Commitment to Character

Since 1947 we have been about good times, great people, and deep snow. Whitefish is a place where people come to escape the city, and crowded slopes. A place where locals welcome out-of-town visitors as they do their own neighbors. Here skiing is more than great terrain and snow, it’s also about making sure everyone has a good time. It comes naturally here. In a world of merging resorts and passes for the masses, we are very content to remain blissfully independent. We believe in a commitment to character. Preserving our mountain, our town and all the colorful characters, who make this an easy-going place where you can be yourself, because here: character is encouraged.

Kacy Howard
Nate Chute Foundation for Suicide Prevention


Kacy Howard has been the Executive Director of the Nate Chute Foundation for the past three years, but her involvement with NCF dates back to its beginning in 1999. The passion she brings to NCF along with her prior experience working in community mental health certainly makes her an ideal fit for the role. NCF is dedicated to eliminating suicides in Northwest Montana and they do this through suicide prevention education and training in schools, for community organizations, businesses, and beyond. Unfortunately, Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the country, double the national average. NCF provides their services and education free of charge which is supported by donations and fundraisers like the upcoming Nate Chute Banked Slalom & Boardercross races. The partnership between NCF and the mountain spans two decades and this weekend, specifically, is a special thing to be a part of. The race provides a platform for connection, gets people outside participating in healthy activities, and encourages vulnerability by talking about feelings and asking for help, all of which is essential for building resilience. We are so grateful to have Kacy and the NCF in our community! If you’re interested in supporting their cause you can do so here: https://www.natechutefoundation.org/donate.html #CommitmentToCharacter #NCF #SkiWhitefish

 
Inversions
A Sea Of Clouds


Inversions are our second favorite type of day to be on the mountain! (Powder days always win). You wake up in the valley under a blanket of clouds to what you think is another gray day, until you drive up to the mountain and break free of the gloom to beautiful bluebird skies. While you’re soaking up vitamin D, the view from the chairlift resembles the ocean and islands as mountain peaks poke up through the inverted cloud layer. Standing at the summit basking in sunshine, you can’t help but feel a little sorry for everyone stuck below the clouds that day. If we’re lucky, an inversion happens on a Friday or Saturday and you can stick around for Night Skiing- sunset over an inversion is something special! #Inversions #FataWhatNow #CommitmentToCharacter

 
Hellroaring Nachos
An Aprés Staple


Nachos are a big deal around here and Hellroaring Saloon & Eatery takes this responsibility very seriously. The biggest mountain next to Big Mountain is Hellroaring Saloon’s mountain of nachos. It’s so big it requires a “Nacho Specialist”, one position solely dedicated to building the popular appetizer for patrons. The full order should only be attempted with no less than six hungry skiers or snowboarders who have just finished a long day carving up groomers or shredding powder. The half order is still a challenge for two people trying to clean the plate. Some would even say that no trip to Whitefish is complete without digging in to nachos at Hellroaring. Are you hungry yet? #CommitmentToCharacter #Nachos #SkiWhitefish

 
Winter Carnival
A Celebration of Winter


The Whitefish Winter Carnival is an annual celebration that pays homage to King Ullr and his royal court. Ullr is the Nordic god of winter and, as the story goes, came across Big Mountain long before the first settlers of Whitefish, was struck by its beauty, and decided to stay and make it his home. When people came to the valley he noticed they enjoyed the sports of winter and also referred to Ullr himself as the patron saint of their small celebrations and revelries. He was honored and took it upon himself to protect the settlers from the harassments of Yetis, becoming their hero and true king. Now each year, at the beginning of February (Feb 7-9 this year), the town of Whitefish comes together to celebrate winter with a Penguin Plunge in the lake, a Grand Parade down Central Avenue, a snow sculpture contest, kiddie carnival, pie social, Rotary pancake breakfast, Art Expo and more. The Yetis, as usual, try to steal the Queen, harass the Prime Minister, and interfere with the festivities while Ullr and his local band of followers send them fleeing back to the mountains, asserting his reign as master of winter sports. #BewareTheYetis #CommitmentToCharacter

 
Avalanche Dogs
Certified Ski Pawtrollers


It’s not only fun to have dogs around, these canines are an integral part of the ski patrol team. Dogs are much more efficient than humans when it comes to covering ground over avalanche debris and locating a buried person. They can clear an acre-by-acre parcel in as little as 20 minutes while it would take a crew of 40-50 people roughly four hours! Jett has been a part of the team for a few years now and Cleo is in training for her second year. For most avalanche dogs, it takes about two years to become certified and Cleo will be tested for certification this winter. We hope the dogs never have to be put to work in a real avalanche scenario, but even if they don’t have any opportunities to search on an actual burial, they are an excellent tool to raise avalanche awareness on a daily basis. Everybody loves dogs and they’re a great conversation piece and education component to have on the mountain! #CommitmentToCharacter #AvyDogs #SkiWhitefish

 
Glacier National Park
Crown of the Continent


The Crown of the Continent. The Backbone of the Rockies. The Continental Divide. On a clear day, the peaks of Glacier National Park draw the gaze of every skier and snowboarder on Big Mountain and it’s easy to understand where the park’s various nicknames come from. On inversion days, Glacier looks especially majestic with the mountains reaching up through the cloud layer like snow-capped islands. The 1,600 square miles of Glacier became the country’s 10th national park in 1910, established by President Taft. In 1932, Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta, Canada was combined with Glacier to form the world’s first International Peace Park. We are truly lucky to have Glacier National Park as our neighbor! #CommitmentToCharacter

 
John Dunnigan
Legendary Local Musician


You don’t have to spend much time in the Flathead Valley before stumbling upon a John Dunnigan show or, at the very least, hearing the name. John has been playing music four to five nights a week since he settled down in the area more than 30 years ago. Although he’s a talented musician who can play guitar, banjo, and a mean harp, it’s his quick wit and humor that really sets him apart. An entertainer to the core, once you’re treated to a John Dunnigan show it’s easy to see why he’s developed legendary status over the years. He doesn’t bring a set list so you never know quite what to expect from the night. Always engaging with the audience, he says that wherever the crowd wants to go, he’ll go. His performances contain a mix of originals and covers, but our favorite has to be “Meats in the freezer, let’s go skiing”! John describes himself as a musician, songwriter, entertainer, funny man, baseball coach, pancake maker, lawn mower, and devoted family man to his wife, Andrea, and two sons, Jimmy and Andy- who takes after his dad- playing Dobro and singing for the Lil’ Smokies. We’re lucky to have John here and, if you get the chance, catch him this winter at Ed & Mully’s, The Northern, or a number of other venues around town. #CommitmentToCharacter #JohnDunnigan #SkiWhitefish

 
Great Northern Bar
100 Years of Beers


The Great Northern Bar, or “The Northern” as locals call it, is a landmark of downtown Whitefish and recently celebrated its 100th anniversary. Signs of local businesses long gone cover the walls, ceiling, and serve as tabletops throughout the bar. Throughout the years, the clientele has generally remained unchanged with railroad workers and skiers lining the barstools, playing pool, ping pong, or other bar games and enjoying live music. Local legend, John Dunnigan, plays most Thursday nights while a mix of local bands and touring acts take the stage on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s likely you’ll still hear an old timer reminiscing about the infamous night in August of 1996 when Bruce Springsteen walked through the doors. “The Boss” was coerced on stage for an unforgettable night to all who were lucky enough to witness the performance. On weeknights, ski bums take advantage of the $1 beer specials paired with their classic burgers and giant nacho plates. Whitefish wouldn’t be the same without The Northern! #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish

 

2018/19 Characters

Chester Powell
Director of Mountain Operations


Chester, or Chet as he’s known around here, has worked for us since the winter of 1976/77 and been a part of countless projects and improvements. From the North Bowl to Big Ravine and the backside to Hellroaring Basin, Chet has helped to expand our skiable terrain from minimal frontside access to the 3,000 acres we enjoy today. What has kept him around? Aside from the skiing, it’s the abundant year-round recreational opportunities and the variety of his day-to-day work. But most of all, he says it’s the people. #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish

 
The Bierstube
Canada’s Favorite Ski Bar


The Bierstube, or the ‘Stube as it’s affectionately known around here, was the first watering hole on Big Mountain. A favorite amongst locals and visitors alike, the ‘Stube claimed the title of “Canada’s favorite ski bar” in a contest hosted by a Calgary radio station back in the ‘80s. It is home to the weekly Frabert awards, our longest standing tradition, the annual Pray For Snow party, live music, and a list of debauchery too long to recount. Its rich history and the colorful folks that have contributed to the bar’s legacy have earned the ‘Stube a spot on the list of characters we’re paying tribute to this winter. If you’re visiting for the first time, definitely stop by for a beer and make sure to ask a bartender for a souvenir ring! #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish #TheBierstube

 
Stacey Bengtson
Ski Instructor


“This mountain got in my blood. I didn’t want to leave it”. Stacey Bengtson took her first trip to Whitefish by train in 1973, and the rest is history. She has been teaching people how to ski here for 43 years, has a family of her own, and is now teaching the children of some of her first ski students. Looking back on that first visit, she remembers that “Right away I was just content and so happy. I’m still happy.” #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish

 

Fog Balls
Orange Circle on a Stick


If you’ve skied Whitefish more than a few times, chances are that you’ve done so with the assistance of these orange circles on sticks. The unsung heroes of foggy days, fog balls cure vertigo and doubt, guiding you down the run during those low visibility situations. Everyone loves to ski on a bluebird day, but the truth is that the sun just isn’t that good for snow quality. Here in Whitefish, it snows often. And when it isn’t snowing, we usually have a blanket of clouds keeping our snow safe from those harmful rays of the sun, preserving the soft groomers and powder that we get to enjoy, and letting the snow ghosts grow. Sometimes those clouds turn into fog so thick you aren’t sure which way is down, but then you see it, a fog ball, and you know you’ll be just fine following these orange beacons right to your favorite village après spot. #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish #FogBalls

 
Suzy “Muldown” Ronfeldt
Whitefish’s Daughter of Skiing


Suzy grew up in one of Whitefish’s most famous skiing households, her father Lloyd “Mully” Muldown, pioneered local ski expeditions and taught many locals how to ski. She was 5-years-old on opening day, December 14, 1947 when she was one of the first to ski down our slopes. Although she lives in Berkeley, CA now, she returns to ski here every year. This January, Suzy skied 142,101 feet in 7 days! She once wrote in a memoir about her “Life on The Big Mountain” that, “if you are going to have winter from November until April, why not get out and enjoy it!” #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish

Snow Ghosts
Don’t worry, they’re friendly


Snow ghosts are a signature of the Whitefish skiing experience. Don’t be scared though, they’re just trees! The phenomenon is created by winds, clouds, and fog made up of super-cooled water droplets. When these droplets encounter a tree, they freeze and coat the branches and needles in rime ice. Once winter arrives, it doesn’t take very long for the summit and ridge tops to transform into magnificent forests of snow ghosts. Now for the real question- do you know what happens when a ghost gets lost in the fog? He is mist… #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish #SnowGhost

 
Eric “Eroc” Kanter
Bartender, MC, Rad Dad


Back in 2006, Eroc pursued his love for snowboarding and decided to move to Whitefish for a season. Well, we all know how that goes! Thirteen years later he has a family and owns a home in town. Bartending at the Craggy Range and performing in a rap group gave him the opportunity to get to know our community as well as anyone. Nowadays, you can find Eroc serving up delicious beers at Bonsai, his friend Graham Hart’s brewery, and on stage with funk band 20 Grand, a local favorite. He’s still snowboarding 5-6 days a week, often with his son who seems to have the same passion for riding a board that he does. Eroc’s wife, Kate Berry, is another prominent figure in our community and has worked in the nonprofit community for years. She’s currently on the board for the Nate Chute foundation and the Whitefish Housing Authority. Eroc says he “truly loves this community and what it represents- good natured, passionate, outdoor enthusiasts who care and come together for one another.” #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish #RadDad

 
Frabert E. Strobey
Ski Patrol Mascot


A weekly event at the ‘Stube and our longest standing tradition, Frabert was started by Ski Patrollers decades ago. Every Wednesday we gather to share stories and hand out the Frabert award to someone who has done something foolish, otherwise known as the “Clod of the week”. The unlucky recipient gets to chug a beer following the crowd’s recital of the timeless anthem, “Here’s to Frabert, who skis so fast. He leaps over moguls and falls on his ass!” #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish #Frabert #SkiPatrol #TheBierstube

 
Butt-Flap
A Ski Bum’s Best Friend


The Butt-Flap (aka Beavertail) is a common sight here in Whitefish and, while they have spread to other Montana ski areas, some might be surprised to discover that they were actually invented by one of our very own Ski Patrollers! Kerry Crittenden worked on Ski Patrol for 17 years and is credited as the inventor of the Butt-Flap. A skilled hobbyist, Kerry still does a lot of work around the resort, from sewing tower pads to the zippers on patroller’s jackets. Nowadays, it’s hard to say if the beavertail is more fashion or function, but they can be found draped from the backsides of a variety of skiers from the champions of vertical feet skied to our very own CEO. Less common, however, is the elusive double Butt-Flap, pictured here. #CommitmentToCharacter #SkiWhitefish #ButtFlap #Beavertail

 
Dennise Turner
Most Colorful Lifty


One of the most familiar faces on the mountain belongs to Dennise. You can’t miss the bright tutu anytime the sun is shining and she’s got a real knack for keeping everyone “in-line” with her quick wit and humor. Dennise grew up in Oregon with her brother, Wally, and Syd, our Lift Operations Manager. Wally and Syd moved to Whitefish from Bend in the late 70’s and after visiting for years, Dennise finally made the move in 1989. Wally had secured her a job at The Bierstube before she even arrived in town and she ended up working there for the next 15 years. She enjoys working outside, spending summers working road construction, and was eventually convinced by friends to spend her winters in the lifts department. She joined the team in 2003 and was lucky enough to have been trained by the “Quadfather”, Bob Abrams, who taught her everything she knows. Her favorite part about being a lifty? Getting to know locals, meeting visitors, and giving people a hard time all in good fun. #SkiWhitefish #CommitmentToCharacter #LiftOps

 
Hellroaring
Saloon and Eatery


Hellroaring Saloon & Eatery is a classic ski bar and restaurant located in The Chalet, an iconic building located conspicuously on the slope next to Chair 2. Built in 1949, The Chalet is the oldest building on the mountain, and provided lodging accommodations for 36 years in modest rooms with shared washrooms and three square meals a day served family style on what they called The American Plan. Today’s patrons fill the tables and barstools daily for lunch, dinner and après. Hellroaring is most famous for their HUUUUUGE nachos. Regulars don their Hellroaring hat which earns them a second beer on the house. Soak up the nostalgia of the photos, antiques skis and other relics on the walls—as well as the walls themselves—if only they could talk! #SkiWhitefish #Hellroaring #CommitmentToCharacter #CommitmentToNachos

 
S.N.O.W. Bus
Shuttle Network of Whitefish


The S.N.O.W. Bus offers free rides to skiers, snowboarders and mountain employees from the south end of Whitefish up to the Base Lodge and Village with multiple stops in between. It started back in 1998 and is funded by the Winter & Summer Brewfests, the Wine Fest, WMR, and advertising sales, mostly from local businesses. It is a valued part of our community and approximately 76,000 rides were given last year! Summer service began in 2015 and the bike racks on summer busses make it easy to ride the bike park and shuttle the Whitefish Trail. The S.N.O.W. Bus drivers have always taken great pride in being on-time to all of their stops, but now you can follow them along with the new live tracker. #CommitmentToCharacter #SNOWbus #CommitmentToCommunity

 
Passholders
Characters of WMR


As we look back on the 2018/19 ski season, we’d like to tip our hats to a cast of colorful characters, you passholders! You really LOVE to ski and we loved seeing you show up with a smile and a high-five day after day. You skied more than ever and set a new record for total vertical feet at 2,138,100,034 skied! Now, that’s a #CommitmentToSkiing. Whitefish is a special place with unique characteristics. We have a commitment to preserving those characteristics and have to thank you, loyal skiers and snowboarders, for being the dedicated characters that you are. Together, we will continue to be the passionate, welcoming, and easy-going ski town where character is encouraged. #CommitmentToCharacter