Whitefish is a large resort that sprawls on top of The Big Mountain in the depths of Flathead National Forest in northwestern Montana. With 3000 in bounds acres of skiing, this resort is one of the largest in the country. Formerly known as Big Mountain Ski Resort, this destination ski resort has a lot to offer everyone. With a peak elevation of 6817 feet and a base elevation of 4464 feet, Whitefish’s vertical clocks in at a very respectable 2353 feet. Annual snowfall for Whitefish averages about 300 inches (7.6 meters) per year, but because of the facing of the mountain, it can fall erratically. The bowls on the west face get amazing powder, but the main face can get skimped on sometimes. Additionally, because of the relative low elevation, the snow can get a little wet. It’s not cement quality, but it’s not champagne either.
The Mountain and Trails
Whitefish has some great in bounds skiing with 93 named trails. Difficulty wise, the mix is 15 percent novice, 35 percent intermediate, 40 percent advanced, and 10 percent expert. Moving around the mountain is easy, thanks to 11 chairlifts and 3 surface lifts. The lift system contains three high-speed quads, two standard quads and six triple lifts and carries 13,800 skiers up the mountain per hour.
Novice skiers are going to find a lot of progression trails to explore. While the dedicated learning area is near the base, there are plenty of intermediate runs that are also manageable when you’re ready to move up a bit. Try the Back Bowl for some nice beginner to intermediate terrain. Intermediate skiers and boarders are going to find great trails to run. For speed without going too crazy, Corkscrew and the Big Ravine are great, but they can get a little slushy in the afternoon. Intermediate skiers can hit Hellfire, the longest run at the ski resort, coming in at 3.3 miles. Advanced and Expert skiers are going to have a great time. The Back 9 has some gnarly lines and the Picture chutes have some great cliffs. Hellroaring Basin has some of the best tree steeps in the West. For the best (or toughest) expert terrain, ski the East Rim near Russ’s. Wait for the fog or mist to clear and drop in for an amazing run.
Whitefish also has two terrain parks. There’s a small Magic Park near the base with a small jump and some boxes for people who have never freestyled and want to give it a tiny whirl. For a better line, ride Chair 3 to near Upper Village. From there, you can hit rails, jibs, and jumps to your heart’s content. Just be prepared for spectators from Morning Eagle as they give you some good-natured razzing if you yard sale a run.
Whitefish is a great place to ski. It’s rarely crowded (unless fresh powder hits, then you get a small crowd of locals) and so lift lines are nonexistent. There’s good snow and the mountain has terrain for everyone, from novices to experts, boarder or skier, freestyler or not. Add in Whitefish’s determination to keep prices down and the value just goes through the roof. The staff is amazing, the town of Whitefish is down to earth, and friendly for apres-ski jaunts after a long day on the slopes.