Ski Whitefish - Terrain

Ski Whitefish - Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
Frontside Whitefish Frontside Trail Map
Hellroaoring Basin Whitefish Hellroaring Basin Trail Map
Northside Whitefish Northside Trail Map
  • Vertical (ft)
    4,464 – 6,817 (2,353)
  • Average Snow Fall
    320 inches
  • Lifts (15)
    3 high speed quads
    2 quad chair lifts
  • Ski Season
    early Dec - early Apr
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 105
    Size – 3,000 acres
    Beginner - 12%
    Intermediate - 38%
    Advanced - 43%
    Expert - 7%

Ski Whitefish Montana - Terrain

With a massive 3,000 acres of terrain, the Whitefish Montana Ski Resort (formerly Big Mountain Ski Resort) looks awesome on a trail map. It is always an interesting experience to translate a ski trail map into reality. Some resorts pleasantly surprise you, some disappoint, and some do a bit of both. Ski Whitefish and you’ll find that it delicately tip toes between pleasant surprise and disappointment. Have no fear though, the pleasant surprises at Whitefish Mountain Resort outweigh the disappointments (most of which relate to lift layout – see below).

The pleasant surprises at the Whitefish Montana Ski Resort include the superb beginner area, the super long, super groomed intermediate runs from summit to base area, the advanced terrain in the North Bowl Face/East Rim area (between Inspiration and Russ’s St) and the steep trees in Hellroaring Basin. And on sunny days, the views out to Glacier National Park and beyond are awesome.

The major terrain disappointment of the Whitefish Mountain Resort is the Back Bowl (North Side) area. Super flat from halfway down, the terrain in this area is sadly over-rated, which is a shame because the snow quality is so good back there.

All of the upper mountain terrain is lightly covered in gorgeous, classical ‘snow ghosts’, but with them comes a warning to all who venture off piste – beware of the tree wells. Don’t ski alone as the tree wells are deep and wide in some parts – particularly in Hellroaring Basin. It adds a bit of fun to the skiing mix!!

Whitefish Lifts

Whitefish Mountain Resort is blessed with quality terrain but poorly placed and managed lift infrastructure, and it only has 3 express chairs. Whilst it’s certainly not a deal breaker and in fact might not matter to most (because let’s face it, there are enough lifts to get you up the hill), the critic in me looks at it and thinks about what could have been.

Chair 1 (they have names but no one seems to use them) is the quickest quad chair we have been on, and it services most of the frontside of the mountain. Here’s where we say ‘Houston we have a problem’. The frontside of the mountain is massive (it would have to be close to 1,800 acres). Similarly, the terrain in the large Hellroaring Basin is super fun but it’s only serviced by half a lift (chair 8) necessitating very long lap times to get back around to enjoy the fun again.

There needs to be viable alternatives to Chairs 1 and 8 to avoid the long cat track returns in order to start your ascent back to the ‘goods’ up top, and also to avoid that nagging feeling that your entire stay on the mountain has been spent sitting on only one or two lifts (chairs 1 and 8!!).

Some lifts only run on weekends, one of which is Chair 4, that’s also way too short.

At least East Rim now has a chair and has alleviated some of the deficiencies in the lift system and removed the need for that continual long return ride on bloody ‘Russ’s Street’ to the base area.

On the upside, beginners are very well serviced with three chairs plus a carpet conveyor. Another plus for the Whitefish Montana Ski Resort is that there are generally no lift queues, the only exception being a powder day when all the locals turn up.

A couple of T Bars also exist but are rarely turning. Oh well, what could have been..........

Lift Tickets

Whitefish Mountain Resort is all about a ‘big’ mountain experience without the ‘big’ mountain costs. Lift tickets are set at a very reasonable price, and if you have a Costco membership, the store in Kalispell sells lift tickets for a song.

For beginners there are amazing bargains to be found on an introduction package that includes 2 days gear rental, 2 days beginner lift ticket, and two ½ day lessons. Then afterwards you get perks on discounted lift passes, equipment rentals and lessons.

Whitefish Snow and Weather

Whitefish Mountain Resort gets a very respectable 320+ inches (8.1m) of snow a year. One thing you can certainly rely on at Whitefish is an accurate snow report and narrative. It tells it like it us – so refreshing for a big ski resort. It aligns with Whitefish’s old mantra of ‘keeping it real’. The north facing back bowl has outstanding snow conditions due to its aspect, whilst the south facing front side has variable snow quality. It’s definitely not Sierra Cement, but it’s generally a little heavy and not like the fluffy blower powder you might find in Utah. The Whitefish Ski Resort also has a relatively low elevation.

And whilst the sun does sometimes shine, don’t expect a Lake Tahoe like 300 days of sunshine a year – it’s just not going to happen. Low visibility, fog, and clouds are part of the landscape at Whitefish the majority of the time. Embrace their beauty. Skiing by braille is fun, or stick in the trees or close to the orange discs on the boundaries of the piste. Otherwise wait until late in the afternoon when frequently the fog seems to magically clear.

Ski Whitefish for the Beginner

Just about every lift at Whitefish has an access or ski run suitable for most beginners. The dedicated beginner terrain is around the base area close to the comfort of the day lodge, where progression is well catered for with a conveyor lift, chair lifts and a range of beginner runs. For beginners looking to progress, Chair 1 will get to the Summit House and onto Russ’s St and Toni Matt, which although marked intermediate, will be manageable unless it’s a peak holiday weekend when it might become “The Anthill” with lots of people congesting the slope.

Intermediate Ski and Snowboard Terrain

Whitefish is an intermediates’ paradise. Long thigh melting groomers streak down in all directions from the summit. Inspiration, Corkscrew and The Big Ravine are super fast and wide for maximum afterburner. Ditto for all the intermediate runs off Chair 2.

Back Bowl terrain will disappoint the better intermediates, but will keep lower intermediates and those transitioning from beginner very happy. Moe Mentum below East Rim is a nice roller through the forest. Hellfire is the longest run on the mountain and will give intermediates a great look at the advanced terrain in Hellroaring Basin, plus it is a fast rolling hoot after the Grand Junction.

Terrain Parks

Three series of table tops, rails, ramps, jumps and other bone-busting apparatus are serviced by Chair 3 near the Upper Village. If staying in Morning Eagle you can watch concussions and broken limbs happening live as you sit in the rooftop hot tub!

Mid-season the Ghost Haunt run is converted into a terrain park and boardercross/skiercross course.

Whitefish Skiing & Snowboarding – Advanced

Some excellent advanced skiing exists at Whitefish Montana. On the frontside big open faces dappled with the odd snow ghost like Big Face, Ptarmigan and Good Medicine are good early. Big Face runs nicely into the light glades around Chair 4 near Powder Trap and Langley. This is probably the longest vertical fall line section of advanced skiing on the mountain. Anywhere between Inspiration and Russ’s St from the Summit is great fun. North Bowl Face into the bottom of Elephants Graveyard and (if you’re up for it) into the tight trees and then open rocks of Haskill Slide gives a very nice vertical. Some of the off piste in this area is quite complex though, so keep your wits about you in poor visibility, particularly in the East Rim and Cal’s Country areas. For a nice easy groomed black run try Moose in the East Rim area.

Some of the best overall Whitefish skiing and boarding is undoubtedly in Hellroaring Basin. The Glory Hole is the obvious run, but whilst good first thing, it gets skied out pretty quickly and is actually quite short. Better options are skiers’ left and right of the main Picture Chutes (all are doable in good snow) and the great trees in Gray’s Golf Course and The Back 9. An excellent option is to enter Hellroaring Basin via Connies Coulee, keep your speed up at the bottom, cross Glory Hole and traverse across to massive slope below the Picture Chutes. Unless you intend to drop a line into the steep tight trees below it, avoid getting sucked into Highway to Heaven off the Glory Hole. It is a long tedious journey that should be re-named Highway to Hell. That might involve re-naming Heaven’s T bar (where the ‘highway’ ends) to Hell’s T bar – sounds good!

For bumps hit Black Bear under Chair 7 at the summit. To keep the last ¾ of the run to the bottom interesting, veer skiers left into the forest near the bottom and make your own trail through the very low angle whoops, yips, snowy branches (face slaps as opposed to face shots!) and tree wells to the chair.

Ski Whitefish Montana – Experts

Expert terrain isn’t all that obvious at Whitefish, but it does exist. Steep tight trees abound in the Hellroaring Basin and will challenge most people. Some of the lines through Teepee and The Back 9 area would rate as double black in a lot of resorts. The double black Picture Chutes have some gnarly cliff sections but are probably over-rated and are do-able by most advanced riders. The major downside of Hellroaring Basin is the extensive time required to do laps here.

The toughest terrain (steeps/cliffs) is undoubtedly around East Rim/First Ck. Wait for some good visibility. You can scope it out from Russ’s St near Bigfoot T Bar and Moose down below.

For the Powder Hound

Skiing midweek at Whitefish will ensure freshies are available for a while relative to some of the big name US ski resorts. There is a huge amount of terrain in Hellroaring Basin and in the North Bowl Face area that stays in good nick simply due to the lift set up requiring lengthy rotation times.

Going out of bounds (just) will guarantee powder on Hellroaring Peak. Just ski down the intermediate Hell Fire, and before it descends skiers’ left into the valley, stay right and skin, boot pack or crawl on your hands and knees up to the radio towers (we don’t condone crawling on your hands and knees as it is incredibly undignified, but desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures!). You ski down via some fun trees and drop back onto Hell Fire to get back to the lifts.