After spending months and months in much anticipation of a family winter ski trip, Tuesday morning arrived and I found myself, suitcase, and snow boots sitting at the Charlotte airport ready to start my journey to Whitefish, Montana.
As you can see based on my very empty flight, there weren't many other people interested in braving the arctic weather. It was a tight squeeze, but all 23 passengers managed to fit in our private A320. I gladly accepted three empty exit row seats and got comfortable.
I met the rest of the family in Minneapolis and we all made a connecting flight to Glacier International Airport in Kallispel, MT. The scenery from 26000 feet was spectacular and was a preview of the snow and mountains that were soon to greet us.
After just a short 30 minute drive from the airport, we arrived at our final destination. Welcome to our cabin, a rather large and beautifully appointed home on Whitefish Mountain. We couldn't get over the huge stacks of snow that had accumulated on the roof and the sweeping views of the mountains and ski slopes.
We spent a short while getting ourselves settled and then made the drive down the mountain and into downtown Whitefish in search of dinner. Along the way we stopped to admire the mountainside sunset.
Pescado Blanco was the restaurant we selected for our first night's meal. We were all hungry after a long day of flying and the 2-hour time change and Mexican sounded appealing.
The menu was centered on contemporary Mexican cuisine that featured house-made corn tortillas, salsa, and carrot-pineapple hot sauce. The entrees included fresh fish, elk chorizo, bison, and vegetarian options. We had no trouble polishing off several servings of chips and salsa, and then all cleaned our entree plates. I enjoyed the vegetarian enchiladas, which were filled with butternut squash, onions, and peppers, and finished with a chipotle queso. Delicious!
Wednesday morning we were up bright and early thanks to our east-coast body clocks. Our first big Montana adventure was dog-sledding. We traveled 30 miles northwest to the small town of Olney to meet our guide and his dogs at Dog Sled Adventures Montana.
This truck marked the entrance to their property and appeared to be filled with old crates for transporting the dogs.
We knew we had arrived to the correct location when the sounds of barking and howling dogs could be heard. Dozens of small shelters and dens came into sight and a flurry of furry activity commenced. Those dogs knew it was about time to run and they were no dobt very excited.
Several of the dogs were very friendly and were happy for some attention from dog lovers.
One by one, the dogs were leashed into their respective places on the sled, each assigned a spot based on their temperament and ability to lead versus follow. Some had to wait to be leashed until the last minute since they chew the lines and get a bit too rambunctious.
Next came our turn to bundle into the sled. I've yet to mention it, but the weather was absolutely bone chilling - negative 16 degrees when we started with a forecasted high for the day of negative 3. Fortunately we were dressed for the conditions and they also wrapped us in sleeping bags to keep warm.
The dogs pulled us on a 12 mile journey through the woods. The fact that the snow was essentially untouched except for the sled path, and the absolute stillness and silence combined to create an incredible ride. We learned all about the dogs along the way. The owner has 122 dogs in total, and the majority are from the local humane society. They begin pulling at 10-12 months old and then continue on the teams until they are 12-14 years old. Together, the dogs eat more than 300 pounds of food a day, including a combination of a meat soup after runs and a purée of meats for two additional meals.
This little guy decided to give me a huge wet kiss in exchange for a picture!
After a chilling ride, we returned to their cabin and were served hot cocoa and oatmeal raisin cookies while defrosting our fingers and toes in front of a roaring fire. Never before has hot cocoa tasted so good!
That afternoon led us to the Whitefish Mountain Ski Resort to gather our ski supplies. Dad, Mom, Erin, and I opted for the learn to ski package that included two half-day lessons, beginner ski lift tickets, and equipment rental. Royce, having past ski experience, opted to start skiing that afternoon and then had a two day full mountain ticket.
One by one we were fitted with boots, skis, poles, and helmets. Someone really needs to fashion more comfortable ski boots, as they rub in all the wrong places and are awkward to walk in. We may be amateurs, but we did our best to look the part.
While Royce opted for a couple hours of skiing, I went for a very chilly run and then met everyone at the lodge. My 30 minute "easy" run was anything but that. I did some major sucking wind at 4600 feet. I guess that's the reason people train at altitude.
The sun was shining brightly, yet the thermometer never quite reached zero degrees!
For dinner, we satisfied our cravings for pizza at McKenzie River Pizza. We all started with salads and then ordered a few assorted pizzas. The parentals and I shared the veggie pie, featuring thin crust, pesto, mozzarella, zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, and onions.
Stay tuned for the second half of our trip, including skiing and more delicious meals!