Whitefish Mountain Resort

Big, beautiful mountain with a small-town feel.
#20 Whitefish

Just hint to hard-core Whitefish locals that their mountain and town have become gentrified, even chic, and wait for the howls. But it’s true, and not all bad. “Good lodging and dining in Whitefish,” is positive feedback. In a town with a bar as legendary as the uber-local Great Northern, a wine bar would have once been unthinkable; now there are two good ones, Crush and The Red Room.

The resort hosts a stylish new base lodge, a Remedies Day Spa, and chef/owner Andy Blanton’s leading-edge gourmet Café Kandahar (one of multiple great local restaurants). Serenely remote, yes; still full of down-home character, definitely; but backwoods, no.

The skiing is also well put together (“Great variety of terrain, beautiful views,” and an No. 11–ranked lift system). Wide-ranging access to prime gladed and off-piste powder includes Hellroaring Basin, Lodi Ridge and East Rim. Stem-to-stern family action spreads across lower mountain learning areas, chair 3’s terrain parks, and 3,000 acres of cruisers. Full 3-D views sweep from the ramparts of nearby Glacier National Park to Flathead Lake and the white spires of the Mission and Salish ranges, earning it a No. 6 in Scenery. When you can see. Lake-effect fog is a perennial complaint. “Had to ski by Braille a couple of days,” says one reader. —J.C.

What’s New: Ongoing lift upgrades, including another Base Lodge chair in 2012, are improving traffic flow and terrain access.

Mandatory Run: A non-stop on the endless quad-burner called Hellfire.

Local Tip: A La Niña weather cycle, anticipated this winter, often favors Big Mountain; in 2008, the resort received 426 inches.