Storm Cycles Episode 2: Whitefish

Skiing in Narnia.
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Storm Cycles Episode 2: Whitefish

"Storm Cycles" Ep2 Whitefish from TJ David [Ski] [Film] [Photo] on Vimeo.

We’re creeping quietly. Traversing between snow ghosts that roam the frozen northern landscape like prehistoric creatures from the fictional realm of Narnia when we’re brought back to reality. Our guide and Whitefish Mountain Resort snow reporter, “Big” Dave Ericson, is talking to us. He’s going on and on about northern Montana snowpack while we’re stuck staring out amongst a 360-degree view that includes the Flathead Valley, Whitefish Lake and Glacier National Park. Big Dave is adamant. The snow here is “magical,” he says. “3 inches skis like 12” and old and new layers bond so soundly that most days feel bottomless. As Greg and I stare down across the East Rim, I can’t help but think, is he full of it?

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Photo: Brian Schott

I can’t even think. I’m exhausted. It’s been game-on since our first run with Big Dave and I’m thirsty from all the talk about beers at the Beirstube. Greg and I have been following a group of locals known as the “Whitefish Powder Ninjas” around all day. The group, consisting of meat hucker Conor O’Neil, snow reporter Erik Gelbke and photographer Craig Moore are rich in all things Whitefish—and more than willing to share. Everywhere we look there’s a line they’ve skied, a cliff they’ve sent and a backcountry zone ready for a fresh set of tracks. It’s been a good day—exploratory. As we head toward the Beirstube I mention to Craig that Big Dave said we wouldn’t be skiing much powder today. We laugh because today was about as good as it gets.

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Photo: Brian Schott

Just north of Whitefish sits Great Northern Powder Guides. A bare-bones cat skiing operation aimed at providing a true skiing experience, for the dedicated skier. It’s a place where you’ll probably be greeted by the operations mascot, Sway the bobcat, upon entry and you have the option to sleep in leopard print sheets amongst more taxidermied animals than you’ve ever seen in your life. What more could you ask for? How about enjoying a guide grilled burger after a morning lapping pillow lines and steep trees, while owner Jay Sandelin is hard at work. See a line you like? Jay can probably get you there. No bells and whistles. No nonsense. Just skiing. And that’s the way we like it.

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Photo: Brian Schott

And to think, just 3 days ago we were trapped in a bone-dry Colorado January. Eighteen hours and 1,100 miles separated us from any resemblance of soft snow. We’ve been transported. Thrown into a foreign world so far from what we’re used to in Aspen. A town with all the right ingredients to be called western. Sunrises that last for hours. Chairlifts that climb up south facing aspects above valley floors lost in an endless sea of cloudy inversion. A place so unique you’d have to see it for yourself. Whitefish—a skier’s utopia.

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Photo: Brian Schott

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