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Kalispell, Whitefish or...?

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 

My wife and I are toying with the idea of buying some winter recreation property in the Kalispell/Whitefish area.

 

We'll be driving out in a few weeks to have a look at property in Kalispell. Can anyone who is familiar with this area offer advice on what to see and do while we are there, especially that which would be relevant to a part-time resident interested in skiing, ski mountaineering and mountain culture generally?

 

I've checked out a few of the Whitefish threads here on EpicSki, including sibhusky's commentary on skiing in the fog. And I've read through some of the visitor's guides available online. As yet I don't have much sense of the area's ski mountaineering potential.

 

Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 25
Depending on your timing, the mountain and/or Glacier may be closed.

Hmm, ski mountaineering. Aside from the Whitefish Whiteout, I personally don't know much about it. We have plenty of mountains and plenty of people with AT gear, and the avalanche courses in the fall are hugely attended. Beyond that, it's sort of an indie sport. I know there's some other ski forum that has more mountaineers on it, called something like Mountain Project? Might ask there.

In the resort area, Canyon Creek is accessed from the resort. Definitely avalanche terrain and outside the resort boundaries, but made more accessible by the resort. There seem to be a number of faces visible in the valley that are nowhere near the resort but you can see ski tracks on them.

Not sure if that's what you wanted to know? Brain storm. Stop in the Whiteroom. They'll know. Also a dude at Glacier World photography, Craig Moore has skied something like 71 months in a row now.
post #3 of 25
For entertainment, you might do a brewery trail outing.
http://montanabrewers.org/trail-map/
post #4 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks for your thoughts on the backcountry scene near Whitefish, Sibhusky. I'll check out those references you provided.

 

The brew tour sounds like fun, but, sadly, I don't drink. I don't eat meat either. I wonder, will I be allowed into Montana with these two defects?

 

I've been checking out the MLS listings for houses on acreage near Whitefish or Kalispell or Bigfork. Should I be looking elsewhere? That is, am I missing a local gem by focusing on those three spots?

 

I'd like to say how much of a kick I got from your website and your humorous take on the fog at Big Mountain. The video detailing the contrast between marketing and reality was hilarious.

post #5 of 25

The fog at Whitefish is not funny.  You can ski more fog there in a week than in 20 years of skiing in Colorado.  I have been at big Mountain on several occasions when you could literally not see the chair in front of you on the lift.  They have some great terrain and people, but putting a ski area right next to Flathead Lake was not the smartest move.

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 

I have no doubt the fog at Whitefish isn't funny. What I found funny was the video spoofing the marketing department's attempt to downplay the problem of the fog.

 

If we do buy property near Whitefish it won't be for the local ski hill. For resort skiing I would more likely go to Fernie or east to Bozeman. I'm mainly interested in backcountry skiing.

 

Now that I've learned dogs are not allowed on any of the trails in Glacier National Park the Whitefish area is looking much less attractive. No dogs in National Parks. Now that's not funny!

post #7 of 25
So, you're buying for summer use or winter? That would influence where I told you to buy.

And you're not going to be driving down to Bozeman to ski if you buy here.

There's tons of hiking other than Glacier. I'm sorry of confused about what season you're after. There public land in every direction. Are you looking to go back country skiing with the dog?

It would probably make more sense to talk about this in PM's.
post #8 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by mudfoot View Post

The fog at Whitefish is not funny.  You can ski more fog there in a week than in 20 years of skiing in Colorado.  I have been at big Mountain on several occasions when you could literally not see the chair in front of you on the lift.  They have some great terrain and people, but putting a ski area right next to Flathead Lake was not the smartest move.

You ski with your feet, not your eyeballs, per my daughter. I have ONE day in ten seasons (675 days) where I couldn't see the next chair. Normal fog levels are two chair or better. Does it impact which trails I ski? Sure, but so does the angle of the sun, wind direction, snow quality, etc.

Frankly, I like the fog. It keeps out the wimps.

I went up hiking there today, picked around a pound of huckleberries, and went up to where they are cutting new trails. It's opening up vistas I haven't seen before, so I'm starting to get over my irritation with them making Window Pane more accessible.
Edited by sibhusky - 9/14/13 at 10:26pm
post #9 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post

So, you're buying for summer use or winter? That would influence where I told you to buy.

And you're not going to be driving down to Bozeman to ski if you buy here.

There's tons of hiking other than Glacier. I'm sorry of confused about what season you're after. There public land in every direction. Are you looking to go back country skiing with the dog?

It would probably make more sense to talk about this in PM's.

Thanks again, sibhusky, for being so helpful. My main interest in Flathead country lies with winter recreation, though no doubt we'd visit once in a while during the summer. My wife loves Montana, having spent many happy days there in her youth. She is especially interested in Glacier National Park, the scene of most of her favorite memories.

 

I have  just learned that the park is open year round, though parts of the Going to the Sun Road are closed during the winter months. Many other roads within the park are open as well (according to the FAQs pages at the park website.) So it appears there would be a great many ski touring possibilities in the Park, though I'd have to leave my pooch at home, since dogs aren't allowed on any of the trails in the park.

 

Am I right in thinking you have dogs? Where do you take them?

 

As for Bozeman, I'd fly there, providing there are flights from the airport. I wouldn't go often: once or twice a season would be all.

 

I currently live in Vancouver, BC and do most of my resort skiing at Whistler/Blackcomb. So I'm accustomed to skiing in low visibility conditions. My reason for preferring Fernie to Big Mountain has more to do with the snow depth and quality at Fernie. I haven't tried your hill yet; perhaps once I have I'll see no reason to travel further afield. The town of Whitefish looks perfect and seems to have more to offer culturally than most places in south-eastern BC.

 

I'd be happy to continue this conversation by email if you think there is more to be said.

 

Thanks for your gracious assistance.

post #10 of 25
Frankly, to fly to Bozeman, I'm pretty sure you'd go via Seattle. Be faster to drive.

For photos of people mountaineering, go to Facebook and look for Noah Couser Photography, and Glacier World. You can go to Glacier, but you can also go to the Jewel Basin. The Flathead's a valley, there's mountains both directions. There's the Whitefish, Swan, and Mission Ranges. You just need to meet the right people.

Cross country skiing, as opposed to touring, you can bring your dogs to Stillwater Nordic Center.
post #11 of 25
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info. To heck with Bozeman, then.

post #12 of 25
Since Fernie is two hours away and across the border, that makes for a long day. I think that'll grow old fast. If you really plan to do it, buy up 93, north of town. But if you want to ski a lot, between the back country access to Canyon Creek and the resort itself, Hellroaring Peak, Taylor Creek, you'll keep busy closer to home.

If you're planning on using the lifts this winter, pass prices go up 9/30.

When I said Glacier was closing, I meant the Sun Road relative to your upcoming visit and activities.
post #13 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by sibhusky View Post


You ski with your feet, not your eyeballs, per my daughter. I have ONE day in ten seasons (675 days) where I couldn't see the next chair. Normal fog levels are two chair or better. Does it impact which trails I ski? Sure, but so does the angle of the sun, wind direction, snow quality, etc.

Frankly, I like the fog. It keeps out the wimps..

 

I do not want to rag on Montana skiing.  I lived and skied there for many years, and still return to ski with friends who live in Missoula and Whitefish.  But I know what it is like skiing in sunshine as opposed to flat light, fog and ghost trees, and I prefer to be a wimp whenever possible.

post #14 of 25
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tecumseh View Post

My wife and I are toying with the idea of buying some winter recreation property in the Kalispell/Whitefish area.

We'll be driving out in a few weeks to have a look at property in Kalispell. Can anyone who is familiar with this area offer advice on what to see and do while we are there, especially that which would be relevant to a part-time resident interested in skiing, ski mountaineering and mountain culture generally?

I've checked out a few of the Whitefish threads here on EpicSki, including sibhusky's commentary on skiing in the fog. And I've read through some of the visitor's guides available online. As yet I don't have much sense of the area's ski mountaineering potential.

Thanks in advance.

Back to the original question. What to do while you're here. Given all the other info you've supplied, I'd spend more time in Whitefish than in Bigfork or Kalispell, although you should certainly check them out. Bigfork is primarily a summer community. Nice for access to the Jewel Basin for you, but not so nice for your wife. You'll see what I mean when you go. Cute place, pricey real estate, dead in the winter. Kalispell is more Anytown USA, box stores, a failed (IMO) mall, some resurgence taking place, but much larger than Whitefish. A central valley location not conducive to just walking into the woods from your back door, let alone doing any ski touring out your back door.

Whitefish, nestled right up against the Whitefish Range and the lake. Extremely active local population with events going on constantly and a history of getting large projects built with extensive community involvement. An attractive downtown, chains and box stores practically non-existent. The Dominos went out of business and the Wendy's. Great restaurants. The flip side is that real estate is a touch higher than Kalispell, but not as high as Bigfork. Some ongoing wrangling about the area surrounding the town within a two mile radius, called the donut. This has potential zoning and tax implications which you should ask about.

I'd suggest picking up a copy of three local papers. The Daily Interlake (Kalispell mindset, IMO), and the Flathead Beacon and Whitefish Pilot, both more "Whitefish-y".

You might take a run up to Polebridge. Allow the whole day for it. Gorgeous drive, but mostly gravel road. The town is off the grid. Not sure what will be open, prepare to have to go looking for the town outhouse, so pack your own TP. Excellent pastries in the Merc if they are open. Across the river from the town is the part of Glacier most tourists don't see. I wouldn't take a rental car down the road on the other side of the bridge, but if you've got a pickup or SUV, you could try it, and run back south that way.

There are nice stores in Whitefish, but aside from one day, I'd say your time would be best spent evaluating the mountains you see driving around up to Glacier, Polebridge, Bigfork, and Whitefish. How steep, how treed, how accessible, etc.

If you go hiking, make sure to bring your bear spray, they will be fattening themselves up for winter. The Sun Road may be open as far as Logan Pass, depending on snow.
post #15 of 25

I'm also from Vancouver don't worry about the fog. While it's does keep a lot away, if you can handle the Alpine at Whistler when its socked in and all above the treeline you'll find skiing fog is pretty easy at Whitefish. Almost all of the best skiing there is after you've dropped into trees. Personally I think your making a mistake thinking you would buy in that area then primarily ski Fernie which is 2 hours away. Fernie is a good hill but over a lot of years of skiing both, I bet I have had just as many or more better days at Whitefish. All areas have negative weather aspects.-. I would plan on doing Fernie mainly as a small road trip when you have time to ski it mid week for a few days and then you can add Castle as well.  

 

Of course you can also do that from Vancouver you just need to add a few more hours to the trip both ways. But I doubt your basing any purchase near a National Park just for skiing. You live in Vancouver. But note a lot of the National Parks both in Canada and the US have restrictions on travel with dogs or even as I just had to deal with in Banff sometimes set a minimum size of group required while in grizzly territory. But overall the number of restrictions and amount of the area that have any restrictions are fairly small. Lots of other beautiful areas to pick from in that area if that's an issue

post #16 of 25

Since he mostly skis ex-resort, I think his Fernie choice was based on some nebulous snow quality issue, and definitely because he has a buddy up there.  I haven't compared the snowfall numbers between the resorts, because I know that, first of all, Whitefish tends to under report, and second, once the stuff is covered, it's more about FREQUENCY and staying power more than anything.  In fact, given his touring bias, I would think that more "support" and less "fluff" would be preferable.  I'm pretty sure than he'd give up the Fernie trips within a month.  BUT, if he has a buddy at Fernie who is a back country skier, I would lean towards buying the property there as a back country companion is always key and it might take a month or so to find such here...  :D

post #17 of 25
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by noncrazycanuck View Post
 

I'm also from Vancouver don't worry about the fog. While it's does keep a lot away, if you can handle the Alpine at Whistler when its socked in and all above the treeline you'll find skiing fog is pretty easy at Whitefish. Almost all of the best skiing there is after you've dropped into trees. Personally I think your making a mistake thinking you would buy in that area then primarily ski Fernie which is 2 hours away. Fernie is a good hill but over a lot of years of skiing both, I bet I have had just as many or more better days at Whitefish. All areas have negative weather aspects.-. I would plan on doing Fernie mainly as a small road trip when you have time to ski it mid week for a few days and then you can add Castle as well.  

 

Of course you can also do that from Vancouver you just need to add a few more hours to the trip both ways. But I doubt your basing any purchase near a National Park just for skiing. You live in Vancouver. But note a lot of the National Parks both in Canada and the US have restrictions on travel with dogs or even as I just had to deal with in Banff sometimes set a minimum size of group required while in grizzly territory. But overall the number of restrictions and amount of the area that have any restrictions are fairly small. Lots of other beautiful areas to pick from in that area if that's an issue

Thanks for the helpful reply. My interest in the Whitefish area is based more on an interest in Montana than in being close to resort skiing. I spend most of my time touring in the backcountry and tend to limit my resort skiing to 8 or 10 days a year. I would drive to Fernie mainly to ski with friends who live there. While it is true the drive would 'get old' I wouldn't undertake the trip more than a couple of times a season.

 

I know what you mean about restrictions on dogs in parks. Here is southwest BC I take the pooch along the Squamish-Cheakamus divide, up on the Duffey or over to the Coquihalla. The Divide is swarming with snowmobiles, while some parts of the Duffey are getting as crowded as Diamond Head. Time to move.

 

I also have property in the West Kootenays, on Slocan Lake, not far from Retallack, and there the dog situation in the parks is even worse. Dogs aren't allowed in Valhalla Provincial Park or in Kokanee Glacier park. And while there are forest service and mining roads everywhere in the area the access to skiing involves long slogs. Most people use sleds. I draw the line at sleds.

 

Time will tell whether Whitefish makes sense for a winter getaway spot. Sure looks purdy from a distance.

post #18 of 25

I'm pretty sure they could use snowmobiles instead of sleds. 

post #19 of 25
Thread Starter 

I also draw the line at snowmobiles. I'll pass on the tip, though. It might help.

post #20 of 25
So, as I'm failing to come up with another back country transport scheme, you need back country that is close to plowed roads.
post #21 of 25
Thread Starter 

Hi, again. I'm fine with snow covered roads as long as they're not flat. Plowed roads leading to the high country are even better.

 

You've been enormously helpful, sibhusky. I'll check in with the various folks and shops you've mentioned. I betcha there are great spots nearby, even without snowmobiles or sleds.

 

Here's a look at the terrain across the lake from my place in the Kootenays. It's a very long slog to get to this spot. Most people I know take snowmobiles to get there. (This particular location is within the land tenure of Valhalla Mountain Touring. Note the happy dog.)

post #22 of 25

Love that video

post #23 of 25

You had asked about ski mountaineering near Whitefish.. other than Glacier NP, here's some ideas:

 

Couple hours to the West: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH4WTtWaHQ8

 

Couple hours to the South: http://notesfromerewhon.blogspot.com/2013/06/greywolf-cardinally-yours.html

post #24 of 25
Thread Starter 
Very nice!! I did not know of the existence of the Cabinet Mountains. They look very attractive, and judging from the map, getting there would be quite straighforward. Nice also to see a dog getting in a few turns.

I also didn't know about Notes from Erewhon. Looks like an interesting site (with an unusually erudite host).

Thanks.
post #25 of 25
Yes, I know this is an old thread. Just didn't want to open a new topic.

Local guy skiing year round without flying to South America: http://flatheadbeacon.com/2016/04/19/101-months-skiing/
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