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Big Mountain by train/late march trip

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
bullet questions:
-how much terrain open last week in march?
-conditions typically at that time(we are blue groomer wimps)
-what is the scenery like going from chicago to whitefish?

may have more questions so check back...thanks a bunch
post #2 of 13
hard to know. so far their snowpack has been going well.

page sibhusky, she lives there and skis it regularly. out of all the folks in here, she probably has the best sense of how big a gamble it might be.
post #3 of 13
I've only skiied there once, around New Years. It was seriously foggy the whole time. Some of the locals were wearing cowbells! One told me "yeah, sometimes it's like skiing inside of a cow here!". But I don't know what the broader trend is.

The sun did come out one day and the views were breathtaking. Everyone in our group except myself and another guy decided to spend the day snowmobiling, since the visibility had been so bad. MAN, they were bummed when we told 'em how awesome it was to ski there in the sun!

post #4 of 13
I took the train from Seattle to Chicago and back once. The scenery between Chicago and Whitefish is mostly really flat until you reach Glacier, and then it's mountain terrain to Whitefish. From a PNW native's standpoint it was incredibly monotonous followed by a short span of wonderous beauty.

My trip was in the summer, so I can't speak to the ski aspect.
post #5 of 13

train ride

I rode the train from Whitefish to Chicago. Luckily we went through Glacier during the day and the empty flats at night. I could see it driving me crazy if it was the other way around. Not a bad option if time is not as issue and you can sit back and relax. Some people have a real problem doing this.
post #6 of 13
We'll you heard about the train ride, so on to the snow conditions.

I went spring skiing there the year before last. Snow was soft and wet. I can remember one lift being closed and that was due to some bears coming out of hibernation. That's the only one I could remember, but there may have been more.
post #7 of 13
I know some people that went with a ski club from Chicago to Whitefish. The train hit someone and they had to wait 12 hours until the NTSB did an investigation. They all said "never again".

I think the idea of a train/ski trip is interesting, but I think I would choose to do it in Europe. There train system is much better.
post #8 of 13
Skiing at Big in late March is just fine as long as the snowpack is there, but I guess that's the case anywhere. The only thing you need to watchout for there is that Hellroaring Basin closes April 1st no matter the snowpack because bears could start coming out of hibernation
post #9 of 13
Skiing here in late March can be a gamble. Two years back as mentioned the snow was soft and slushy by then. Last year, if you can believe it, we closed early but had some of the best conditions of the winter as soon as they announced the early closing! We couldn't believe they actually closed the place with all that snow.

Hellroaring Basin closes 4/1 which is major in terms of acreage, minor in terms of "on piste" stuff.

The "back side" holds its snow wonderfully even into March because of its northfacing slopes and the sun not reaching down into that section for much of the day. The trails there are pretty easy, except for Big Horn, Marmot, and Black Bear. There is some tree skiing also for those who like back country stuff.

The front side will be soft as you descend, like anywhere else at that time of year. You'll need to understand the faces and think about what is going to soften first and plan your day accordingly.

Yesterday was probably one of the most beautiful days ever here. Perfect snow, lots of it, navy blue sky, visibility into Canada and Idaho, no crowds. Today however was rainy or "falling slush" at best. We tend to like the fog here as the snow lasts longer that way -- people were griping about the sun as they knew that more than one day of it would change the powder to, well, just "snow".

We had loads of beautiful "inversion days" from opening until mid-December, then mostly fog or snowy days from then until yesterday. Looks like we are back into "low flying clouds" again.

Recent pics can be seen here.
post #10 of 13
Originally Posted by sibhusky
Recent pics can be seen here.

This is the view I remember from January at Big Mountain.
post #11 of 13
I did that trip in early March 2003. If you're into train travel, including the "forced relaxation" aspect of it as you travel, it can be a lot of fun. Train travel helps you meet people you might not otherwise chat with, or just get into a nice "zone".

The BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) is the host railroad for Amtrak along almost that whole route, and unlike some other railroads Amtrak has to use (e.g. Union Pacific on some other routes), they actually try to keep the passenger train running on time. I got into Whitefish from Chicago right on time, and we actually got into Chicago 1/2 hour early on the way back. The scenery is as described - pretty flat, though some of the rock/badlands formations before you get to the Northern Rockies were interesting. Plus there were info sheets you could pick up at some stations pointing out where the nuclear missle silos were just off to the side of the tracks!

As noted, conditions were iffy. Didn't get much new snow while I was there, but I still had a ball. Frontside had some skied-off scratchy spots, but the backside had lots of nice soft snow remaining. If you like blue groomers then a lot of the stuff under the 7 chair (I think that was it) on the back is quite nice. The place was nearly empty, so crowds should not at all be a problem.

Whitefish itself is a great ski town. Not too much of a "resort" town, which is nice.

Also you can easily do a day trip up to Fernie or Panorama by car or bus, if you want a change of pace or if there's better conditions just north of the border. There's a Hertz right at the train station. And I think there's some bus company that runs day ski trips there.
post #12 of 13

for Sibhusky... do you know in Whitefish?

Hi Sibhusky -
Two old friends of mine live in Whitefish with their two young twin daughters. I read hear that you frequent Big Mountain so I'll guess that you live nearby. Do you happen to know Eric and Kari? They are both around 40 years old.

Unfortunately I've never made it out there to visit, yet....

Just curious.
post #13 of 13
Sorry, I don't know them.
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