SlopeLab’s Review of Whitefish Mountain Resort

SlopeLab Ratings


Detailed Scores:

Beginner Terrain
Intermediate Terrain
Advanced Terrain
Expert Terrain
Tree Skiing
Bowl Skiing
Snow Rating
Ski Town

Whitefish Mountain Stats

Photo Gallery

Whitefish Overview

In the discussion of destination ski resorts, Whitefish sits quietly on the sidelines, often as far removed as its northern Montana location.

But talk to anyone who’s been there, and they’ll tell you that this spot is secretly one of the most underrated mountains in the Rockies.

With nearly 3,000 acres of terrain, 300+ inches of snowfall, and maybe most importantly, a lack of crowds (and prices!) seen at the world’s more popular ski resort, Whitefish is an off-the-radar destination that caters well to all types of skiers.

Sure, you won’t find the glitz and glamour of other resorts. And you might have to battle some serious fog along the way. But catch it on a good day, and it just might be your new favorite mountain!

Just don’t tell anyone…

Whitefish Trail Maps

whitefish trail map 22
Whitefish trail map (click for full size)
whitefish north trailmap 20
Whitefish North Side trail map (click for full size)
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Whitefish Hellroaring Basin trail map(click for full size)

Whitefish Lift Info

Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
Chair 1 - Big Mountain Express
Chair 4 - Great Northern
Chair 8 - Hellroaring
Chair 7 - Big Creek Express
Chair 2 - Swift Creek Express
Chair 11 - Flower Point
Chair 5 - East Rim
Chair 10 - Bad Rock
Chair 3 - Tenderfoot
Bigfoot T-Bar
Chair 9 - Easy Rider
Chair 6 - Base Lodge

Whitefish Terrain Overview

While Whitefish doesn’t have the EPIC or IKONIC (yes, the tongue is in cheek) terrain found at more popular mountains, the ski terrain at this often overlooked mountain can hang with the best of them.

At 3,000 skiable acres, Whitefish is much larger than it leads on.

The mountain is divided into three main sections.

  • The sprawling front side features long, peak to base runs, mixed with a few modest bowls and some beginner-intermediate areas.
  • The smaller back side holds mostly traditional cut runs. While they aren’t quite as long as the front side, the back terrain is entirely north facing and usually skis really well.
  • Hellroaring Basin is a large, lonely side country area with limited lift access but tons of interesting trees and obstacles for adventerous explorers.

White arguably modest compared to other destination resorts, Whitefish definitely offers something for everyone!

Whitefish for Beginners

Whitefish is a really solid beginner’s mountain. The ski school gets its own beginner section at the base of the mountain, but more impressively, the green runs run all the way to the mountains summit, and beginners could even take a nice green run (Caribou) to the backside lift.

This creates a sense of adventure that many advanced mountains lack.

But maybe more importantly, Whitefish’s highly rated ski school offers some of the most budget friendly rates of any major mountain, so it’s the perfect place to introduce new skiers and boarders to the sport.

Whitefish for Intermediates

Groomer zoomers will love Whitefish!

Big front side blues like Toni Matt, Big Ravine, and Inspiration are long, fast, and perfect sloped – these runs can compete with some of the best groomers anywhere.

For modest bumps, intermediates can head over the Chair 2 on the front side, or otherwise check out some of the ungroomed blues on the North Side.

Advanced Terrain at Whitefish

As is the trend for Whitefish’s terrain, advanced skiers will get a respectable number of options to keep them entertained.

Whitefish’s highly prevalent “snow ghost” trees (big, fluffy trees covered in snow thanks to a mix of the mountain’s snowfall and humidity conditions) are perfect for those who want to explore off the beaten path.

Otherwise, Whitefish brings some interesting bowls on both the front side and the Hellroaring Basin. While they’re not quite the wide open steeps you’ll find at the Jackson Holes and Whistlers of the world, they hold an interesting mix of open spaces and spaced trees, so you can choose your own adventure for most runs.

Expert Terrain at Whitefish:

Whitefish’s expert terrain is mostly limited to steep tree runs and cliff sections in the Hellroaring Basin area.

The only negative with this terrain is that due to the area’s more remote, side country-like setup, it can take some time to repeat laps of these goods.

How is the snow at Whitefish?

Average Inches of Annual Snowfall

On average, Whitefish receives a surprising 330 inches of annual snowfall.

This is slightly above average snowfall totals, even for a destination resort. Plus, in looking at the snowfall records, Whitefish is one of the more consistent resorts when it comes to avoiding droughts.

That said, the above average snow totals at Whitefish are somewhat balanced by its snow quality. Because of the elevation (less than 7,000 feet at the Summit) the mountain can see the occasional winter rain. Likewise, over half of Whitefish’s terrain faces south, which isn’t great for snow preservation.

A quick note about fog

No discussion about skiing conditions at Whitefish would be complete without mentioning its legendary fog.

For ski resorts, this is a foggy place. Maybe THE most foggy place.

On my first trip to Whitefish, I spent two days without ever seeing the summit. Or the lake. Or pretty much anything that wasn’t less than 100 or 200 feet from my face.

In fact, locals refer to the fogginess in terms of a “one chair” or “two chair” day… meaning how many chairs in front of you on the lift you can see. The fog is even so common that you’ll notice little orange markers (aka fog balls) around the mountain, meant to help you stumble your way down during a white out. (I’ve definitely spent more than a few runs at Whitefish wondering if I was about to ski off a cliff…)


Of course, the fog’s not all bad!

It helps preserve the snow… or something.

Where is Whitefish?

Whitefish Mountain Resort sits in, you guessed it… Whitefish, Montana.

If that’s still not ringing a bell, most people know Whitefish as the gateway to Glacier National Park. Outside of the summer tourist rush to visit the National Park, Whitefish is a sleepy old railroad town just 50 miles from the Canadian border.

That said, in the past few decades, word about Whitefish’s beautiful lakes, mountains, and Main Street has pread, and the town itself is becoming quite cool and trendy.

Getting to Whitefish

Most visitors will arrive by flying into Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). The airport is located in the town of Kalispell, MT, just 15 minutes south of Whitefish. Unlike most hard to reach ski destinations, the short drive from the Kalispell Airport to Whitefish is mostly flat and easy. Just make sure to watch for deer!

The Kalispell airport is small and mostly used during the summer tourist months. In the winter, nonstop flights are limited to just Seattle, Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and Denver.

If Kalispell proves too difficult to fly into, the second closest airport would be in Missoula, Montana. (Roughly a 2.5 hour drive away.)

And of course, there’s always the train! (Seriously!)

For more information on getting to Whitefish, check out SlopeLab’s complete guide for How to Get to Whitefish

Whitefish as Ski town

As a ski-town, Whitefish is beautiful, authentic, trendy, sleepy, and bustling, somehow all at the same time!

With its old railroad history, the town still maintains that original charm. And yet in recent years, Whitefish has grown into an eclectic collection of breweries, distilleries, saloons, and restaurants. All these shops line the town’s picturesque Main Street, its buildings always perfectly framing The Big Mountain looming directly north.

That said, in an era where most ski towns are overrun with condo development and tourist invasions, Whitefish still clings to its small town vibe. An apres session at the town bars may have you feeling like the only tourist in town, as more visitors are greeted by the bartenders by first name than not.

The ski town is also aided by Whitefish’s free S.N.O.W. Bus. The bus picks up at multiple locations all around Whitefish and shuttles skiers the 15 minutes to the mountain’s base, for free.

Once at the mountain, the rustic charm continues. In the village, there’s both the storied Hellroaring Saloon and The Bierstube, two rustic and rowdy apres spots that represent the quintessential Montana dive bars.

There is one last aspect of Whitefish as a ski town that’s worth mentioning – it’s affordable pricing. Because the town’s biggest draw remains Glacier National Park in the Summer, skiers visiting in the winter are treated to a surplus of lodging options. For those looking to ski bum it up, hotels cheaper than $100 per night abound.

When is the best time to visit Whitefish?

January - February

Skiing conditions at Whitefish peak in January and February, when the temperatures are still cold enough to keep the rain away and the southern facing slopes nice and frozen.

How are the crowds at Whitefish?

Here’s a quick story that may put Whitefish crowds into perspective.

On my first trip to Whitefish, the hotel’s shuttle driver waited to make a left turn from the hotel parking lot onto the town’s main road. His left turn was held up for about 30 seconds while he waited for a total of eight cars to pass by. Frustrated, he shouted out: “It’s getting to be like New York City here!!!”

I laughed, but he was serious.

The small town feel extends to the mountain; Whitefish is very much a local’s mountain. On any given day, over half of the skiers are locals, with only a handful of tourists who have ever heard of the place, let alone made the trek up near the Canadian border.

Lift lines, aside from extremely rare occasions, are usually nonexistent. On groomers, you’re likely to have nearly the whole run to yourself. In the trees, you may feel like you’re skiing backcountry.

As of now, Whitefish is definitely an undiscovered gem. The town is exploding in popularity though, the mountain has begun a major marketing campaign, and word is finally starting to get out. We’ll see how long it stays this way…

Further reading