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WINTER FUN IN WESTERN MONTANA WITH GLACIER ADVENTURE GUIDES

Western Montana’s high season for visitors is summer, and our most recent brought record-breaking numbers to Glacier National Park and the surrounding region. We get it—summer splendor in Western Montana’s Glacier Country is an unmatched and unforgettable experience. We do, however, have a little secret to share with you: Winter here is spectacular. If your clients are winter enthusiasts who like to partake in the wonder and awe of unspoiled nature (without the crowds) and commune in a setting unlike any other in the lower 48, we’ve got just the place. Visiting Western Montana in the winter feels a little like you have the whole region—and an entire national park—all to yourself. The best way to experience some of this wonder of winter in Western Montana is with the help of a guide. Glacier Adventure Guides, one of our local outfitters and winter fun providers, has something for everyone year-round, but in the winter they offer up quite the memory-making adventure.

Winter wildlife. Photo: Glacier Adventure Guides

Cross-Country Skiing
Cross-country skiing tours are offered in Glacier National Park and the surrounding wilderness areas. For beginner and intermediate skill levels alike, tours travel along ice-capped streams and incredible frozen waterfalls. Journey to a designated location for lunch and warm drinks. Catch a glimpse of the winter wildlife and relish in a place of solitude and majesty.

A day of cross-country skiing.

 

Ice Climbing
As the premiere ice climbing guides in the Flathead Valley, Glacier Adventure Guides offers an adventure for new and experienced climbers. Based on your ability level, Glacier Adventure Guides will take you out to explore the best ice around. Strap on some crampons, grab an ice axe and your guide will help you have a fun, safe time finding a line to ice climbing success.

Climbing success. Photo: Glacier Adventure Guides

Snowshoeing
One of our most popular (and easiest) winter adventures is snowshoeing. Whether it’s a group tour, affinity group or family outing, Glacier National Park provides a magical experience. Snowshoe among the cedars and western larch, around frozen lakes and crystalized waterfalls to a scenic lunch destination, followed by hot drinks and group photos. Each trip is tailored to your group’s skill and fitness levels.

Snowshoeing fun in Glacier National Park.

Winter Camping
For the client who wants something a little more extreme, try a customizable multiday winter camping trip into Glacier National Park. Travel in by snowshoe or cross-country ski and see the frozen beauty of the park. Sleep in tents on travel days and then build an igloo upon arrival at the campsite. Take day tours of the area based on the itinerary set by your guide. All guides are certified in mountain travel and rescue, along with avalanche training and wilderness first aid.

Winter camping. Photo: Glacier Adventure Guides

Benefits of going with a guide:

  •           Gear available for rent
  •           Winter travel and camping techniques explained
  •           Cross-country techniques can be refined (kick turns, pole use, etc.)
  •           Snowshoeing techniques explained
  •           Avalanche awareness
  •           Trip and route planning
  •           Safety with experienced guides
  •           Leave-no-trace principles explained

For more information on group fun in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country Tour Operators website. Or, if you need help with itinerary planning in Western Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Bundle up in Montana,

DP

MONTANA’S BITTERROOT VALLEY IS THE PERFECT OUTDOOR PLAYGROUND

One of our hidden gems and relatively undiscovered destinations in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, is the beautiful Bitterroot Valley. A visit to this scenic valley will find the Sapphire Mountain range to the east and the Bitterroot Mountain range to the west with the Bitterroot River flowing through the middle of the valley. If your clients are looking for that perfect balance of outdoor recreation, culture and history—not to mention some of the most charming lodging options in Montana—then I suggest an itinerary that includes some time for them to stay and play in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.

The Bitterroot River flows through the valley.

Sunset over the Bitterroot Mountains.

Darby
For travelers looking to explore a truly western town, begin with the charming town of Darby. The towns wood-facade buildings provide a real western feel as you stroll through downtown and their signature event—Darby Logger Days—pays tribute to the town’s logging roots. Recommended stops include the Darby Pioneer Memorial Museum or make the short drive north and west to Lake Como for a plethora of recreational options that include water sport activities, hiking or mountain biking around the lake on well-maintained trails. Take a drive along the West Fork of the Bitterroot River for great fishing and a visit to Painted Rocks State Park where green, yellow and orange lichen cover the rock walls and granite cliffs. For some of the best winter skiing in Western Montana, visit Lost Trail Powder Mountain at the top of Lost Trail Pass on the border of Montana and Idaho. The lodging options in Darby range from quaint to luxury: in town lodging includes Travellers Rest Cabins and RV Park, while additional properties in picturesque settings and a little father out of town include Alta Ranch and Rye Creek Lodge. For those clients looking for a luxury guest ranch, enjoy the rustic elegance—and amazing culinary offerings—at the all-inclusive Triple Creek Ranch.

Singing cowboy at Triple Creek Ranch. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

A beautiful day at Lake Como.

Hamilton
The largest town in the Bitterroot Valley is home to a buzzing art scene with many galleries and shops full of work from local artisans. Catch live art with the Bitterroot Performing Arts Series, a Montana A Cappella Society Concert or the Hamilton Players live theater. Other great activities include sapphire mining for that perfect gem at Sapphire Studios in Hamilton, fly-fishing on one of Western Montana’s most pristine rivers—the Bitterroot River—or hiking the popular Blodgett Canyon Overlook Trail for stunning views into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. Lodging in Hamilton is comfortable and cozy at the Bitterroot River Inn & Conference Center or Hamilton’s TownHouse Inn.

Just outside of Hamilton is the Daly Mansion. The former summer home turned museum of Copper Baron and millionaire Marcus Daly, his wife Margaret and their four children has evolved from a two-story farmhouse into a 24,000-square-foot mansion with 25 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms on 50 stunning acres in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley.

Impressive views from Blodgett Canyon Overlook.

Once the summer home of Marcus Daly, now the Daly Mansion Museum.

Stevensville
Following the East Side Highway north is the community of Stevensville.  Take a quick detour for a little history at Fort Owen State Park—one of the most important commercial centers in the northwest for many years in the mid-1800s. Stevensville is home to the historic St. Mary’s Mission—the first permanent pioneer settlement in Montana. Walk through history and see first-hand the fascinating chapter of Montana’s beginning.

St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville. Photo: St. Mary’s Mission

Florence
A little farther north on Highway 93 is the town of Florence. Travel east on the East Side Highway with a stop at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge. A naturalist’s paradise, look for tundra swans, woodpeckers, bald eagles and white-tailed deer from the comfort of your vehicle or walk the 2.5-miles of nature trails near the Bitterroot River.

Birding at Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge.

Lolo
Located on the north end of the Bitterroot Valley on Highway 93 is Lolo, home to Travelers’ Rest State Park—the campsite where Lewis and Clark and the Corps of Discovery rested and prepared for their journey to and from the Pacific Ocean over 200 years ago. It is home to the only archaeologically verified campsite of their journey and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. Recreational options abound including biking, running or walking the Bitterroot Trail—a 50-mile-long paved path that runs from Missoula to Hamilton and is a fun way to see the valley. Just a short drive east outside of Lolo on Highway 12 is The Lodge at Lolo Hot Springs. Rejuvenate in the mineral hot springs after a day spent hiking or biking in the region.

Interpretive talks. Photo: Travelers’ Rest State Park

The Bitterroot Valley Chamber of Commerce has more information on staying and playing in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. If you need help planning an itinerary, visit our tour operator page here, or drop me a line here. I am always here to help.

DP

GUEST POST: TOP 6 REASONS MEETING PLANNERS LOVE WHITEFISH MONTANA

Venue choice is one of the most important factors for the success of a meeting. Having hosted hundreds of meetings at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Western Montana’s Glacier Country over the past 10 years has shown us that while each event has its unique needs, certain aspects of Whitefish are universally gratifying for the planners with whom we’ve had the pleasure of working. Feedback from meetings professionals has taught us what they like most about our area.

Aerial view of The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Location, location, location is not a new idea, and this phrase applies to meeting venues as much as anything. With that in mind, three of the top reasons meeting planners love Whitefish pertain directly to location!

  • Accessibility: While it’s true that Whitefish is off the beaten path, it’s quite accessible for attendees from around North America. Glacier Park International Airport (FCA) is located just 11 miles from Whitefish and offers daily commercial service from Salt Lake City, Denver, Seattle and Minneapolis, and twice-weekly service from Las Vegas. Seasonal flight service is added from Chicago, Atlanta, Portland and Oakland. Many hotels in Whitefish, including The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and The Firebrand Hotel, offer courtesy airport transportation for guests. This complimentary, personal service and quick transfer time provides a seamless and welcoming first impression for meeting attendees and sets the tone for a great experience.

    It’s easy to get to Glacier Park International Airport (FCA).

  • Geographic and recreational benefits: Whitefish is nestled in the west slope of the Northern Rocky Mountains and just outside Glacier National Park. The region offers a temperate climate (for a mountain destination) and abundant natural beauty. Temperatures average highs of 28 F in December and January and 80 F in July and August. Year-round recreational and sightseeing opportunities abound. Most meeting attendees have diverse interests, and Whitefish offers many different seasonal recreation opportunities to satisfy most participants. Here’s a taste of what’s available:
    Whitefish Mountain Resort offers winter and summer recreation from alpine skiing and snowboarding to zip lines, aerial adventures, lift-access mountain biking, an alpine slide, hiking and scenic chair and gondola rides.
    Whitefish Lake Golf Course offers two 18-hole championship courses, open from mid-April through October.
    Stumptown Art Studio offers year-round art classes and drop-in studio spaces for pottery painting, mosaics and glass fusing.
    Whitefish Trail provides easy access to experience nature with a hike, trail run, mountain bike, snowshoe or fat-bike ride. Guided and educational experiences are available.
    Glacier National Park is located just 30 minutes from Whitefish and offers incredible beauty and recreation opportunities ranging from scenic tours by boat or historic red buses to incredible day hikes.

    Glacier National Park is only 30 minutes from Whitefish.

    The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, situated on the outskirts of downtown and between Whitefish Lake and the Viking Creek Wetland Preserve, provides a premier setting to enjoy all that Whitefish has to offer. A seasonal marina with motorized and non-motorized watercraft and custom cruises on the Lady of the Lake 31’ Windsor Craft, indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs, a full-service day spa, Viking Creek Wetland Preserve with interpretive nature trail, and a full-service concierge make planning free time simple for groups and individuals!
    Additional opportunities exist like fishing (ice, lake and fly), horseback and wagon rides, whitewater and scenic rafting, garden and museum tours and more!

    The Lodge at Whitefish Lake offers luxury accommodations & service year-round.

  • Cultural opportunities: Whitefish offers a condensed, pedestrian-friendly downtown area, retaining qualities of its western heritage with a metropolitan flair. You’ll discover businesses from The Firebrand, a newly opened boutique hotel, to Nelson’s Ace Hardware, with 60 years of history servicing the Whitefish community. A diverse selection of dining options from Cuban to Italian, New American to French Creole, eclectic and traditional delis, pizza parlors and coffee shops provide seemingly endless choices to satisfy the most discerning foodie and hungry adventure-seeker. You’ll also discover a variety of art galleries, custom jewelers, boutique shops, ski, bike and outdoor outfitters, bars, music venues, and several active theater companies including the professional Alpine Theatre Project featuring Broadway talent.

Explore downtown Whitefish.

Although location is important, it turns out it’s not everything.

  • Friendly community: We repeatedly hear stories of how “everyone was so friendly” and accommodating, from the valet to the front desk, restaurant and banquet servers, housekeepers and maintenance crew, “literally everyone we came across at the resort.” But that’s not all, around town, people say “hi” when they pass you on the street, and shop keepers thank you for visiting their stores, even when you don’t buy anything. Montana hospitality is alive and well in Whitefish, and this friendliness enhances our clients’ overall experiences in a meaningful way that makes them want to come back.
  • Pricing flexibility: While offering year-round benefits, Whitefish is a seasonal destination, and the proximity to Glacier National Park heavily impacts demand during the summer season. Clients who have flexibility to plan their meetings outside of the peak months of July and August enjoy the benefits of greater availability and value. At The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and The Firebrand Hotel, we seasonally accommodate meetings ranging for budget-conscious government groups to luxury incentive trips. This flexibility has surprised and delighted many of our clients over the years!
  • Professional service in a luxurious, comfortable setting: While you won’t find many suits and ties in Whitefish, rest assured you can still find professional service. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake, Montana’s only AAA Four Diamond rated property, is a great example of finding this balance. We invite you to experience our version of Montana hospitality firsthand!

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our corner of Montana.

See you in Whitefish!
Edna White

The author, Edna White

About the author: Edna White, Sales & Marketing Director for Averill Hospitality, has worked in hospitality in Whitefish for the past 20 years. She has a passion for Western Montana’s outdoor recreation and providing exceptional guest experiences. In her free time, you’re likely to find Edna riding a bicycle around town or on one of the many singletrack trails in the area. 

A Meeting Planner FAM Tour in Montana’s Glacier Country

Part of my job as the Tourism Sales Manager for Glacier Country Tourism is to introduce Western Montana as a destination for meetings and conventions. I try to describe the beauty of Montana and the various meeting options planners will find here. But for a place as beautiful as this, the best way to showcase this corner of Montana is to let them experience it for themselves.

(Sunset over Flathead Lake)

Sunset over Flathead Lake

Earlier this month, Western Montana’s Glacier Country hosted four meeting planners from around the U.S. and introduced them to our extensive venue selection for meetings and conventions. In cooperation with our three regional convention and visitors bureaus in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, we spent time doing site tours at a variety of venues from a beautiful guest ranch to larger hotel convention facilities in Western Montana, as well as showcasing some of our great group attractions and activities.

After flying into Missoula International Airport, the FAM commenced in Missoula, Montana’s second largest city, cultural hub and home of the University of Montana. With over 37,000 square feet of meeting space, the University of Montana is an ideal location for larger venue needs. Plus, several hotels are within walking distance or a short shuttle ride. For meetings that require everything under one roof there are several options in Missoula, including the Hilton Garden Inn Missoula with on-site catering and 22,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Missoula also has plenty of off-site options for receptions or events, including the Missoula Art Museum and Missoula Children’s Theatre. Another great add-on: a tour through one of Missoula’s many micro-breweries or distilleries. (Click here for additional tour suggestions to complement your meeting in Montana.)

(Riverside dining at the DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater)

Riverside dining at the DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater

(Peddle pub tour by Thirst Gear)

Peddle pub tour by Thirst Gear

(Canyon Room overlooking Washington-Grizzly Stadium at the University of Montana)

Canyon Room overlooking Washington-Grizzly Stadium at the University of Montana

The next stop on the FAM tour was Kalispell, the largest city in the Flathead Valley and home to Glacier Park International Airport. Kalispell has great meeting venues, including the Hilton Garden Inn Kalispell and its 14,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, as well as the Red Lion Hotel Kalispell and its 10,000 square feet of meeting space. Adding a sense of adventure to any meeting agenda can easily be found along the waters of Flathead Lake or in the surrounding mountains with activities like hiking or horseback trail rides. We introduced our guests to an authentic western experience with the perfect combination of a cowboy chuck wagon cookout and sing-along before our trail ride into the hills at Artemis Acres Paint Horse Ranch.

(Delicious and locally sourced cuisine from Blue Canyon)

Delicious and locally sourced cuisine from Blue Canyon

(Cowboy sing-along and chuck wagon cookout)

Cowboy sing-along and chuck wagon cookout

(Trolley transportation to events in Flathead Valley)

Trolley transportation to events in Flathead Valley

Our final stop was the mountain town of Whitefish, home to fantastic year-round conference facilities. Located on Big Mountain, Whitefish Mountain Resort offers world-class skiing in the winter, while the newly expanded base lodge is a great option for meetings or corporate retreats in late spring and early fall. Take advantage of their mountainside lodging options, as well as team building exercises at the Aerial Adventure Park or zip line course. Another stunning property in Whitefish is Grouse Mountain Lodge. With 11,000 square feet of meeting space, including a wine room for private dinners or receptions, Grouse Mountain Lodge is a full-service venue for meetings in Montana. Another option is The Lodge at Whitefish Lake. Sitting along the shore of Whitefish Lake, the lodge has 8,000 square feet of meeting space, a full-service spa and indoor and outdoor swimming pools They also have a lakeside tented pavilion with beautiful views of Whitefish Lake and Big Mountain. For activities, FAM guests were treated to a horse-drawn wagon ride at Bar W Guest Ranch, coffee tasting and a tour at Montana Coffee Traders and gallery and boutique shopping along Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish.

(Mountainside lodging at Whitefish Mountain Resort)

Mountainside lodging at Whitefish Mountain Resort

(Private dining in the wine room at Grouse Mountain Lodge)

Private dining in the wine room at Grouse Mountain Lodge

(Horse-drawn wagon ride at Bar W Guest Ranch)

Horse-drawn wagon ride at Bar W Guest Ranch

(View from the deck at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake)

View from the deck at The Lodge at Whitefish Lake

FAM guests were pleasantly surprised to learn several things about meeting in Glacier Country, including that spring and fall are perfect times to hold meetings in Montana. The shoulder seasons of April – May and September – October offer pleasant weather patterns and lower room rates. Montana does not have a sales tax and a lodging tax of only 7 percent makes Western Montana a real value to meeting planners and attendees. Convention hotel properties offer free Wi-Fi, free parking and complimentary shuttles from the airport. The abundance of locally sourced culinary options the FAM guests experienced received rave reviews. And when I asked them what their top reason would be for bringing meetings to Montana? They said it was our breathtaking scenery and western hospitality. Along with the fact that most venues are easily accessible with a short 10 – 15 minute drive from either Missoula International Airport or Glacier Park International in Kalispell, both of which offer daily direct flights to major cities in the U.S.

For more photos of our meeting planner FAM, search #MeetInMontana on Instagram and Twitter. If you are interested in Western Montana’s Glacier Country for your next corporate retreat location, meeting or convention or are interested in attending an upcoming meeting planner FAM, drop me a line here.

Meet me in Montana,

DP