An Inskiers skiing travelogue in Montana by resident photojournalist Richard Schnabel with Gail Burns:
Return to Whitefish
A Visit to Glacier Park
I went back to Whitefish last week with David Baird and Gail Burns. Whitefish is the ski resort formerly known as Big Mountain--just north of the town of Whitefish, Montana. They have had another good snow year this season.
We arrived on a Thursday evening into Kalispell, after a long layover in Denver, rented a Subaru SUV, and drove into downtown Whitefish, stopping at Markus Foods for supplies. Markus Foods is a small market, but it has a great selection of wine. So, we bought wine, water, and some other stuff.
Our lodgings for this long weekend were at the Morning Eagle in the upper part of the mountain village. The resort had upgraded our accommodations to a luxury 3-bedroom unit with a full kitchen. The unit was truly ski in ski out, with convenient access to multiple shops and restaurants, and ski rentals nearby at the end of a boardwalk. There was a bar directly across the street. Still, we mostly had dinners with beer and wine at the condo, Gail and Dave did the cooking.
The skiing was excellent, even as the weather was very variable. Friday was a powder day, but foggy. Saturday was sunny, with a dusting of snow, giving Dave a chance to race down the long, long groomers very, very fast. Gail opted to explore Glacier Park that day. Sunday was rainy, and we decided not to ski, but went to Glacier Park as far in as we could drive up the Going-To-The-Sun road. We skied a half day on Monday before checking out.
Here’s what Gail has to say about Glacier Park:
Exploring Glacier National Park
On Saturday morning the stunning blue sky and shining sun beckoned me to explore Glacier National Park. It’s located just 30 miles south of Whitefish ski resort. After a brief stop to rent cross-country skis at the Glacier Nordic Center in Whitefish town, I followed Route 2 along the scenic glacier-fed Flathead River. I stopped to photograph a frozen waterfall along the highway and watched fishermen fishing in the river. In the small town of Hungry Horse, I sampled huckleberry pie at a friendly local diner. Huckleberries grow wild near the lakes and reservoirs and are a favorite among the locals and the bears.
Arriving at the West Entrance of Glacier National Park, the rangers at the Apgar Visitor Center provided maps of the cross-country and snowshoeing trails. They offer twice daily ranger-led snowshoeing tours, and have snowshoes available for rent. As I rounded a corner in the car, my initial view of Lake McDonald--frozen and surrounded by snow-capped mountain peaks--literally took my breath away.
I photographed the craggy, sheer “Garden Wall” formed by ice-age glaciers:
Following the Going-to-the Sun Road to the upper part of the lake, I parked next to the 1914 Log Lodge and started cross-country skiing on a trail leading to McDonald Falls and Sacred Dancing Cascade. There are parallel cross-country skiing and show-shoe trails along this route. The gentle terrain, ample snow and wonderful winter scenery makes it the most popular skiing area in the park. The few local skiers that I encountered were very friendly. As I glided along the bank of McDonald Creek, I was treated to the sounds of birds and rushing river water, with views of the gorgeous waterfalls.
- Richard Schnabel and Gail Burns
A racing report special to Inskiers from Richard Schnabel . . . .
A Day at the Races
Just in time for spring, winter has arrived in Tahoe. We’ve seen a significant amount of precipitation in the mountains these past few weeks—not all of it has been the powdery stuff we prefer, but this last weekend at Alpine Meadows, it was mostly snow, and we had the some of the best conditions of the season.
Gail and I headed up to the Inskier cabin for the weekend. We picked up David Baird and arrived at the cabin late Friday evening after a forced stop at In-N-Out Burger near Sacramento. David loves In-N-Out Burgers. Brian B was already at the cabin. Gary D arrived with two guests the next day, and we had another companionable Saturday evening with a fine dinner prepared by Gary, Gail and David. We uncorked 6 bottles of red wine. We used the white wine for the carbonara.
Gary recounted his adventures at Burning Man, igniting a spark of an idea for a future Inskier adventure…maybe.
David, Brian, Gail and I headed to Alpine Meadows for the GS races on Sunday.Conditions were blustery, but most of the mountain was open with a great variety of terrain. I skied with Gail, Brian, David and Kristi W (who snowboarded with us after winning the morning demolition derby event at the Snowdrifter cabin), and we saw groomers, tree skiing, heavy powder, and chop.
It was Gail’s first foray into racing for our club. She placed second in her category, but had the finest form with her Euro-platform technique. I think she enjoyed herself.
All in all, a good weekend at Tahoe. Even the return traffic was not too bad.
The First (or possibly second) Infrequent BAC Musings (from your BAC rep):
The BAC sponsored 8th annual tailgate barbecue/A’s game/fireworks show happened last week. This was my first time to this yearly affair, but how can you resist an event that 1/3 of the full Inskiers membership signed up for?
Several Inskier carpools headed out to Oakland Coliseum late Friday afternoon. I went up with Ken Mahar and Jessica Disney. The tailgate party was in full swing when we arrived—with BAC head honcho Heffley and Inskier prez David Baird busy at the grills feeding pulsed queues of BACers with hamburgers and hot dogs.
Chatted with Alexa Knight and the elusive Alicia Boyd.
Posed for a few Mary Ryan snapshots.
Ate a burger and a brat with a burgundy.
Collected our tickets from Cathy Wilson and headed into the stadium for the game.
The BAC seats were all in a section along the first base line in good position to catch errant right field foul balls. Kathy Silver was ready with a glove, but the best fieldable foul opportunity of the night headed directly for Inskiers Irregular Igor Goulaevsky, hit the back of his seat, and sailed into the upper levels.
David Baird pitched some peanuts up from the front railing and was answered with a rain of peanuts from above. Sara Haller, in the next seat over, appeared less enthused with the peanut pelting. Brian Burgess, two seats over, was serene.
The A’s lost.
The fireworks followed the game, after a short interval to let the crowd onto the playing field. The BAC seats, however, were in a superb position to enjoy the pyrotechnics—close enough to feel the concussion of each fireburst. The show was exhilarating—coordinated to music with a Burton Snowboards sponsored Endless Winter theme.
It was a very good evening.
I’d go again.
Richard Schnabel's most excellent skiing adventure at Whitefish Mountain, Montana:
I just got back from a long weekend at Whitefish Mountain in Montana. The resort sponsored a familiarization or ”FAM” trip, which I attended with BAC president Dennis Heffley. The purpose of a FAM trip is to showcase the resort and entice ski clubs to organize a group trip to the mountain. And Whitefish has much to offer, even for Northern California skiers jaded by easy access to Lake Tahoe: it is inexpensive, not crowded, easy to get to, with varied terrain and reliable snow.
I arrived in Kalispell on Thursday on Alaska Airlines. From Kalispell, it’s a 30-minute ride to the slopes. Friday was spent in demonstrating the resort and the Mountain. The mountain is big, about as big as Northstar, but the Whitefish summit peaks at just 6,817 feet. The weather is more in line with the Northwest/Northern Rockies pattern and they have had 2 good snow years, when Northern California has had poor to fair snow. The downside is the fog that is a major part of the Whitefish ski experience.
The on mountain facilities are good but not extensive. For more restaurants, bars, wine bars, music, dancing and shopping, the town of Whitefish is 7 miles away. The free SNOW bus runs from the resort to the town and back, but stops running around 10 PM. There are also some fine dining venues (and fine accommodations) at the Kandahar Lodge on the mountain, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, and the Grouse Mountain Lodge. The latter two are closer to Whitefish town, but provide their own transport to and from the mountain, and help coordinate other activities in the area—such as dog sledding, or excursions to Glacier National Park.
On Saturday, I rented a pair of Rossignol Super 7 skis and made the summit early from Chair 1--making my way down Inspiration, an aptly named, sweeping boulevard run with magnificent views to Whitefish Lake and the Flathead Valley. I then dropped down to ski in the broken powder among the snow ghosts of Ptarmigan Bowl. Snow ghosts are the ice-encrusted trees found all over the mountain, and they are beautiful, eerie, and fun. On one ascent up Chair 1, I competed with two seatmates in naming the various snow ghost shapes and groupings. In the afternoon, I connected with the Pennsylvania Mad Dog contingent of the FAM, and we skied the steeps of Hellroaring Basin. Hellroaring Basincloses April 1 as the resident Grizzlies emerge from their dens.
View at the start of Inspiration
Whitefish is a friendly place. Mountain ambassadors pepper the runs and offer cheerful advice and assistance. The locals I encountered were all open and helpful. On one ride up the mountain, I was invited to an Easter service and concert. On another lift, a group of older skiers informed me of local events. I met more of the locals while sampling the local beers at the Black Star Brewery, and the Palace Bar in downtown Whitefish with Jason Forrest, the resort’s Western Sales rep, and spent the latter part of Saturday night conversing with visiting Canadians at the Kandahar Lodge. I learned that Canadians swarm into the area, mostly from the Calgary area, to avail of the great skiing and the reasonable prices in no-state-tax Montana. I heard the term “value” touted frequently, and it is certainly true. Lift tickets are around 60% of the typical Tahoe resort, and the on mountain food and service costs avoid the monopoly rent prices seen on most US resorts.
Downtown Whitefish with Clouds and Fog on the Mountain
Sunday morning, I took the SNOW bus into downtown Whitefish for a further look around. Whitefish is a real town with a hardware store, a microbrewery, many restaurants, 3 wine bars and a Frank Lloyd Wright building along a 3 block stretch on Central avenue. I had lunch at the Buffalo Café, and then headed back to the resort, stopping for a scoop of Huckleberry ice cream at Aunt B’s before boarding the shuttle for the ride to the airport and the flight home.
© Inskiers Ski & Snowboard Club 2019