2017/2018 STORY IDEAS
Celebrating 70 Years on Big Mountain, 1947-2017
In early 1947 the stars aligned for the town of Whitefish, Montana and two gentlemen from Great Falls, Montana. Ed Schenck and George Prentice, looking to develop the next great western ski resort, were persuaded to come to Whitefish, where local skiers had been wanting to build a ski area to complement their already established summer vacation destination. After a few months exploring the mountain north of town, Ed and George were convinced. They invested $20,000 of their own while the Whitefish Chamber agreed to assist by selling $100 to $200 shares to raise the rest and on March 31, 1947 Winter Sports Incorporated was founded.
With the backing of the community, “The Big Mountain ski development,” as it was called in 1947, was one of the few ski areas in the country to be initiated and completed by locals. The ski area officially opened on December 14, 1947 with a T-Bar, a few runs and a lodge and has operated independently ever since.
Whitefish Mountain Resort opens for its 70th Anniversary season on December 7, 2017 which also will mark the opening of the newly re-located Chair 5 to the East Rim. The resort will kick off the celebration by commemorating its first opening day on Thursday, December 14, 2017. This “Founders’ Celebration” will recognize Lloyd “Mully” Muldown, the “Father of Skiing” on Big Mountain, and Winter Sports, Inc. co-founders Ed Schenck and George Prentice. The public is invited to attend a dedication ceremony at 10 a.m. in the Lift Plaza. Just as they did on opening day in 1947, “coffee and donuts will be served” to those attending the ceremony.
In January the resort will team up with the Flathead Valley Ski Education Foundation & Ski Heritage Center Museum of Skiing for their Hellroaring Ski Heritage Days January 19-21, 2018. A pre-celebration on Wednesday, January 17 will feature a special edition of the Frabert Clod-of-the-Week “All-Star-Awards” at the Bierstube.
The fun continues on the mountain on Saturday, January 20 with Retro Ski Day, a Retro Race and the “Hellroaring Story Swap” where a panel of characters representing several eras of the resort’s skiing history will share lively stories about the ski area’s colorful past.
The resort will celebrate the 70th Anniversary all season long with commemorative merchandise and other tributes to the ski resort’s rich history.
Ranked No. 10 Best Resort Overall by SKI Magazine Readers
Whitefish maintains its reputation for delivering outstanding service while keeping the ski experience affordable. In addition to receiving top 10 rankings for Service, Grooming, Kid Friendly, Character and Lodging, the readers’ comments consistently praise the resort’s lack of crowds, friendliness of employees and locals, and outstanding value.
“It is an honor to be number ten in the west in SKI Magazine’s 2018 Resort Guide, especially when you consider the company in the Top 20. We are grateful that the experts–our guests–consistently express high-praise for their experience at our resort,” Whitefish Mountain Resort CEO Dan Graves said. “This ranking illustrates our commitment to providing a high level of service to our guests and the fact that our dedicated employees consistently make the experience personal and fun. This devotion to service and depth of character extends beyond the resort to all the businesses throughout the community that take care of our visitors and go above and beyond to make them feel welcome.”
“The people are what make this mountain special. The service from lifties, patrollers, and instructors is amazing. The lines are short and the skiing is amazing if you know where to go. It isn’t hard to find a local who is willing to help with powder stashes.”
– SKI Magazine Reader, 2018 Reader Survey
2018 SKI Magazine category rankings:
- #7 Service
- #7 Grooming
- #8 Kid Friendly
- #10 Character
- #10 Lodging
- #16 Dining
- #20 Snow
- #20 Challenge
- #25 Variety
- #26 Lifts
Local Olympians Then & Now
Whitefish’s racing heritage pre-dates the founding of the resort. Whitefish High School held its first ski tournament on the unnamed mountain in 1939–88 competitors and 400 spectators hiked to the slope seven miles from town. Before the Big Mountain Ski Area opened in December of 1947 it was announced that it would be the site of the 1949 National Ski Championships.
Montana’s first athlete to be named to a U.S. Olympic Ski Team was Jim Barrier who competed in slalom and giant slalom during the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley. Barrier placed 16th in the giant slalom. Barrier was born in Wallace, Idaho in 1940 and learned to ski at Lookout Pass Ski Area. As Jim and his brother Bill took to ski racing the family moved to Kalispell, Montana in 1954 so the brothers could train on Big Mountain.
Born in Missoula, Montana, Tommy Moe learned to ski and race on the slopes of Big Mountain where his father Tommy Sr. worked on ski patrol. He later honed his skills as a teen at the Glacier Creek Ski Academy in Anchorage, Alaska. Tommy was named to the 1992, 1994 and 1998 U.S. Olympic Teams and he brought back two silver and one gold medal from Lillehammer, Norway in 1994. The run North Bowl was renamed “Moe Mentum” in 1994 in his honor.
Whitefish born and raised Maggie Voisin is the most recent local Olympian. She was selected to the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team to compete in women’s slopestyle in Sochi, Russia. Unfortunately she was injured during a practice run and was unable to compete. At 15 years of age Maggie would have been the youngest American to compete at the games. She remains a hopeful for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team. Maggie began skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort at the age of three and later became a member of the resort’s Freestyle Team.
December 28, 2017 is Ski with Maggie Day, now in its third season. Local fans and resort guests will have the opportunity to meet and ski with Maggie Voisin, as well as attend an autograph session. Details TBD.