If you are looking for a fun family winter ski vacation that's both epic and affordable, skiing in Whitefish, Montana is just what you are looking for. Many people are more familiar with Big Sky Ski Resort near Bozeman, Montana. But skiing in Whitefish, Montana is one of the best-kept secrets you don't want to miss.
Whitefish Mountain is a big mountain near Glacier National Park that the whole family will love. Our family has done a lot of ski towns out west and in the Northeast of the United States.
But few places have been as special as skiing in Whitefish, Montana. This ski town is a lot less busy than more popular places like skiing in Vail, Colorado, or Sugar Bush Ski Resort in Vermont. But, it offers an epic ski experience at a much better price!
A Hidden Gem In Montana
The town and ski resort of Whitefish is beautiful any time of year. But in wintertime, the views of the Montana wilderness and the mountains covered in snow are stunning. And fewer crowds and its affordability for a family vacation make skiing here better.
Whitefish Moutain Resort sits at the base of White Mountain, aka Big Mountain, which has around 111 marked ski trails with varying experience levels.
It's also close to Glacier National Park and Whitefish Lake, where you'll find plenty of outdoor activities everyone will love. And downtown Whitefish has plenty of places to shop, eat, and stay.
It is also so close to Canada that you can actually extend your trip to the Canadian Rockies if you want to get even more glorious scenery. But here we are talking about why skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort is a must for any avid skiing family.
This post will cover everything you need to know about skiing in Whitefish with kids.
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About Whitefish Mountain Resort
Ski Magazine rated the Whitefish Ski Resort as the #9 best resort in the west in 2021 and the #3 ski resort in North America. Whitefish is also Ski Magazine's #2 ski resort for value, and we couldn't agree more.
It has 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, making this location a ski paradise. Whitefish Ski Resort is located just eight miles north of the town of Whitefish in Northwest Montana on Big Mountain.
Whitefish is also known for a unique phenomenon called snow ghosts. Snow ghosts are trees covered in rime ice that give them an eerie appearance. Tree wells are one thing to also be aware of when skiing here, as the trees can have loose pockets of snow that are very deep. To ski safely, be sure to not ski too close to the trees.
It's the second largest place to ski in the state, with Big Sky Resort being the biggest near Bozeman and Yellowstone National Park. You'll find plenty of outdoor activities to keep your family busy on Big Mountain, like:
- Alpine Skiing
- Tree Skiing
- Cross-country skiing
- Dog sledding
- Ice fishing
- Guided backcountry ski adventures
- Backcountry cat skiing
And much more.
You can stay in one of the 200 mountain homes, hotel rooms, and condominiums on or near Whitefish resort or shop and eat right on the mountain.
We love that there is so much to do and see, but Whitefish still has a small-town feel.
Whitefish Mountain is 35 miles from the Glacier National Park and 66 miles from the Canadian border.
Whitefish Ski Resort is situated in a place where the Pacific storms collide with the Continental Divide, meaning it gets a lot of snow for skiing. But the weather is definitely a factor on Big Mountain as you also get fog and clouds.
However, since you can ski 360 degrees from the top of the mountain, you'll find many ski opportunities in perfect weather conditions with incredible views of the jagged peaks. But, even when the weather is not ideal, the ski area is large enough that you can still find skiable terrain on the lower trails.
In fact, when we were visiting earlier this year, it was unusually cold, which made skiing from the peak a bit too cold for a couple of days. But, there were still plenty of wonderful, powder-covered trails, tree skiing, and long runs to keep us very busy.
The ski resort is also located close to a major airport, Glacier Park National Airport, and the Whitefish Amtrak Station. Some lodging options have shuttle services to Whitefish Mountain Resort, or you can rent a car.
This terrain has more bowl and tree skiing than anything, and the longest run, Hellfire, is 3.3 miles. But that said, the 111+ marked trails at Whitefish Ski Resort provide skiing for all experience levels:
- 12% of easier trails
- 37% more difficult trails
- 44% of expert trails
- 7% of expert trails require extra caution
Just be sure to keep a trail map with you so you can avoid expert terrain if you're a beginner. In fact, our family is mostly a green/blue family, and we had so much fun skiing in Whitefish, Montana.
The runs were long, powdery, and beautiful. Because the slopes are wide, and less crowded, you can easily take your time down any run. It was perfect for the range of levels in our family.
Whitefish also has a skier/boardercross course and four terrain parks.
The summit elevation is 6,817 feet, and the vertical drop is 2,353 vertical feet. Because you are at altitude, you want to be sure and hydrate lot as it can make you a bit more tired. This is similar to skiing in Colorado.
The Town of Whitefish sees 320 inches of snow each year, which is why it offers some of the best skiing in the west. And, it's a perfect ski town for exploring on your off days or for a meal apres ski.
Why Skiing in Whitefish, Montana Is Great for Families
We love skiing at this Big Mountain ski resort for many reasons, but here are a few:
- It's very affordable. – Whitefish Mountain Resort offers cheaper lift tickets and is more affordable overall than some of the other well-known resorts like Big Sky Mountain.
- Lift Lines are shorter – The ski lift lines are shorter than other popular ski resorts. The Swift Creek Express lift has shorter lines on holidays and weekends than the Big Mountain Express lift.
- Ski In/Ski Out accommodations – You can find plenty of VRBO rentals for ski on/ski off skiing or your can stay in one of the nearby resorts like Grouse Mountain Lodge, the Lodge at Whitefish Resort.
- Non-ski activities – With Glacier National Park close, you'll find many things to do other than skiing.
- You'll find several great places to stay. – Rent a home or condo or stay in places like the Lodge at Whitefish Mountain Resort or Grouse Mountain Lodge.
- Adults and Kids Programs. – The ski school has a variety of programs for people of all ages so you can improve your ski skills while riding or skiing in Whitefish, Montana.
Things To Do In Whitefish Mountain Resort In Winter
I promise you won't be bored on your ski trip as there is so much to do at Whitefish Ski Resort and the surrounding area. And you also get some of the local flavor by visiting the nearby western town of Whitefish.
Whitefish Ski and Ride Programs
Whitefish has ski and ride programs for locals that meet regularly, but they also offer shorter programs for vacationers. They offer an adult or junior ski or ride package where you meet for two half-day sessions. The sessions include two days of rentals and lower mountain lift tickets.
The price for either program is very affordable at $91.
Once you complete the beginner ski program, the ski instructor will give you a graduate voucher for the Graduate Frequent Skier Card that is redeemable at Base Lodge Tickets. The perks of this program include:
- 50% off rentals
- 50% off group lessons
- $59 Adult lift tickets (they also offer lift tickets for other ages for less)
The Whitefish Mountain Resort is a four-diamond ski resort, but there's so much more to do all year round. It offers a variety of accommodations, like:
- The Main Lodge at Whitefish
- The Viking Lodge
- Luxury homes
- Lakefront condos
You'll get amenities like spa services, boat rentals, a shuttle service, and other options to make the best of your vacation.
The lodge has heated pools and hot tubs you can relax in after a long day on the slopes. There's also a seasonal lakefront pool that is open from late May through early October.
One of our favorite activities here is the S'mores on the Terrace, which they do every night from 7 PM to 9 PM. And my husband and I like the nightly complimentary glass of wine you can get in the lobby from 5 PM to 6 PM.
I also love skiing at night on the slopes under lights. The lights bounce off the snow, making it a magical experience, and we like stopping by Ed & Mully's for drinks and dinner specials.
The late-day snow storms provide fresh, untracked powder that you can ski on after many of the lifts close, or you can do laps around the terrain park.
While the daytime ski activities and night skiing in Whitefish, Montana are fun, we also love the other activities the Big Mountain offers, including:
- Dog sledding (this is one of my favorite things to do)
- Guided snowshoeing tours in the Glacier National Park with Glacier Guides
- Scenic chair lift rides
- Backcountry cat skiing
- Ice fishing
- Horse-drawn sleigh or wagon rides
- Zip-line tours (In the Summer)
- Mountain biking (when there isn't snow)
- Alpine Slide – Whitefish's Mountain Coaster (in the Summer)
Shop in Downtown Whitefish
On an off day or after spending the day skiing in Whitefish, Montana, don't forget to do as the locals do! Head to the darling town of Whitefish to explore all the shopping options.
This Western but modern (and hip) town offers a variety of shops and restaurants, from locally-owned galleries and shops to artisan jewelry, shoes, books are more. My favorite stop is the Montana Coffee Traders!
I love all the handmade products like homemade skin care and locally roasted coffee, as they make the perfect, unique Christmas and birthday gifts for friends and family.
Whitefish even has a neat thrift store, other clothing stores, and an antique shop.
And be sure to stop in one of the best restaurants in Whitefish! One of my favorites is the Bonsai Brewing Project.
Apres Ski Activities
In case you don't know what Après ski is, it's French for after ski and represents the shift from skiing to drinks with family and friends afterward. Personally, I don't think there's a better way to end the day than partaking in apres ski.
You'll find restaurants and bars that offer drink specials, events like trivia night, and live music. Some of the best places to go in town are:
- Logan's Bar & Grill – Logan's has fun activities like trivia on Tuesdays and live music on Wednesdays.
- Spotted Bear Spirits – This bar has earned awards and accolades for its unique cocktails, like the Snowghost and other signature drinks.
- Great Northern Bar & Grill – Go to this bar & grill for dollar beers, live music, and the Winter Carnival's Disco Party.
Other fun places on the mountain with Après ski activities include Hellroaring Saloon & Eatery and The Bierstube.
You'll also find plenty of great restaurants to eat at right on the mountain, like:
- Hellroaring Saloon & Eatery (near chair 2)
- The Bierstube
- Base Lodge Cafe & Bar
- Base Lodge Coffee Bar
- Cafe Kandahar & Snug Bar
- Ed & Mully's
- The Summit House
- Village Market & Glacier Gifts
Whitefish Montana Ski Rentals
There are many places to rent ski equipment if you don't have your own or can't bring it with you.
There are Base Lodge Rentals and Village Rentals, where you can rent everything from ski boots to skis. And it's modern equipment, not old gear. These are two of the most convenient places right on the mountain, but you'll find other rental businesses, too, such as:
- Black Tie Skis
- Sportsman & Ski Haus
- Tamarack Ski Shop
There are also ski butlers who will come to you to bring rentals, so you can get out and enjoy an epic powder day of skiing.
As I mentioned, Whitefish lift tickets are very affordable, especially when you compare them to other ski resorts in Colorado and across the nation. You can get single or multi-day tickets as well as season passes and frequent skier cards.
Chair lift tickets for the 2022/2023 ski season start at:
- $94 for Adults ages 19 to 64
- $32 for Super Seniors ages 70+
- $80 for Seniors ages 65 to 69
- $47 for Juniors ages 7 to 12
- $80 for Teens ages 13 to 18
- Children 6 and under ski for free
One of the other things I love about Whitefish Ski Resort is that the lines at the lifts aren't long, even when the resort is full of visitors.
Where To Stay When Skiing In Whitefish, Montana
We love all the neat places to stay that offer gorgeous views and some luxury accommodations with high-class amenities. Often we look for a nice yet affordable place with laundry facilities and kitchens or kitchenettes so we can eat in and save money on dining.
Located in downtown Whitefish, the Firebrand Hotel has a place to store skis and equipment, a fitness center, and an onsite restaurant and bar. It's a modern hotel with a spa and free shuttle service to and from the airport.
Bar W Guest Ranch
Level up your vacation by staying at this guest ranch and learning about ranch life. You can take horseback rides, play rodeo games, go square dancing or fly fishing, relax by campfires, and so much more.
If you stay here, you'll find many non-ski activities to do, and the accommodations consist of newer cabins, glamping tents, or rooms in the main lodge.
Pine Lodge on Whitefish River
Pine Lodge is one of the best places for families to stay as it has indoor and outdoor pools, ski storage, rooms and suites with refrigerators, and Grab ‘n Go Breakfast.
You can also choose the White Glove Experience, where you get extra services and amenities like S'mores kits, access to the game room, complimentary transportation to the ski area, pre-packaged slope kits, and more.
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake
This upscale lodge is one of the best places to stay. You get access to the lake and a variety of lodging choices, like lakefront condos, hotel rooms, and house rentals.
The beautiful water views are amazing! You get access to all the lodge amenities like canoes, access to the private beach, heated swimming pools, a fitness center, spa services, bicycles, boat rentals, and several restaurants.
Some other places to stay include:
- Grouse Mountain Lodge
- Baymont by Wyndham
- Downtowner Inn
- Chalet Motel
- The Farmhouse Inn and Kitchen
- Kandahar Lodge
- Best Western Rocky Mountain Lodge
- North Forty Resort
- Hibernation House
- Towne Place Suites by Marriott
Flying to Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort
You can fly into Glacier Park International Airport, as it's just 19 miles from the ski resort. There are even direct flights available from Denver, Chicago, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Las Vegas, San Francisco, Portland, Atlanta, and Oakland.
You can rent a car and pick it up right at the airport. If you are coming in the winter, be sure to select a car that can manage the snow and wintery roads.
Other Modes of Transportation
Trains – The Historic Whitefish Depot is a primary stop for Amtrak going east and west.
S.N.O.W. Bus and Shuttles – You can take the bus or a shuttle to and from the resort and around town. Many hotels offer a free shuttle to and from the airport.
By Car – Whitefish is also easy to drive to and from as there aren't many traffic jams here.
Final Thoughts About Skiing In Whitefish, Montana With Kids
If you're looking for a laid-back winter ski vacation, then a trip to Whitefish is the perfect getaway. We love the natural beauty and small-town feel of the town, and there's always so much to do.
Skiing in Whitefish, Montana is pleasant for so many reasons. It is convenient to get to and would make the ultimate road trip this year if you live in Colorado or one of the surrounding states. And you'll find a variety of accommodations that will meet the needs of any family.
I love that there are plenty of options for places to stay, from luxury homes to affordable hotels and even a guest ranch. It's affordable and less crowded, but still, with some of the best skiing, you would hope to find out west.
If you love skiing and want a relaxing but fun family vacation, what are you waiting for? Whitefish is waiting for you; plan your winter ski trip now.