On March 7, 8, and 9 my cousin and I skied at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Northwest Montana. I enjoyed my time there and am presenting to you my Whitefish skiing review.
I will be writing a series of articles on Whitefish Mountain Resort each focusing on a different aspect of my ski trip. This first installment will be on the most important component of the trip — the skiing!
Whitefish Skiing Review — Complete Disclosure
I have no financial connections to Whitefish Mountain Resort nor did the resort approach me to write this review. I paid for the trip and skiing with my own personal funds. I went to Whitefish Mountain Resort to ski and nothing else.
In short, there is no pressure on me to write anything other than my own opinions and impressions of Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Whitefish Skiing Review — First Impressions
My cousin and I rolled into Whitefish mid-afternoon on Sunday. We approached the turn off of US HWY 2, looked right, and there it was. Let me tell you, it looked every bit a ski mountain. The sky was a mix of sunshine and clouds and clouds were spilling over the mountain. It was a nice welcome and good knowing our drive was over. We snapped a few photographs and proceeded into town.
When it was time to finally ski, the mountain did not disappoint. We took the Swift Creek chair and immediately started to take some warmup runs on Swift Creek. Swift Creek is a slow zone from the top. I had no problems with the run but took it cautiously and shortly afterwards found myself at the bottom. The snow was good I was able to get a good edge hold and I did not detect any ice or nasty surprises. I will say this though, Swift Creek in my experience is a black run and that gave me pause about attempting black diamond runs.
My cousin and I made a few more laps of that area and grabbed some phone photos, most notably a photograph of Whitefish Jesus. Then we met up with the Mountain Ambassadors for a guided tour of the mountain.
Whitefish Skiing Review — Informed Impressions
We skied around the mountain with ambassador Bert and am glad to report I found the snow in good condition. The runs we skied on were all BLUE runs and varied from constant pitch runs to runs with pitches followed by somewhat level runs. So usually you had a chance to rest and reset before the next pitch.
There are a number of cattracks crossing and circling the mountain and those usually consisted of long stretches of nearly flat terrain. They were easy in one sense but the nearly level skiing extracted a toll on the legs. Hellfire is the longest run on the hill and rated as a blue run and early on in reality is a green cattrack, but as it winds it way around the mountain it takes on the alternating character of pitch and flat. Towards the end of Hellrasier the trail has trees in the middle you can weave as if they were slalom gates. The trees are in the middle of the trail and the division is not even giving you the possibility of airing it out. However, take a bit of care here as this is the runout for skiers coming down from Glory Hole and other black diamond runs.
All of the blue runs I took on northside feature alternating pitch and flat. However, on the front side of the mountain many of blue runs feature some steep pitches and sustain those pitches and may flatten out a bit in by the middle before resuming (the Russ’s Street cattrack cuts many of the frontside runs) their pitch.
Whitefish Skiing Review — Trail Signage
The thorough signage pleasantly surprised me. I always knew where I was and what sort of terrain I was on. After the trip with the ambassador I felt confident about not getting onto runs I have no business on. This goes too for the trail map boards and their trail condition reports at the top of every lift.
Whitefish Skiing Review — Snow
In a word great. Some of runs on the front side showed some signs of iciness. Bert warned us before we were about to begin down a pitch to expect some hard snow. I laughed and said “you mean ‘Midwestern Snow’!”. Yeah we certainly did run into that and I noticed that snow on some of the front runs. The hard snow is due to the snowmaking that the front receives.
However, the backside and Flowerpoint runs did not demonstrate any icy or hard snow. In fact, on Thursday the day after about an 8″ blessing we found powder on the backside to ski in. We arrived on the hill a bit later and so we had to search the runs far and wide for clean powder. Not only did we find it we also tracked it up. I found one large field of untracked snow and went into it and found I had to work to get over the roller, it was worth it.
Whitefish Skiing Review – Challenge
I am probably not the best reviewer of the challenge found at Whitefish being an intermediate skier. I did not get onto any black diamond runs (though I do believe there were some short black groomers I am now able to take on) and I made one brief foray into some trees. For me, there was plenty of challenge and I was on a few blue groomers that I am incredibly proud I was able to get down in great control. There is no doubt about Whitefish offering challenging skiing to me.
Take care when trying to step up your level here as these ski runs are for real.
Whitefish Skiing Review — The Greens
I did take some time to ski some greens. I hope to lead another trip here and I hang with green skiers and so I had to search out and ski some greens (well, this was on day two as the day one skiing destroyed my legs, but my original story sounds good and is reasonable). I found the greens equivalent to Midwestern greens through mid-level blue runs.
Chairs 3, 6, and 9 service the majority of true green runs. Once someone graduates from the bunny hills they are ready to take on the runs under these chairs. The chair 3 greens were the most challenging green runs and included some ungroomed sections or sections with powder opportunity. They allow rookie skiers to take a taste of bumpy or deep snow without the danger that accompanies steeper runs.
The cattracks for the most part are green runs but I find them challenging for their fire-in-the-thighs flatness. Also worth noting is that getting onto Russ’s Street requires a trip down the Ant-Hill in possibly flat lighting and crowded conditions.
Whitefish Skiing Review — Lighting
Of special concern is the lighting at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Expect fog, especially at the top of the mountain, the locals measure the fog by the number of chairs they can see ahead on the Big Mountain Express. If you can see three or more chairs than it is not foggy. Of course, that means you can see further down the runs it does not mean you will be able to discern the snow conditions.
Whitefish Skiing Review – The Lifts
The lifts were a mix of fixed grip chairs and detachable high-speed lifts. Normally I detest the old-tech chairs but the longer rides allowed for leg recovery. The high-speed chairs still took a long time because they were covering greater distances. I did not freak out on any chair due to concerns about the chair’s condition or the heights. According to my cousin, one chair was every bit as high as the infamous Whitecap Chair.
Whitefish Skiing Review – Liftlines
The only time we saw liftlines was during the early hours on the Big Mountain Express. This makes sense, people are arriving for the day around the same tie and want to get to the same place. The lines would diminish with the day and in fact after the 10:00 am or so liftlines were non-existent anywhere. The longest lines I saw after the morning rush were typically a dozen or so people in front of you.
On our first day, Whitefish Mountain Resort was hosting the Montana State Special Olympic games and that added to the crowds and lift-lines, again only early on did we see that and only at the base.
Whitefish Skiing Review — The Rating
Why not a perfect ten? I think the lack of a genuine green run from top to bottom hurts. The saving grace is green skiers and non-skiers can download from the Big Mountain Express (chair 1) in the event they want to go up to check out the views (obviously, non-skiers need to buy a special pass to do this). I don’t believe Russ’s Street fits this requirement because of the need to ski down the Ant-Hill and the quad burning flatness of the run.