8 Picture-Perfect Winter Moments
Solitude and adventure, from a Kalispell basecamp
By Jeff Bartlett
Kalispell, Montana, is the ultimate basecamp for winter adventure in Northwest Montana. Located in the middle of the Flathead Valley, it’s the natural hub for outdoor fun between Whitefish Mountain Resort and Flathead Lake. From iconic landmarks — like Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park just to the east — to local haunts — like Blacktail Mountain Ski Area — there’s more to explore than can be seen in a single winter season.
In this region, winter is a stunning yet unpredictable season. Dry, cold temperatures during high-pressure systems yield to warmer days and epic snowfalls. Each winter storm refreshes the landscape. It’s decidedly quieter in the valley, too, so visitors find more time to slow down and enjoy the fresh air and freedom that highlight the wide-open landscapes that surround Kalispell.
8 winter adventures in Kalispell
Wild winter weather at Lake McDonald
One of Glacier National Park’s most iconic views, this look across Lake McDonald is an absolute must in any season. In the winter, it’s one of the few car-accessed viewpoints in the park, too, as most roads aren’t plowed throughout the winter. Rest assured, the park isn’t closed. It’s just reserved for the adventurous. The roads and hiking trails become cross-country ski and snowshoe trails and visitors can venture as far as their ambitions will carry them.
Cross-country skiing with Glacier Adventure Guides
First-time winter visitors might feel intimidated with the sheer solitude found throughout Glacier National Park during the winter months, but the short cross-country ski trip along the Going-to-the-Sun Road to McDonald Falls is the perfect introduction to winter adventure in Northwest Montana. Don’t worry if you’re not up for the journey on your own; Glacier Adventure Guides provides transport, gear and guiding services to make the trip easy and memorable.
Watch the sun come out in Glacier National Park
Locals often say, if you don’t like the weather just wait five minutes. Whether that’s completely accurate or not, it’s worth slowing down while exploring in the winter. Few views compare to the first sunlight after a storm, illuminating fresh snow on the northern Rockies.
Search out epic powder at Blacktail Mountain Ski Area
Whenever it snows, Blacktail Mountain Ski Area is the place to be. It might seem small, but it has more powder stashes across its 1,000 acres than can be skied in a single day. While there are plenty of groomed runs for beginner and intermediate skiers, expert skiers will find the deepest powder in the seemingly endless gladed tree runs that keep locals coming back year after year.
Sunset at Belton Bridge, West Glacier
Once the official West Glacier park entrance, the Belton Bridge is a historical landmark that has withstood the test of time. It’s literally on the edge of West Glacier and forms the boundary of the national park. Less than 10 steps from the parking lot, there is no easier way to experience nature than to stroll across Belton Bridge and watch for wildlife along the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
Go into the backcountry with Swan Mountain Snowmobiling
Swan Mountain Snowmobiling guides snowmobile trips from a trailhead just north of its Columbia Falls headquarters. It’s an incredible way to cover large distances and see what backcountry Montana really looks like. For the adventurous and experienced, self-guided rentals are possible, too — and the best part? Swan staff makes it easy and meets clients at the trailhead with the snowmobiles, helmets and required avalanche gear.
Air it out at Whitefish Mountain Resort
With 360-degree skiing off the summit, and steep and deep (when you’re lucky) terrain that pairs nicely with some of the West’s best grooming, Whitefish has earned its spot at the center of northern Montana’s ski and snowboard world.
Celebrate the season with the Glacier Distilling Company
Snowed in at a remote cabin, a group of friends discussed the Montana-ethos of self-preparedness and self-reliance. They knew they could fend for themselves when it came to food, but whiskey was another story. Not long after that stormy night, Glacier Distilling Company launched and its growth has never slowed. Stop in for a cocktail and/or a tour. And you might want to buy a bottle to take home to your own “remote cabin”; the distillery doesn’t distribute beyond Montana.