Whitefish’s skiing heritage can be traced to the Depression-poor days of the late ’20s and ’30s, when pioneers like Lloyd “Mully” Muldown and the Hell-Roaring Ski Club skinned up to the summit on wooden planks through waist-deep snow. The rugged group built a road and a couple of cabins and stayed there for days at a time, keeping warm around wood-burning stoves, just to claim fresh tracks on the anonymous hill overlooking their little logging town.
Then came World War II. Whitefish could have forgotten about skiing for good. But in the aftermath, the local chambers of commerce brought in Ed Schenck and George Prentice to transform Whitefish into a skiing destination. The pair went through a gauntlet of challenges — from fundraising to cutting trees to repairing the T-bar — to build the winter wonderland that would become Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Sunday, Dec. 14, 1947, was opening day of the resort’s first ski season. Tickets to ride the new T-bar, which originated just above the old chalet, cost $2 apiece. A hamburger cost a quarter and a beer a few nickels. Around 1,000 people showed up from around the Flathead Valley to see what the hubbub was all about.
Soon after the resort opened, veterans of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, notably Karl Hinderman and the Austrian American ski racing champion Toni Matt, arrived and began coaching anyone who wanted to learn the sport of skiing.
The rest, as they say, is history. And while Schenck couldn’t have known how the resort would look today, he believed skiing was part of the soul of this community. Asked how they had managed to get the resort up and running, he’d tell people: “It’s easy. All you have to do is to find a town like Whitefish.”
Today, Whitefish Mountain Resort remains a place for skiers and snowboarders of all stripes to escape the crowds and the hassles of everyday life. Come on up to enjoy the slopes and connect with friends and family in an unhurried, easygoing atmosphere.
These images from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s are the work of nationally acclaimed photographer Marion Lacy, who helped put our ski area on the map. As we celebrate this anniversary, we’re reflecting on the early days of the resort — everything that’s changed since then, and everything that’s stayed the same.