Winter Beyond The Slopes

The cure for cabin fever is getting out of the cabin. Around here that means skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort - #3 Ski Area in North America according to SKI Magazine Reader's Poll - or family-friendly Blacktail Mountain Ski Area.  Winter around Kalispell also offers schussing the best-groomed cross-country ski trails in the state, snowshoeing to Avalanche Lake in Glacier National Park or piercing the deep backcountry on snowmobile. And at day’s end, you’ll have much to come “home” to in Kalispell — a roaring fire, lively night spots, fine restaurants, even skating or hockey at the Woodland Park Ice Center.

Glacier National Park gets buried in snow each winter, and it defines quiet solitude. A pair of snowshoes or cross-country skis can take you to sights few ever see this time of year. You might even catch a glimpse of a wolf or mountain lion. Favorite areas include MacDonald Lake and Going to the Sun Road.  Glacier's Winter Glory

Snowshoeing is available on the unlimited backcountry wilderness trails in NW Montana. Rentals are available at The Sportsman or Rocky Mountain Outfitters. Glacier Treks offers guided adventures in Glacier Park for all ages and abilities.  Close to town, Lone Pine State Park offers snow shoe rentals with great family rates to use on the six miles of trails in the park.

Cross-Country Skiers of all skill levels will love Glacier National Park's scenic ski routes. The Lake McDonald—Avalanche trail offers an easy beginner tour through one of the park’s most picturesque landscapes. For advanced skiers, the Apgar Lookout offers challenging terrain capped by a spectacular reward at trail’s end. On the east side of the park, numerous routes begin in the St. Mary area, offering a full range of distances and degrees of difficulty in a gorgeous locale. On either side of the park, there’s a good chance of seeing moose, deer and other nonhibernating wildlife — and very few humans.

Groomed trails can be found in numerous other areas around the Flathead Valley. The Glacier Nordic Club keeps 12 kilometers of trail maintained for skate and classic skiers on the Whitefish Lake Golf Course. The North Shore Nordic Club does the same at its trails off Jewel Basin and Foothills Roads in Bigfork; ditto Blacktail Mountain just outside Lakeside.

Snowmobiling is popular here for a reason. Northwest Montana boasts more than 200 miles of groomed snowmobile trails. Another 2,000 miles of Forest Service roads lead to spectacular ridgetop views. Find more info with the Flathead Snowmobile Association. You can get rentals and good tips on local trails at  Northwest Montana Adventure and Swan Mountain Snowmobiling.

Dog Sledding is an old-school thrill. If you love dogs and the great outdoors, it’s the perfect blend of adventure and fun. Dog Sled Adventures and Base Camp Bigfork are locally owned and operated.

Ice Skating and hockey are favorite winter pastimes in Kalispell. Woodland Park, right in downtown Kalispell, offers a hockey rink as well as skating on a large pond that is maintained and open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. An affordable activity for the entire family. Skate rentals are available at Wheaton's.

Some of the best Ice Fishing in the Northern Rockies can be found on area waters. At Smith Lake west of Kalispell, a decent day on the ice can send you home with a cooler full of yellow perch — one of the tastiest freshwater fish in the world. This is easy fishing with simple tackle and bait — making it a fun outing for the whole family.

Little Bitterroot Lake, west of Kalispell, isn’t exactly little. Nor are its fish. This is a great place to catch trophy kokanee salmon as well as nice rainbow trout. Flathead Lake rarely freezes over completely, but most of the bays offer safe ice and good fishing for perch and occasional lunker lake trout throughout the winter season. Just make sure you check with locals about ice conditions.  Better yet, book an ice fishing trip with an expert guide at Howe's Fishing.

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