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September 20, 2007

Whitefish, Montana: Ski town for sure, but a summer holiday, too

First in a series of northwest Montana destinations are Whitefish and Big Mountain. Next: Glacier National Park, grizzly bears and all, and then circling the largest natural freshwater lake in the west, roaming the bison range and visiting three Native people’s museums.



No need to wait for snow on Big Mountain to head for Whitefish, Montana, although lots of people do. This ski town pumps in the middle of summer with spectacular flowers, diverse restaurants, non-stop sports, all kinds of different lodging experiences and happy people.

Glacier Country is what westerners like to call this region in Big Sky’s northwest. We filled four interesting days before even going to Glacier National Park, just 24 miles east of Whitefish. Surprising experience to go to a famous place and find so many other things to do that you almost forget about the reason you left home in the first place.

Pack light and move around was our approach in August because we wanted to stay in Whitefish, but also high above this little city of 7,000 people for the Big Mountain views and hikes. We started on the top for five nights and then moved down to the town to try out a homey bed and breakfast, a luxury resort and a friendly inn.

The different personalities of each place made rewearing our jeans and washing our underwear worth the bother.

On Big Mountain, just open the front or back doors at Kandahar Lodge and start skiing in winter or hiking the rest of the year. A half-mile trail gives great views of Flathead Valley; three- and four-mile paths put me in the middle of wonderful wild flowers. The biggest walk is 5.6 miles to the summit, and you can take the lift chair back down.

A short stroll (uphill of course) deposits you in the little village with casual places to eat, a beer hall, shops with Montana memorabilia and the outfitters. There are real estate purveyors too, ready to sell you a million dollar home or lot.

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