Sunday, February 28, 2010;
Victoria Sievers of Arlington is the latest contributor to Your Vacation in Lights, in which we invite Travel section readers to dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. You won't win a million dollars if your story is featured; in fact, you won't win anything but the thanks and admiration of your fellow readers. To file your own trip report, see the fine print below.
THE TRIP: Skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana.
WHO: My husband, Todd, and I.
WHEN: Dec. 29-Jan. 18
WHY: Whitefish has been our family's annual ski vacation destination since 2001. Todd and I got engaged on Big Mountain in 2008 and returned for our honeymoon. We had 10 days on our own before the rest of the family joined us.
GETTING THERE WAS . . . a little challenging. I prefer nonstop flights and traveling light. But there is no traveling light when you have multiple pairs of skis, snow boots, parkas and long underwear. Delta and United offer connecting service from Washington to Kalispell, about 30 minutes by car from Whitefish. The layovers are usually long enough to grab a local brew at an airport bar. Denver's our favorite because of the New Belgium Pub in the United terminal.
IT MADE IT ALL WORTH IT WHEN . . . we reached the summit the first time and saw the view of Flathead Valley below.
OUR SNOW PAD: We stayed at the condo of Todd's parents, about halfway up Big Mountain Road. It's a little neighborhood of A-frame houses, many of which are rentals for part of the year, while others are occupied by full-timers. From the condo, it's a quick drive to the resort and slightly farther to town.
NEED A RIDE? The free SNOW (Shuttle Network of Whitefish) bus shuttles people between several downtown points and the mountain. After a wild night in the Whitefish bars, you can call the Ride Guy, a volunteer taxi service (free, but tips are appreciated). They'll even drive you home in your own car.
FAVORITE MEAL: Pescado Blanco bills itself as serving "mountain Mexican" cuisine: hearty dishes based on Southwest traditions but with Montana influences. You'll find bison enchiladas, elk chorizo and local-raised pork on the menu, though personally I can make a meal out of the salsa bar and fresh guacamole.
COOLEST ATTRACTION: This is a tie between the Great Northern Brewery and Glacier National Park. The local brewery has five to six beers on tap at any time, such as Fred's Black Lager, Snow Ghost Winter Lager and Huckleberry Wheat. For to-go brews, the bar sells growlers, refillable glass jugs. At the other end of the spectrum is Glacier National Park, about 40 minutes from Whitefish. You can drive only about 10 miles into the park on Going-to-the-Sun Road, but you can explore the trails and lakes deeper inside by snowshoe or ski.
I WISH I'D BROUGHT MORE . . . long underwear. You can never have enough. Ever.
DOING THE MATH: An adult lift ticket is $56 if you buy three or more days. Frequent-skier cards and flex passes can lower the price to $40. Additionally, lift tickets are available at the Kalispell Costco; a four-pack of single-day passes breaks down to about $47 a day.
SKI-IN, EAT-IN: You can ski right up to the door of several restaurants on the mountain, and three of them allow you to wear ski boots inside. Our favorites are Ed & Mully's on the lower mountain and the Summit House on, yep, the summit. Ed & Mully's serves bar fare (pulled pork quesadillas, spicy buffalo wings) from a takeout window. Grab a seat near the fireplace or by the window to watch the local race league. The cafeteria-style Summit House serves such fare as bean and cheese burritos, chili and curly fries. For the two of us, entrees, hot drinks and maybe a shared appetizer ran $12 to $20.
NO LINES HERE: Prior to visiting Whitefish, I had skied only on the East Coast, so I was expecting something more like Massanutten or Wintergreen: long lift lines and short, icy runs crowded with skiers. I remember asking my mother-in-law if the lift lines would be long. Her response: "What lift lines?" I also recall standing at the lift one morning and hearing a local complain about the "wait" for the lift to the summit. Seven people were ahead of him.
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