By Zeb Yaklich
The past two seasons I’ve taken advantage of the All Access Season Pass that’s offered by Mt. Hood Meadows, not only to make sure I could ride all I want at Meadows but so that I could also check out some other resorts. This program’s upgrade paid for itself with the free tickets I was able to get at Whitefish Mountain Resort. If you haven’t made the trip from Hood to Montana yet, I can’t recommend it enough.
It was easy to get to Whitefish and even easier to get the free passes. All I had to do was go to the ticket window at Whitefish Mountain Resort and show my Mt Hood Meadows pass. That was it! I tried it last year and it was so great I went back to Whitefish this past February again. I’m also planning on utilizing the program to ski Mt Baker later this spring.
My resort of choice to explore last season and this season was Whitefish partially due to the ease of access we have to Montana from Portland. It literally took less time to get there than it does to battle traffic to Meadows on a bad road day. I hopped a puddle-jumper from PDX to Seattle and then a commuter jet to Kalispell and was picked up by Whitefish Tours & Shuttle. Within 3.5 hours of leaving Portland I was at Whitefish Mountain Resort with a huge snow-eating grin on my face!
While skiing there, I wanted to demo some new boards and was recommended Great Northern Cycle and Ski. I actually ended up buying a pair of skis I demoed, the Blizzard Rustler 11. The super knowledgeable staff at Great Northern was able to recommend a couple of great setups to try out for all mountain, powder specific and groomers. There are also big box stores like REI and Ski Haus in Kalispell which is only 15 minutes away if you’re more comfortable going there, but I would recommend checking out the local shops first.
1) Alaska Airlines round-trip tickets are around $250. This is the quick and easy way to get there. From Portland you’ll have a 45-minute flight to Seattle and then connect for your direct flight to Kalispell which is just about 1 hour.
2) The adventurous way to travel to Whitefish is by riding Amtrak on what is affectionately know as the “Powder Train”! This too is around $250 round trip and and a sleeper car can be added at a nominal cost. You are picked up in Portland around 7PM and arrive in Whitefish around 7AM the next morning. I’ve not taken this method but I have met up with riders who have said it was an absolute blast to travel by train.
3) Road trip! 10 hours each way. It’s a beautiful drive, but adverse road conditions for hundreds of miles are a real possibility. Not to mention you really don’t need a car once you’re in town as you can utilize Whitefish Shuttle or the free city bus. If you figure wear and tear on your vehicle and the 1200-mile round trip it’s probably not really that much cheaper than plane or train ,unless you’re splitting costs with 3 or 4 people in your ride.
The exchange ticket program was super easy to use. I just showed the ticket window my Mount Hood Meadows season pass and they gave me a three-day ticket for FREE! The skiing was true Rocky Mountain style bliss even though we were still in the Pacific Northwest. Uller blessed us with multiple days of fresh snow and sunshine breaks throughout the day.
The terrain was super sick! If you’re into groomers they’ve got plenty of those and a renowned grooming squad that lays down fresh corduroy early morning so that you’re able to rip some GS turns right when they open. For us though with 9 inches of POW overnight we were looking for steeps with the deep – mission accomplished over and over and over, with little to no crowds.
One of the most inviting things about Whitefish is it’s not overly crowded. We were even there during spring break which is typically a busier time for all resorts. We were able to slash POW stashes all day. The tree skiing was epic with plenty of pitch and easy-access lift service that quickly took us to new areas of the mountain. We were even fortunate enough to get fresh tracks in Whitefish’s renowned Hellroaring Basin.
We ate lunch on the mountain each day as there were ample selections of food offered on hill. The Hellroaring Saloon became our go-to while on the mountain but the real eats are in town. That being said, for lodge food the Hellroaring Saloon offered a great menu with plenty of options of beers on tap as well as a full bar. Lots of TV’s with classic ski and snowboard flicks running made for a memorably authentic ski lodge experience.
We also visited the Bierstube which once inside is a much more authentic old-school lodge that encourages the carving of your initials into tables adorned with hundreds of visitor initials from over the years.
In addition, I’d recommend grabbing a drink at the Summit House which is more of a drink stop than a dining experience. The Summit House offers amazing panoramic views of the valley below and is a great spot to link up with friends and family during your day’s adventures. It’s pretty much central to all of the zones on the mountain. A photo opportunity is also offered at the summit with the on-mountain photo staff from Mountain Life Photography. Furthermore, they have action photographers stationed on the hill to snap you making your best Montana turns.
In addition to the skiing the town of Whitefish is an absolutely wonderful area to spend time and eat and drink your way around town, which we did so with a ravenous appetite and tremendous thirst.
From breakfast, lunch and dinner there was an outrageous spot for each. Add the many local watering holes for après and you had a stoke level that was off the charts!
For breakfast we hit up Buffalo Café on our first day and as I do in most places I was in search of the perfect eggs Benedict. Buffalo Café did not disappoint although the following day they were slightly outdone by Loula’s Café! Both breakfast spots were on point but Loula’s was my choice for the best bene’.
On mountain is the spot for lunch and there are several choices that will fill your tank after endless uncrowded laps. I’ll start with the most basic and move to my favorite. The basic stop is the Summit House, which sits atop chair 1 and 7. The Summit House’s backside is floor to ceiling windows that on a sunny day provide incredible views of the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park. This is a great place to stop off for a beer or glass of wine as opposed to dining but they do have food too.
There is also the Main Lodge located at the base and is more of a cafeteria-style dining experience. Now for my favorite…Hellroaring Saloon which welcomes you to the front of the restaurant with a sign that states “Welcome to Hell!” Hellroaring Saloon is located in the village accessible by multiple runs and is the best on mountain dining experience. Hellroaring Saloon was built in the 1940’s and has been owned by Patty (Pat) Latourelle, Bob Riso & Luke Riso since the 1980’s. It’s a true throwback that pays homage to the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s all the way into the 2000’s skiing/snowboarding heritage. There is always a classic ski/snowboard film going and their food and drinks are awesome!!!
There is one spot that is truly the après of back in the day and that’s The Bierstube. This place will throw you back to the heyday of the snowboard/ski culture right quick! With massive thick wooden tables with the names of hundreds of previous guests carved into them by your second drink you’ll be breaking out your pocketknife to add your initials or full name to the list of those that sat in those same seats in years past!
To continue après we suggest heading downtown to the local spots that range from hole-in-the-wall beer-slinger spots to upscale cocktail lounges. Best dive bar après is going to be hands down the Bulldog Saloon with a domain name like https://fart-slobber.com/ you know it’s as divey as you get and believe me when I say one of the highlights is going into the bathroom to admire their décor!
For high-end cocktails Tupelo Grille, which often has live music, is my recommendation. Enjoyed this place immensely and had to finish it off with a simple Jameson neat.
If you’re looking for that in-between dive bar and reputable establishment The Great Northern Bar & Grill is the spot, with live music, video games, ping pong and pool tables.
The mountain in not the spot for dinner. You’ll want to hop the easy-to-ride town shuttle and venture into the town of Whitefish to sample the great cuisine and authentic old town bars. There are many great restaurants in Whitefish and I haven’t made it to them all yet but here is a good sampling of some that have been rated the best of the best:
- If you’re looking to get your Italian fix Abruzzo Italian Kitchen is phenomenal I’ve stopped in a couple of times and highly recommend their signature lasagna.
- Craggy Range Bar & Grill last year I’d heard mixed reviews so I skipped the place. This year they’d changed their menu up and it is awesome! Primarily an American style dining experience: I indulged in the fried chicken sandwich coupled with a Hubworks IPA.
- Latitude 48 Bistro is a fun upscale experience yet we chose to be seated in the lounge for a more funky dining experience. Well worth the trip – the food was outstanding and the drinks were amazing.
- The Great Northern Bar and Grill is also an excellent dining experience. They have one of the best Reuben Sandwiches I’ve ever had at what is a true Bar and Grill environment and the prices are ridiculously reasonable…sandwich and an IPA for under $12!
- Montana Tap House can also be added to the après list as it’s right on the way back to town from the resort and it’s got not only an incredible selection of beers on tap but great pizza and sandwiches too.
- The Bulldog Saloon – You have now reached the dive-bar of your dreams! Their food is truly the type of deep fried goods you’ve been looking for and I’d absolutely recommend their huckleberry wings. This is your spot if you’re looking for decent bar food. If you’re looking for what I’d consider POW stashes of food see the list above but if you’re down for some variable conditions this is the place!
WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO DO IN WHITEFISH?
Snowmobile, Dog Sledding, Fernie Alpine Resort Tour, Glacier National Park Tour, Cat Skiing, Glacier Distilling Company Tour, XC Skiing, Snowshoeing, Fat Biking, Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride and much more – There is so much more to do than just skiing and snowboarding in Whitefish! My recommendation is to contact www.whitefishshuttle.com to setup what Larry calls “The best tour he’s ever been on in his 70+ years on this planet!” Whitefish Shuttle and Tour services can help you plan the most epic adventures in Whitefish Montana.
Mt Hood Meadows really has hooked all of us season pass holders up with the Season Pass Exchange Program. I also highly recommend White Fish Shuttle – they showed us around the area. Whitefish Shuttle can also be reached for reservations by phone at 406.212.0080 or reserve your spot on one of their tours here.
Last modified: March 12, 2020