Ski-Cation in the Northern Rockies

View of Glacier National Park from Whitefish Mountain Resort, Whitefish, Glacier Country

By Henry Allen 

With so many prime ski destinations in the Northwest, selecting the perfect spot for a vacation on the slopes can be a challenge. Does the resort have all the amenities you need? Are the slopes friendly to your skill level? What’s the village vibe—family friendly or party hearty?   

The ski resorts of the Idaho and Montana Northern Rockies are known for world-class amenities that can please even the most discerning critic. Here are four worth checking out, whether you are on a winter break with the family or enjoying a reunion with friends.   

Whitefish Mountain Resort, Montana  

Rising above the city of Whitefish with Glacier National Park a short drive away, Whitefish Mountain Resort offers on-mountain amenities as well as lodging, dining, shopping and more throughout the picturesque city. The ski resort is celebrating its 75th anniversary this winter and is also opening a new 6-pack chairlift, the Snow Ghost Express, which will travel seven minutes and cover 2,200 vertical feet. 

If you’re new to Whitefish sign up for a free mountain tour, offered twice daily, to learn the lay of the land. Be sure to take advantage of the free S.N.O.W. Bus, which runs daily to shuttle you to everything the resort and the city of Whitefish have to offer.   

Are you a beginning skier? Sign up for the Learn to Ski or Ride package, which gives you two days of equipment rentals, two days of beginner-area lift tickets and two half-day lessons. If you are not a novice, take your pick of the 113 trails traversing 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, including four terrain parks.   

At Whitefish Mountain Resort, you’ll have plenty of on-mountain lodging options, from condos to hotel rooms, including Kandahar Lodge, with its old-world feel and the acclaimed Café Kandahar, which is arguably the best restaurant in Montana. In-town resorts, such as The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Grouse Mountain Lodge, also cater to winter visitors.   

Getting to Whitefish couldn’t be easier. You can drive, fly in or take the Amtrak Empire Builder, which stops in Whitefish.   

Learn more about Whitefish Mountain Resort at skiwhitefish.com. Plan your visit to Whitefish, Montana, at explorewhitefish.com. Learn more about traveling to Western Montana at glaciermt.com 

Big Sky, Montana  

At Big Sky, size matters: It boasts 5,800 acres of skiable terrain and 4,350 feet of vertical, spanning four mountains. Add to that 85 km. of trails for Nordic skiing at Lone Mountain Ranch, ranking it the #1 Nordic Ski Resort in North America, and you have what is known as “The Biggest Skiing in America.”  

If that’s not enticing enough, check out the vibrant village of Big Sky with its restaurants, shopping, entertainment, spas and plenty of inviting spots for après ski down time.  

When you’re not on the slopes, take advantage of Big Sky’s close proximity to Yellowstone National Park by booking a snow coach tour to explore the park’s wildlife and geothermal features under a blanket of snow.   

Lodging is available in the village and on mountain and ranges from hotels to an array of vacation rentals to ski-in-ski-out cabins, guest ranches and more.   

Learn more about Big Sky Resort at bigskyresort.com. Plan your visit to Big Sky, Montana, at visitbigsky.com. Plan your travels to the Yellowstone Country region of Montana at visityellowstonecountry.com 

Schweitzer, Idaho  

You could come to Schweitzer just for the views: It’s perched high above the city of Sandpoint and scenic Lake Pend Oreille, with expansive vistas into Washington, Montana, British Columbia and, of course, Idaho. And, while you’re there, you’ll discover plenty to keep you and your family occupied, like the 2,900 acres of terrain, the state’s only six-person high-speed lift and even twilight skiing.   

This family-friendly resort offers many lodging choices, from contemporary boutique hotels, like the new Humbird, to spacious condos. Plenty of restaurants cater to kids’ picky palates while others offer a relaxing respite for parents over wine and a gourmet meal. You can even trust the kids to capable hands at “Kids Night Out” and enjoy an evening together over a romantic dinner.   

Schweitzer is located in the Selkirk Mountains of the Idaho panhandle. It’s only 80 miles from Spokane, Washington. Learn more at schweitzer.com. Plan your trip to Northern Idaho at visitnorthidaho.com 

Sun Valley, Idaho  

Legendary doesn’t begin to describe Sun Valley as a destination. A few tidbits of trivia offer clues to Sun Valley’s significance. In 1936, the world’s first ski lifts were installed at Sun Valley; a lift ticket cost a quarter. In 1939, Ernest Hemingway completed his masterpiece “For Whom the Bell Tolls” while residing at Sun Valley Lodge. From 1942 to 1946, Sun Valley Lodge closed and served as a U.S. Navy convalescent hospital. The trivia goes on and on, featuring film stars and other luminaries who took a liking to Sun Valley and became frequent visitors or residents.  

Fast forward to the present. The old resort has kept up with the times, offering 121 trails over 2,434 acres of skiable area, with a relatively high percentage of trails appropriate for beginners. Off the slopes, lace up the skates and show your moves on the ice rink.   

Lodging choices include the historic and fully refurbished Sun Valley Inn, the Sun Valley Lodge as well as cottages and condos. Choose from 18 eateries, from coffee and pastry shops to day lodges for lunch to casual and fine dining restaurants. When you need a dose of tranquility, make an appointment at the resort’s 20,000 -square-foot luxury spa.   

Find out more about Sun Valley Resort at sunvalley.com. Learn more about the visiting greater Sun Valley area at visitsunvalley.com.