How to Get to Whitefish, Montana (An Unbiased Guide)

how to get to whitefish mountain montana

Planning a trip to Whitefish Mountain Resort in Whitefish, Montana?

I recently did just that, and I’m here to report back with all the insider’s tips that you need to know about getting to Whitefish!

Where is Whitefish, Montana?

The town of Whitefish, Montana is located in Northwest Montana, less than 40 miles from the Canadian border and about 60 miles from the Idaho panhandle.

Most people probably know Whitefish as the gateway town to Glacier National Park, which is only 30 minutes east of Whitefish. Interestingly, this means that despite the ski resort, winter in Whitefish is actually the town’s slower season.

Whitefish, Montana to the Whitefish Mountain Resort

The ski resort sits just 15 minutes north of town. The road to get there is a simple, 7-mile long mountain road with a grand total of four modest hairpin turns.

As a reminder, you’re in Montana. So traffic isn’t really a thing. Although my shuttle bus driver complained that, “It’s getting to be like New York City around here!” after having to wait for four (yes, four) cars to pass before exiting the parking lot.

What is the closest major airport to Whitefish, Montana?

The closes airport to Whitefish is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA).

The airport couldn’t be more convenient. It sits just outside of Kalispell, Montana, so the drive is only 10 miles (about 15-20 minutes) to the town of Whitefish and 30 minutes or less to the the ski resort.

If you’re worried about the drive, you don’t need to be. This part of Montana sits in a bit of a valley (officially called the Flathead Valley) between the Montana mountains, so the drive from the airport to town is flat as a pancake.

Even better, in the SlopeLab analysis of the best airports for ski trips, FCA was surprisingly reliable. Only 2.2% of winter flights reported major issues, which puts this small little Montana airport right in line with more frequently traveled options like Denver International.

Direct Flights and Airline Information to Whitefish

Whitefish also sports a surprising number of cities with direct flights into FCA:

airlines direct flights to whitefish montana
Cities with direct flights to Whitefish’s nearest airport, FCA

At last count, that’s 17 different cities will fly direct into Whitefish.

The official Glacier Park International website lists eight different airlines that service the airport. Although look at the flight board on any given day, and you’ll notice it’s mostly dominated by just three airlines – Alaska Airlines, Delta, and United.

Alternate Option for Getting to Whitefish: The Train!

If you’re not big on flying or just want to experience something different, Whitefish is one of the only ski resorts in the United States that you can travel to by train!

The Amtrak’s Empire Builder line has a stop right in the heart downtown Whitefish.

This line runs all over the United States. But unless you have a few weeks to burn on a train, the most realistic options will be for those coming from either Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, or Chicago.

whitefish by train - amtrak empire builder

Even still, the path from Minneapolis, is about 24 hours of train time. That said, I’m sure the long ride through remote Minnesota, North Dakota, and Montana is beautiful!

Transportation around Whitefish: Car or Shuttle?

For getting around the town of Whitefish, you can either choose to rent a car from the Kalispell airport or take the many convenient shuttles around town.

Rental Cars

Glacier International (FCA) airport has all the usual rental car options, including Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, Budget, Alamo, etc.

As previously mentioned, the drive from the airport to town is flat and easy. And the road from town to the mountain appears pretty tame and well-maintained. Barring any serious weather conditions, it should be relatively smooth, especially compared to the mountainous driving experiences of Colorado, California, or Canada.

Whitefish Shuttle Bus

If you’re looking to go car-less, Whitefish is one of the easiest places to do just that!

The town runs an impressive S.N.O.W. Shuttle Bus (that’s short for Shuttle Network of Whitefish) with stops all over town. For getting in between town and the mountain, the bus services runs every half-hour to every hour, depending on the time of day. And it’s completely free!

Several Whitefish hotels and resorts are within walking distance of a S.N.OW. stop, and many other hotels run their own shuttle services for hotel guests.

My Personal Experience Getting to Whitefish

For my recent two day ski trip to Whitefish, I was shocked at how easy it was to get to there.

Coming from Minneapolis, Delta had several direct flights to the Kalispell airport, and for reasonable prices, at that!

Even more, I found the Hampton Inn Whitefish for lodging, complete with a free shuttle to the airport and around town.

On day 1, the shuttle picked me up from the airport swiftly, and I was at my hotel in less than 20 minutes. At night, the hotel shuttle dropped me off in the heart of Whitefish, and then was waiting for my call when I wanted to come home.

For getting to the mountain in the morning, the free hotel shuttle dropped me off at the nearest S.N.OW. shuttle stop. This admittedly required a little more planning, and I ended up getting there too early and then waiting about 15-20 minutes for the S.N.O.W. shuttle. Once the bus got moving, I was the first of maybe a dozen stops on the way to the mountain, so the total ride time was a little longer than expected, at maybe 45 minutes total.

(Then again, all I had to do was think about how this shuttle system was, in fact, completely free, and then remind myself much money I was saving on a rental car + gas, and I quickly felt a lot better!)

All in all, getting to Schweitzer – and then getting around it – was a surprisingly easy, affordable, and convenient option!