looziana gumbo, signature shrimp and grits, herbed chicken and dumplings. All of these paired beautifully with my Elk Cove Riesling—highly recommended.
Tip: After a day of skiing, calories be damned. Don’t even think of leaving without trying their rich, rummy, decadent bread pudding.
Café Kandahar: Sadly, I was not able to personally experience this restaurant, especially because Chef/Owner Andy Blanton (another Southern boy) was just nominated for the “Best Chef” category of the 2010 James Beard Awards. Also, a fellow foodie on our trip had waxed euphoric about the dinner he had experienced there on his last visit: an eight course extravaganza showcasing locally-cultivated products and wild game, masterfully paired with some exceptional wine.
WHAT TO DO
Whitefish Mountain Resort:
Reed this and weep and then call for reservations: “A typical day of skiing at Whitefish” :
Each skier gets more than a whole acre all to themselves—that’s from the 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, which range from the so-called “bunny slopes” to “yikes!” Covering the hill are 300 inches of pure powder, and to boot (no pun intended), your choice of ski-in, ski-out lodging ranging from budget to luxe. When you get to the top of the peak you can see all the way to Canada, and it is breathtaking. It’s possible to ski all four sides of the mountain, so that you almost never get swarms of people clogging up the hillside. During my afternoon, a “long” wait for the lift meant that there were about six people in line ahead of me, and one time, my instructor and I had the run all to ourselves, all the way to the bottom.
Speaking of instructors, they were fan-TAS-tic. Even though I hadn’t put on a pair of skis in far too many years—so many, in fact, that I was startled to see that skis are now about half the length that they were when I was last on the slopes—my awesome coach, Lori, had me at level 5 by the end of the day—and that was 5 out of 9, not 100! She used all sorts of helpful visuals to get me up to speed and could not have been more patient. With her help, I went from bumbling klutz to slick ski-bunny in just a few hours.
Fun Fact: The Mountain is decorated with these unique snow-ghosts—exotic snow-covered, Edward-Scissorhands-looking trees that look eerily lifelike.
Great deals galore:
Two-day Learn-to-Ski packages start at only $69! Ski and sleep for a song: Take advantage of their value-packed package deals, starting at an amazing $70/ night for lodging and lift tickets! I mean, really, my girlfriends and I often spend that much just on dinner. What a steal!
Nice touch: Love that free S*N*O*W bus that shuttles you from your lodge to either the slopes or downtown, so no need to rent a car.
AT THE HEART OF THE MATTER: Explore Down town Whitefish:
Photogenic, quaint, and still humble, the charming town of Whitefish (recently featured in Budget Traveler’s”10 Coolest Small Towns in America” ) seems to be filled with genuinely happy folks, or as one local explained to me, “We’re not in such a hurry here. We actually have time to be friendly”. This is the type of place where you’ll pick up the local paper and read, “Felicia is 100 years old tomorrow. Come join the Whitefish native for her birthday celebration.
Back in the day, Whitefish was called Stumptown because in their hurry to lay the train tracks, after chopping down all the trees, they simply left the stumps. Decades later, said stumps have been nicely replaced with a number of local bars conveniently clustered within a two-block radius, plus a variety of tasty restaurants, galleries, coffee shops, and boutiques, not to mention a surprisingly sophisticated night life with plenty of theater and concert choices. Much to my delight, I discovered that Whitefish natives are very passionate about good food, good coffee and great wine. If you’d like to learn more about what Downtown Whitefish has to offer, check out Whitefish Visitor Information.
NEARBY: Glacier National Park:
Whitefish Mountain Resort is only 31 miles from Glacier National Park, a.k.a. the “Crown of the Continent.” Both summer and winter offer numerous opportunities to explore Glacier’s 700 square miles of marked trails featuring dramatic glacier-ravaged mountains, cascading waterfalls, hundreds of pristine lakes, and dense forests filled with high-altitude flora and fauna. Perhaps you’ll meet some of the wilder residents, such as bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goats or even a Griz. (Do not approach!!!) In the summer, drive or take a seat on the red bus tour of the historic, 50 mile Going-to-the-Sun Road, that spans the width of the Glacier and will have you oohing and ahhing at every turn.
Tip: Glacier National Park is celebrating its 100th birthday this year with an exciting roster of special events and happenings. Check the calendar for special B-day festivities throughout the year.
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