Fernie Getaway - Whitefish, MT
Photo Courtesy of Whitefish Mountain Resort, Glacier National Park Views on a Sunny Winter Day
Fernie is an amazing place to raise a family, work and play. But sometimes, you just need a break from the everyday and getting away helps you to not only rejuvenate and reconnect with yourself and your partner, it's also a great way to experience somewhere new.
With two small children, and willing grandparents, Rich and I were able to excape for one night at the end of January. We wanted to use our time wisely, and thus set our sites on mountain towns in close proximity. Knowing that we wanted to enjoy the outdoors, good food and wine, and also avoid extensive travel time, we decided that Whitefish, Montana was our best bet.
Located 160 km from Fernie, it takes just two hours to get to Whitefish. Being so close, many people from Fernie spend time here throughout the year. I often enjoy Whitefish in early spring, as their trails seem to dry out a lot quicker than ours and a biking trip mid-April conveniently coincides with my birthday. It's been 13 years since I have been to Whitefish in Winter, and a similar amount of time for Rich, and we are excited to see what it has in store for us.
We decide on the Grouse Mountain Lodge for accommodations. Located on the Whitefish Lake Golf Course, it offers out the door access to the Glacier Nordic Centre and over 12km of groomed trails. We arrive at the Lodge by 11am and are immediately greeted by friendly staff, who inform us we have been upgrated to a Loft Suite. They let us know about the free shuttle to town, and provide details on the shuttle that runs to and from Whitefish Mountain, where we are planning on skiing later that afternoon. We look at the time, and decide we can sneak in a quick Skate Ski, and slip out the door onto the beautifully groomed trails. For just $10 (you can purchase a day pass at the Glacier Nordic Shop or online) we fly along the terrain with only the sound of our skis beneath our feet, enjoying the views, crisp air and freedom. Once back at our suite, we are welcomed by a bottle of Prosecco which we relish before switching gears... or at least ski gear.
Before catching the Snow Bus - a free shuttle that runs between the town and mountain, we hit up Montana Coffee Traders for a snack and coffee. Free and reliable transportation sure makes travel less stressful, as do friendly, helpful people. Relaxed and excited approaching Whitefish Mountain Resort... we are enjoying our flexible timeline and the ease with which the day has gone so far. Our Swing Shift ski passes have helped out with this, as they start from 1pm and include night skiing so we are able to avoid rushing. All we know is that we want to explore the mountain, and head to the Bierstube for its renowned apres ski.
We start off on the North Side of the hill, which has been developed since our last time skiing here. Our first turns are down Big Horn off the ridge, followed by a couple of runs off the Flower Point Chair including Hidden Meadow and a ski in the trees before returning to the Summit House. From here, we have just enough time to drop into Hellroaring Basin and catch the Hellroaring chair before it closes. After some recommendations from the Ski Patrol, we decided on Connie's Coulee and finish off with Glory Hole - so fun! By then, the sun is about to set behind Whitefish Lake, making our last few runs into the evening extremely beautiful. After this sunset-ski, and enjoying some of the hill's terrain under the lights, we make our way to the Stube for some well-deserved pints.
It's a small world, even across borders. Within 30 minutes of entering the Stube, we're catching up with Brendan Friel who manages the pub and is also a sought after fishing guide. Brendan and his brother have spent a lot of time in Fernie, and have a home here which he tells us is their "retirement plan." Soon we're chatting with his girlfriend, Jen Dolan who is a realtor, and meeting local Whitefish folk. It's a similar vibe to the Griz Pub in Fernie - good people, good beer, good times. As the evening winds down, we catch a ride with Jen and her friend back to town and are feeling buzzed by the strong Montana IPA's and great energy of the day.
To say we are famished at this point is an understatement. There are so many great choices in town, including sushi, Mexican and Italian but we have our eyes set on Truby's which is located right in the middle of it all on Central Ave. Dressed in our mountain casual (just like Fernie, you can never go wrong with plaid) we are seated by 8:30pm and are lured by the refreshing Montana Mule - locally made Vodka, lime and ginger beer in a copper mug. And we are not disappointed. We settle on the Kale Salad, and a couple of their signature pizzas and are happy to have leftovers for the next day as the food is delicious. By 10:30pm, we make our way back to the shuttle pick up and while we purchase a bottle of wine to drink alongside a movie back at the Lodge, we're asleep by 11pm. Times have sure changed.
The next morning, we awake early (to our disappointment) and hit the Nordic trails to help wake us up. We don't have to leave until 3pm, so decide on a late breakfast at Loula's. Coffee never tasted better, and the Bighorn (hashbrowns, veggies, eggs and cheese) hits the spot. While Rich hits up Home Depot to run some errands, I decide to enjoy the downtown a little while longer, perusing the stores and enjoying local literature back at the coffee shop.
We are sad to leave, and agree that another night would have really capped the getaway, but we know we made the most out of it and are stoked on our time in Whitefish. En route home, to lesson the load of our weekend coming to an end, we hit up HA Brewing Co (upon Jen's suggestion) and are amazed by this local gem, just outside of Eureka. We are already planning our trip back this summer!
Thanks, Whitefish! Looking forward to next time.