One of the reasons Becky and I moved to Montana, aside from great fishing, hiking, golf, and boating, was to live near a downhill ski area. The Flathead Valley, it turns out, has two. Whitefish Mountain, a world class ski resort, towers above the beautiful little community of Whitefish. From the Summit House, one can see into Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness, and the Canadian Rockies. Blacktail Mountain, located high above the shore town of Lakeside, is a less cosmopolitan more laid-back version of Whitefish, and overlooks the pristine waters of Flathead Lake, with the snow-capped peaks of the Swan Range as a backdrop. Both Resorts are breathtaking, and both provide a vast and varied array of easy, moderate, and more difficult runs.
The very first winter we lived in Bigfork, some twenty-four years ago, we outfitted ourselves with new downhill skis, boots, and the latest North Face gear. I knew how to ski, she didn’t, so her decision to take a lesson on the only beginner class available at the time, the Bunny Slope, made sense. Never mind that fellow classmates were only five-years-old, and never mind that she’d never mounted or dismounted a kiddie-sized disk-lift in her life. “Five-year-olds can do this,” she said, and waved me off to “have fun.” It wasn’t until much later, after a tense and silent ride home, that I learned what occurred that day at the Bunny Slope, while I was away having fun. And why, when I finally caught up to her, I found her anchored to a bar stool in one of the lodges, madder than a hornet, nursing her third mulled wine.
It turns out that the disk-lift was too much for Becky’s first time on skis—the dismount more than the mount—leading her new instructor to lose his cool. After racing to assist her each time she fell off the disk and couldn’t get up, he told her to take off her skis and walk to the starting point. Frustrated and humiliated, with no clue as to proper ski posture, or that ski poles are meant to steady and increase speed, not slow a person down, she did her best to “make a V and head toward him slowly.” Attempting to balance with her poles, she crouched forward, froze, and dug into the snow. “The next thing I remember,” she cried, “I rammed him below the belt with my head and we hit the ground. I couldn’t move. My skis crossed behind me. He screamed ‘get her off,’ but no one could stop laughing long enough to offer a hand.’” I didn’t pressure her into trying again, but a couple of weeks later she did.
More than anything else, I attribute the Hellroaring Saloon and Eatery, a Whitefish Mountain institution of rowdy-overindulgence, highly embellished black-run stories, and bruised-ego wound-licking with Becky’s timely success in learning to ski. The world-famous Mountainous Nachos, an institution in their own right, soon became her non-negotiable reward for hours spent falling and getting back on her skis, until, by the end of our second season, she’d succeeded in exploring every blue run on that mountain with me. “The Hellroaring,”as the place is fondly referred to by locals, hasn’t changed in the twenty-four years we’ve been patrons. And, as of three days ago, the nachos are still a mile high and indecently delicious.
For a closer look at the beautiful little town of Whitefish, Montana, and the Whitefish and Blacktail Mountain Ski Areas, look under the Communities tab on our RiverBend Realty Home Page/Header Menu at www.riverbendbigfork.com and select Whitefish or Lakeside. Flathead Valley, Montana, is a fantastic place to call home.
Keith Palmquist is a Real Estate Broker and the owner of RiverBend Realty in Bigfork, Montana. Keith and his family moved to the Flathead Valley in 1993 from a small town in Kansas. A twenty year veteran-professional with a proven marketing and multi-million dollar Flathead Valley sales record, Keith has experience with all price points and types of real estate transactions.