When it comes time to book your next ski vacation, take note of the fact the industry pros are going to Whitefish. Why? We dive into the secrets of this Montana mountain town.

Where do the ski industry pros go for a winter vacation? That was the question put to a number of people who work at various alpine resorts throughout the Pacific Northwest and an overwhelming number of them said they holiday in Whitefish, Montana. Part of the reason is the city of 10,000 people, located in the northwest corner of the state and a two-hour drive from Fernie, British Columbia, offers some of the best skiing and outdoor recreation in the region but without all the hustle and bustle.

In fact, Whitefish is the perfect place to disconnect from everyday routines, even for those who work in the resort realm. One high-ranking ski industry executive based in BC said of the city, “the wonderful, friendly and outdoor spirit of the people of the Fish keeps bringing me back.”

That’s a big accolade from someone who, ostensibly, is a competitor. But that’s why the question was posed in the first place: it’s like asking a surf instructor where their favorite break is when they’re not on their home turf. No-one knows the best destinations better. So when representatives of five ski resorts based around the PNW who were spoken to for this story all said they took time out of their busy winter schedules to hit the Fish, we compiled a list as to why. Three definitive reasons came out of the conversations and we share them below.

But first, a history of Whitefish and how it came to be such a popular destination. A century ago, Whitefish was a remote logging and farming town located in the fertile Flathead Valley that saw very little visitation despite being located on a railway line. Then, in 1947 two business partners installed a T-bar on Big Mountain, which overlooks the city, and laid the groundwork for Whitefish Mountain Resort that now boasts 11 chairlifts and 111 named runs.

Today, Whitefish boasts not only an exceptional alpine resort but also a vibrant arts and culture scene, a bustling restaurant and brewery sector, and lots of activities to do off the slopes. Below are the main reasons why ski industry professionals vacation in Whitefish and also a few pointers about how to be a respectful “Friend Of The Fish” when you visit.

3 Reasons Why Ski Industry Professionals Vacation in Whitefish, Montana

Chair 5, East Rim Chair, Whitefish Mountain Resort.

#1. Whitefish Mountain Resort Is Affordable And Awesome

The numbers speak for themselves: Whitefish Mountain Resort, located on the appropriately named Big Mountain, has a summit of 6,817 feet and enjoys an average seasonal snowfall of a whopping 25 feet. It also boasts 3,000 acres of skiable terrain and was the first to install a high-speed six-person chairlift in the northern part of the state.

Another reason why the Whitefish resort is such an attractive destination is it’s one of the most affordable in the country, with lift passes that are less than $100 per day. There are very few large resorts in the US that can boast those low prices these days. Other perks include the fact it opened the new Chair 4 last season so people are better spread out across the mountain and it’s doubled the size of its ski school, ensuring locals and visitors alike enjoy some of the best on-slope instruction available.

Plus, it’s not just ski industry folk who are fans; the resort consistently gets high ratings from visitors and travel publications. For example, Ski Magazine has ranked it in the top three resorts in the entire Western United States.

Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip: Leave your car behind and take the free S.N.O.W bus up to the resort.

Canyon Creek Trail on Desert Mountain.

#2. No Matter Where You Are In The City, A Fun Trail Awaits

On the days when you’re not shushing the runs at Whitefish Mountain Resort, there are plenty of other trails to enjoy around the city. For example, the Glacier Nordic Club is responsible for maintaining most of the classic and skate ski trails in the area and they include the seven miles of trails at the Glacier Nordic Center, located at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course, and the 16 miles that make up the Big Mountain Nordic Trails below the resort.

Nordic skiing also happens on the trails around Whitefish Bike Retreat, a unique lodge located eight miles outside the city that also caters to fat bikers and snowshoers. The owners maintain about six miles of groomed trails that connect to the Whitefish Trail system, a 47-mile-long network with the city at its center.

Bar W Guest Ranch.

If your version of fun leans less towards the self-propelled variety, Whitefish still has you covered because you can snowmobile in such popular spots as Canyon Creek, where you’ll find 80 miles of groomed trails and innumerable off-trail options, or Whitefish Marine will take you on full or half-day snowmobile tours of the Stillwater State Forest. Alternatively, you can jump in one of the cats owned by Great Northern Powder Guides, located a 25-minute drive north of town , and explore some of the 20,000 acres of terrain within their tenure. Or, for something a bit mellower, visit the Bar W Guest Ranch, located at the base of Spencer Mountain, and enjoy 30- to 45-minute-long horse-drawn carriage rides.

Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip: For all your outdoor endeavours, be sure to pack layers, extra food and water, and wayfinding devices.

#3. A Trip Isn’t Complete Without Exploring The City’s Cool Vibes

Everyone spoken to for this story emphasized the fact Whitefish has a friendly, cool vibe. Unlike other ski destinations that may only offer limited on-hill accommodation and entertainment, Whitefish is a funky city with soul that boasts dozens of shops, studios, galleries, and live entertainment venues as well as 40 eateries, breweries, wineries, distilleries and cafés. Here are a few recommendations:

Be A Friend Of The Fish Tip: Be extra kind to the workers. They are the backbone of the Fish.

The Unleashed Winery.

For more info about visiting Whitefish, Montana in the winter months, visit ExploreWhitefish.com.

And for more about Whitefish Mountain Resort, visit SkiWhitefish.com.