Tag Archives: FIT

7 MUST-VISIT BED-AND-BREAKFASTS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Most people venture to Montana in search of spectacular scenery, breathtaking experiences and western hospitality. We also offer up some of the most unique lodging in the West. Here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, that consists of a variety of mountainside lodges, family inns, working and luxury guest ranches and some of the most charming bed-and-breakfasts in the Treasure State. We’ve rounded up a few B&Bs in Glacier Country that your clients might enjoy, all with easy access to the unmatched recreation opportunities available under our signature big blue skies.

Time After Time Bed & Breakfast
Located in the charming town of Victor in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, this four-bedroom bed-and-breakfast offers a truly authentic Montana experience. Host Trish offers a full gourmet breakfast, and lunch or dinner upon request as an add-on. In-room amenities include a private bath, spa robes, ice and water night tray, turn down service, satellite TV and complimentary Wi-Fi. Recreational activities abound in the Bitterroot Valley, with exceptional hiking and biking, as well as fly-fishing on the Bitterroot River. Historical attractions in the area include St. Mary Mission and the Daly Mansion and the Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

The Dragonfly Cabin is welcoming.

Enjoy a gourmet breakfast.

Gibson Mansion Bed & Breakfast
Located in the heart of downtown Missoula, this beautiful four-bedroom 1903 Victorian Mansion has been restored with modern amenities, offering guests a home away from home. Guests are invited to enjoy a book in the parlor or library, a cup of tea by the fireplace in the grand entry, or a glass of wine in the meticulously manicured flower gardens. Mornings include waking to freshly brewed coffee and scones brought to guests’ rooms, followed by a full gourmet breakfast in the dining room prepared by hosts Tom and Nancy. Missoula—known as the Garden City and the cultural hub of Western Montana—has an array of restaurants, museums, galleries and boutique shopping, and endless recreational opportunities, like hiking to the M overlooking the Missoula Valley, or taking a short drive to explore Garnet Ghost Town, the National Bison Range or the Bitterroot Valley.

The grand entrance to the Gibson Mansion Bed & Breakfast.

Enjoy a cup of tea by the fire in the master suite.

Running Horse Inn Bed & Breakfast
This charming three-bedroom inn is located in Huson, Montana about 45 minutes west of Missoula off Interstate 90 in a beautiful valley setting. Guests choose from rooms with Wild West cowboy décor, Native American art or running horse inspired décor including a hand-hewn log bed and all rooms have a private bath. Mornings include a delicious breakfast and freshly brewed coffee provided by hostess Jan, and guests enjoy specialty drinks and appetizers in the afternoon. Nearby recreational activities include bird watching, nature walks, mountain biking, as well as fly-fishing and rafting on the Clark Fork River.

Enjoy a delicious breakfast at the Running Horse Inn.

Montana decor in every room.

Laughing Horse Lodge
Open May through October, the Laughing Horse Lodge is located in the Seeley-Swan Valley on Highway 83 at the southern end of Swan Lake. Guests choose from eight guest rooms decorated in true Montana style with log furniture, quilts and cowboy art, all with private entry and bathrooms. Mornings include freshly brewed coffee and a delicious hot breakfast in the dining room. Guests can enjoy the array of flowers in the central garden or the vegetable and herb garden used to make the lodge’s delectable meals. Wednesday through Sunday, guests can choose to have a farm-to-table dinner with host Kathleen as their personal chef, whose menus blend numerous ethnic influences. Reservations are required for this add-on. The Swan and Mission Mountain ranges offer hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding. On-the-water recreation is also available, including kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on the Swan River and Swan Lake.

Relax in the gardens of the Laughing Horse Lodge.

Private entrances amid the blossoms.

Hidden Moose Lodge
The Hidden Moose Lodge was designed to reflect Montana’s rustic beauty and rugged history. From the magnificent river rock fireplace—which is the focal point of the lodge—to the hearty Montana-sized breakfasts, this cozy 12-room lodge located in Whitefish welcomes visitors and makes them feel at home with hosts Kent and Kim. Additional amenities include complimentary evening beverages, an outdoor hot tub, Wi-Fi, a DVD library and a free winter ski shuttle to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Outdoor activities abound just outside the lodge doors, including Whitefish Lake and the Whitefish trail system for hiking and biking. Glacier National Park is a short 40-minute drive to the west entrance. Winter activities include skiing and snowboarding at the world-class Whitefish Mountain Resort. Downtown Whitefish is bustling year-round with quaint eateries and boutique shopping as well as a robust nightlife.

Guests relax around the stone fireplace at Hidden Moose Lodge.

The lodge among the trees.

The Garden Wall Inn
A small luxury bed-and-breakfast located in downtown Whitefish, The Garden Wall Inn’s hosts Rhonda and Chris provide exceptional service. Each guest room is decorated in 1920s décor, including the private bathrooms, but feature modern luxury like Egyptian cotton sheets and down comforters. Both chef-owners pride themselves on giving their guests farm-to-table culinary delights for breakfast and afternoon hors d’oeuvres. Guests start their mornings with freshly brewed coffee or tea delivered to their rooms as their wake-up call. From skiing at Whitefish Mountain Resort to visiting Glacier National Park or staying in town to experience the local farmers market or downtown shopping, The Garden Wall Inn is close to it all.

Luxury awaits inside.

Coffee arrives as your wake up call.

Bison Creek Ranch
Tucked amidst the aspens and pines west of East Glacier Park and open May to October, this multigenerational family-owned and operated bed-and-breakfast offers three A-frame chalets and four rustic cabins along with a fantastic small restaurant that is open to the general public from 5 to 9 p.m. The cozy A-frames sleep up to six people and include small kitchens, living rooms, private baths and gorgeous views of the Rocky Mountains. Guests of Bison Creek Ranch enjoy a breakfast feast featuring huckleberry pancakes, omelets or crepes. Access to the east side of Glacier National Park is a big draw for this bed-and-breakfast. Visit Two Medicine Lake or Many Glacier and Swift Current Lake. Take the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road to the top of Logan Pass for spectacular views of Glacier National Park.

Views from Bison Creek Ranch.

Cozy cabins await.

Most of our smaller properties work directly with tour operators for the FIT market. If you have a smaller property that would interest your clients, please reach out to me and I can help facilitate the introduction to the international market, and a receptive tour operator that works with lodging in the Rocky Mountain region. For itinerary assistance, I am always here to help.

Visit soon,

DP

 

3 NOT-TO-BE-MISSED SPRING DESTINATIONS IN WESTERN MONTANA

Spring is always a welcome sight in Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Don’t get me wrong, we are winter-loving snow enthusiasts, but when the powder starts melting and the birds start singing, well, WE LOVE THAT. Spring in Montana has a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies dotted with billowing clouds. Mountainsides filled with blooming wildflowers and emerging wildlife make it one of the loveliest seasons to visit, yet one that is relatively undiscovered. While we have lots of great spring destinations in Glacier Country, we’ve rounded up our top three to add to your spring itinerary.

The boat dock at Apgar Village in Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is open year-round, and spring is one of the quietest times to explore, with less visitation than summer. The Going-to-the-Sun Road traverses the mountainside and doesn’t open in its entirety to vehicular traffic until the plows have finished removing the snow up at Logan Pass, around the 3rd weekend in June. However, the road is open earlier to walkers, runners, hikers and bicyclists. A favorite pastime for locals—that’s catching on with visitors—is biking the iconic road while it’s vehicle free. It’s a bit steep on the way up, but the views are breathtaking and the ride back down is swift and exhilarating.

Biking the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Wildlife watching in Glacier National Park during the spring is always an exciting time, as new offspring can be spotted. (Be sure to keep a safe distance and never feed the animals.) Here are more tips on safely watching wildlife in the West.

Moose sighting in the spring.

Additional activities: red bus tours begin in late May with the Huckleberry Mountain Tour. Hiking is always a fun adventure this time of year. To find out which trails are clear of snow, visitors can call 406.888.7800.

Bigfork
Much like spring feels to summer, Bigfork is often overlooked as a place to visit over its larger and more well-known neighboring towns of Kalispell and Whitefish. However, Bigfork is one of the most charming towns you’ll discover in Western Montana. Sitting on the northeast shore of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the Western U.S.—Bigfork hosts a variety of spring events, including Taste of Bigfork and the Bigfork Whitewater Festival at the end of May. Watch as kayakers paddle a class IV section of the “wild mile” on the Swan River. Take time to check out the art galleries, boutique shops and restaurants in downtown Bigfork along Electric Avenue.

Bigfork Whitewater Festival.

Downtown Bigfork, MT.

Missoula
Missoula’s ease of accessibility to the outdoors makes it a special spring destination. Less than an hour away is the National Bison Range and a host of wildlife viewing that takes place there every spring. Not only do bison roam the expansive 18,500-acre range, so do elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, coyote and bear, as well as multiple kinds of waterfowl.

Antelope roam the National Bison Range north of Missoula.

Missoula sits at the convergence of three rivers. The Blackfoot River and the Bitterroot River flow into the Clark Fork River, which flows through the heart of downtown Missoula. With the spring runoff, the rivers is high and the kayakers and surfers rejoice. Make sure to stop and watch them from Caras Park in downtown Missoula as they paddle on Brennan’s Wave.

Kayaker on Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula.

Join in on one of Missoula’s special spring events like the International Wildlife Film Festival or the Garden City Brewfest. Hike the M trail on Mount Sentinel for views of the sweeping valley below. Visit Fort Missoula to learn about the early settlement of the region or take a tour of the Missoula Smokejumper Visitor Center to get a glimpse of what life is like for the brave men and women who parachute into our national forests to fight wildfires. Missoula also has a thriving downtown with lively music and culinary scenes that will delight visitors of all ages.

Learn about professional Smokejumpers in Missoula.

For more information on where to stay throughout Western Montana, visit our tour operator website. If you need additional tour itinerary assistance, feel free to drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Happy spring,

DP

TRANSPORTATION: GETTING TO MONTANA IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK

Montana: when you think of this beautiful place, chances are majestic mountains, big blue skies, wildflower-filled meadows, miles of hiking trails and crystal clear rivers and streams come to mind. But you’re also probably wondering, “Is it easy to travel to Montana?” The answer: yes this heavenly place is closer than you think.

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A couple enjoys fishing in Western Montana.

Located in Western Montana, Glacier Country is a vast place and is an ideal option for a scenic meeting or convention and group tours. Western Montana’s Glacier Country is also home to two major international airports, a well-maintained highway system and a passenger train to get you and your clients here with ease.

A 7-minute drive from downtown Missoula, Missoula International Airport (MSO) offers easy access to the southern tier of Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Direct flights arrive daily from Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Phoenix/Mesa, Salt Lake City, Portland and Seattle, with seasonal flights arriving from Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco. This airport services Delta/SkyWest, United, Alaska/Horizon Air and Allegiant Air.

Situated in the northern tier of the region is Glacier Park International Airport (FCA). Located 15 minutes from Whitefish and Kalispell, this beautiful airport is the gateway to Glacier National Park and the Canadian Rockies and  has daily flights from Salt Lake City, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Seattle and Las Vegas, with seasonal flights from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Portland and Oakland. Airlines flying into this airport are Delta/SkyWest, Alaska/Horizon Air, United and Allegiant Air.

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Map outlining all the flight options for both international airports.

If your group is interested in traveling to Western Montana by train, then Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the answer. Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the Hi-Line of Montana and the northern tier of Glacier Country, where it makes stops in several communities, including Cut Bank, Browning, East Glacier Park, Essex, West Glacier, Whitefish and Libby. This train is an amazing way to travel past Glacier National Park, the Rocky Mountains and all the stunning terrain in between. Amtrak operates daily from Seattle and Portland, as well as Minneapolis and Chicago. This is a great option for large groups wanting to see the beauty of Western Montana’s Glacier Country in a relaxing and comfortable setting.

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Amtrak’s Empire Builder traveling through Western Montana. Photo: Amtrak

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

Highlights along Amtrak’s journey through Western Montana’s Glacier Country.

If traveling by air or rail isn’t what you are looking for, and you prefer driving to Western Montana, then you’re in luck. Driving in Montana is easy with a well-maintained highway system that’s anchored by Interstate Highway 90 running east and west and U.S. Highway 93 running north and south. The beauty of driving on our highways and roads are that you will always have breathtaking scenery and heart-stopping views, with charming small towns sprinkled along your route.

See you soon,

NG

SEE GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ON A BLACKFEET CULTURAL TOUR WITH SUN TOURS

Many international and group tour visitors arrive in Western Montana’s Glacier Country and are excited to visit the iconic Glacier National Park. While driving the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road is permitted in your personal vehicle or rental car, the best way to experience Glacier National Park is with a guided tour. Sun Tours is your unique tour option while visiting Glacier National Park and Blackfeet Country. Sun Tours offers daily departures for interpretive tours from the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, along with all entrances of Glacier National Park, and travels the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road encompassing the highlights of the route.

Warrior sculptures welcome visitors to the Blackfeet Nation.

Warrior sculptures welcome visitors to the Blackfeet Nation.

Featuring a spectacular eastern approach to the Rocky Mountain Front, the tours that originate from the Blackfeet Nation take the most scenic routes across the foothills and valleys of the mountains. Photo opportunities include the Blackfeet Bison Reserve and cultural interpretive sites, including visits to the Blackfeet Heritage Center and the Museum of the Plains Indian in Browning, Montana.

The one-of-a-kind cultural tour is guided by the members of the Blackfeet Tribe and covers the culture and landscape of the “Neets-Tse-Ta-Pi” (Real People). The tour guide’s narrative concentrates on Glacier National Park’s natural features and their relevance to the Blackfeet Indian Nation, past and present. One of the compelling offerings of the tour is a chance for visitors to learn about the history and culture of the Crown of the Continent’s fascinating landscape that natives call the Backbone of the World.

Glacier National Park.

Glacier National Park.

All of our guides at Sun Tours are residents of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and have extensive knowledge on the many facets of tribal history, culture and lifestyles, as well as extensive information and experience in Glacier National Park. Blackfeet spiritual and philosophical perspectives are covered, as well as plants and roots commonly used for nutrition and medicine. The tour stops include Triple Divide, Wild Goose Island, Jackson Glacier, Heavy Runner Mountain, Logan Pass and Bird Woman Falls, with a view from Big Bend.

A tipi overlook off Highway 2 near St. Mary.

A tipi overlook off Highway 2 near St. Mary.

Tour guests take in the views along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Tour guests take in the views along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

Wild Goose Island on St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

We would be happy to accommodate your FIT clients and your motorcoach groups. Our tours leave from the east side of Glacier National Park, with pickups that include East Glacier Park, Browning and from the St. Mary valley area. We also depart from the west side of  Glacier National Park from West Glacier and Apgar Visitor Center.

A Sun Tour cruises along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

A Sun Tour cruises along the Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Tour season runs from mid-May through September 30th on passenger coaches that seat 13 to 25 people with large windows and air conditioning. Coaches can be reserved for tour groups or private parties. Please keep in mind that tour demand increases in the summer months of July and August and we highly recommend reserving space for your clients early. In addition, spring and fall both offer tour attendees a quieter look at Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Nation.

The glacial-carved terrain of Glacier National Park can be seen along the tour.

The glacial-carved terrain of Glacier National Park can be seen along the tour.

For more information, visit our website at glaciersuntours.com or call our reservation office at 800-732-9220.

We look forward to welcoming you to the Backbone of the World,
Ed DesRosier

The author, Ed Derosier

The author, Ed DesRosier

About the author: Ed is the owner and operator of Sun Tours, an interpretive Native/Blackfeet Bus Tour Concessioner of Montana’s Glacier National Park. Sun Tours is starting its 25th operating season. Now living in St Mary, Montana, Ed is an enrolled Blackfeet Tribal Member and has lived his entire life on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Summers of his youth were spent working for the Museum on the Plains Indian in Browning. The park and reservation land have been a constant study in summer and winter. Most of his youth and adult years included enjoying the mountains and valleys of Glacier National Park where he hikes, snowshoes and skis hundreds of miles of trails, as well as climbing many of the park’s highest peaks.

Top Benefits of Using Social Media for Tour Operators and Travel Agents

It’s no secret that social media has had an impact on today’s marketing landscape, causing all of us to embrace this “new” way of marketing or risk being left in the past.  Glacier Country Tourism was an early adopter of social media in Montana. As one of the first DMOs in Montana to utilize social media for marketing outreach, we launched our social channels in the summer of 2009.

With our consumer channels firmly established, we knew it was time to grow our program and utilize social media to reach the business-to-business markets that we work with on a regular basis, including tour operators and travel agents and haven’t looked back since.

A group of international tour operators on a FAM tour in Montana.

A group of international tour operators on a FAM tour in Montana.

If you’re a tour operator or travel agent who is still deciding on whether to use social media to market your business, here are the top benefits of implementing social media as part of your business and marketing strategy…

1. Social media provides a direct connection between you (and your products) and the consumer. Fact: your target audience is using social media, many of them on a daily basis. One in five minutes spent online is on social media, providing you more opportunities than ever to connect with your customers. Additionally, it allows you to create genuine relationships and a place for conversations between you and your already-existing clients (as well as prospective clientele).

2. You can establish yourself as an expert. People want to work with the best in the business or industry. Social media provides you the opportunity to showcase your expertise on specific tours, regions, seasons and style of group or FIT tours. Basically, it allows you another forum in which to showcase your expertise, whether it be the Real America region (Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming) or the sandy beaches of Florida.

3. Social media makes you human. Okay, we already know that you’re human, but utilizing social allows your target market to get to know the people behind your company. There are so many possibilities here, whether it be doing an employee spotlight on a weekly basis, doing an instagram story as one of your product managers explores Montana or showcasing what makes your company special. And remember, humans do business with humans. Be human, always.

4. It can contribute to your bottom line. When done appropriately, social media channels can help increase sales. Think about it like this: social media provides inspiration on where to travel, when to travel and what to do. You can tell the story of the destinations and products you represent, while also showcasing your expertise on that region and inspiring travelers to book a trip to that destination with you. 

5. Social media can (and should) support your offline marketing efforts. Social media should not exist in a silo by itself. Instead, it should support your traditional marketing efforts. Put it to work and integrate it with your traditional marketing, including print ads, events, catalogs, tariffs, brochures, maps, newsletters and trade shows.

6. You become a storyteller and news source. With various platforms available to tour operators (facebook, twitter and instagram for businesses-to-consumer marketing), you have tremendous opportunities to tell your story and the story of the destinations, tours and offerings you represent. Think of social media channels as a platform for spreading the good word; they’re a place that allows you to highlight tour offerings, announce new tours and showcase your expert knowledge.

7. You don’t have to tell your story alone. After you’ve booked a trip or tour for a client, encourage them to share their on-the-ground experience on their social media channels.  Ask them to tag you or use a destination’s hashtag or handle when sharing content. Or, if it’s a group tour, create a specific hashtag and ask group tour attendees to share their experiences in real time. This turns your clients into phenomenal ambassadors, while creating exposure for the types of products you offer.

A few other helpful tips when adding social media to your marketing strategy:
-You can’t wait any longer to add social media to your marketing plan. You need to start now.
-Start small and be selective. You don’t have to be on every social media channel. Pick the most important channel for reaching your market and begin there.
-Have a plan. Outline your goals and create content that helps you reach your primary and secondary goals.
-Update your channels regularly.
-Utilize hashtags to reach your audience.
-Share good content. Be sure the images you’re sharing are strong and match your brand style and messaging.
-Have questions about how to effectively use social media? Our own social media coordinator @406_Nicole can help.

Your turn: what other must-do tips and benefits have you seen with using social media?

 

6 HISTORIC INNS AND LODGES IN WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

When I talk to tour operators from around the U.S. and Canada, I often get the same request for authentic Montana experiences for their clients. Besides the notable activities like horseback riding, red bus touring, fly-fishing excursions and whitewater rafting, we often talk about how choosing the right type of lodging options can strongly contribute to the types of experiences their group and FIT clients have on one of their tours. If the group is truly looking for a genuine Montana tour, an overnight stay at one of Glacier Country’s historic inns or lodges is a great option. We have many to choose from in the region, especially in the northern tier of Western Montana. Some were constructed as accommodations for railroad workers for Great Northern Railroad in the early 1900s and have been renovated into charming lodging, while other properties were built for early travelers to Glacier National Park.

Stay at the charming Izaak Walton Inn.

Stay at the charming Izaak Walton Inn.

The Historic Tamarack Lodge & Cabins—open year-round and located in Martin City about 10 minutes from the west entrance to Glacier National Park—was originally constructed in 1907 and has undergone numerous renovations over the last century as it added modern amenities, including in-room TVs, while still maintaining a rustic charm. The lodge has a true log cabin atmosphere, with four guest rooms, a great room, saloon and coffee bar. In addition to the main lodge, there are 14 cabins that range from motel units to large family-friendly and couples’ accommodations.

The cozy great room in the Historic Tamarack Lodge. Photo: Tamarack Lodge

The cozy great room in the Historic Tamarack Lodge. Photo: Tamarack Lodge

Built in 1910 to accommodate railroad workers during the construction period of the Great Northern Railroad is the Belton Chalet, located in West Glacier near the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The West Glacier train depot sits across the street from the Belton Chalet, making it convenient to those traveling on Amtrak’s Empire Builder from Seattle or Portland to Chicago. While renovations were completed in 2000, the Belton Chalet has maintained the same charm, ambiance and elegance of the early 1900s. In keeping with the historic era and relaxing atmosphere, no electronic distractions are located in the rooms inspiring guests to take advantage of the exceptionally beautiful views from the many decks built around the perimeter of the lodge. The lodge’s on-site dining room serves gourmet dinners created with local Montana ingredients.

Belton Chalet in West Glacier. Photo: Belton Chalet

Belton Chalet in West Glacier. Photo: Belton Chalet

Elegant dining at the Belton Chalet. Photo: Belton Chalet

Elegant dining at the Belton Chalet. Photo: Belton Chalet

The Izaak Walton Inn is one of Western Montana’s most notable and historic lodges. A year-round retreat built in 1939, the Izaak Walton Inn is located off of Highway 2 on the southern border of Glacier National Park in Essex. Listed as a national historic landmark, the inn has kept with the era in which it was built and is void of TVs, telephones, elevators and air conditioners, however Wi-Fi is available in the main lobby. Guests can choose from guest rooms in the historic lodge, converted railroad cars—including locomotives and cabooses—and cabins near the lodge. The Dining Car restaurant serves exquisite food with a Montana flare and locally sourced products. Essex is noted as a “flag stop” on the Empire Builder route from Seattle to Chicago and will not stop unless ticketed passengers are getting on or off. A fun tradition that has developed over time encourages guest to step out onto the deck of the Izaak Walton Inn and give a wave to the passenger trains as they pass by.

The lobby of the Izaak Walton Inn takes you back in time.

The lobby of the Izaak Walton Inn takes you back in time.

Stay in a caboose. Photo: Izaak Walton Inn

Stay in a caboose. Photo: Izaak Walton Inn

Within the boundaries of Glacier National Park are some of the most notable historic lodges in Montana. Located in the northeast side of Glacier National Park is the park’s largest hotel—Many Glacier Hotel. Open mid-June to mid-September, Many Glacier Hotel was built by the Great Northern Railroad in 1915. Situated on the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and offering magnificent views from all of the 205 guest rooms, the hotel is undergoing a major renovation planned to be complete in 2017. In keeping with the era, all guest rooms offer modest amenities—no televisions or air conditioning—and old-world style accommodations. The abundance of outdoor recreation, including red bus tours, boat tours on Swiftcurrent Lake, horseback rides, abundant hiking trails and the valley’s majestic views make Many Glacier Hotel quite popular with guests from all over the world. Early reservations are highly recommended and group reservations are limited.

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

Many Glacier Hotel in Glacier National Park.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

The classic Swiss chalet-style lodge of Lake McDonald Lodge sits on the east shore of Lake McDonald. Open mid-May to the end of September, the historic hotel is located 10 miles inside the west entrance of Glacier National Park on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Built in 1913, the lodge has 82 guest rooms (including the main lodge rooms and cabins) and dining options that include Russell’s Fireside Dining Room, Jammer Joe’s Grill and Pizzeria and Lucke’s Lounge. Again, in keeping with the era in which the lodge was built, guest rooms offer modest amenities and TVs, air conditioning and elevators are not available. The lodge offers an abundance of outdoor recreation including ranger-led programs, boat tours that leave from the lodge dock, red bus tours that pick up from the lodge as well as horseback trail rides making Lake McDonald Lodge quite popular with guests from all over the world. Note that early reservations are highly recommended and group reservations are limited.

Beautiful fall day at Lake McDonald Lodge.

Beautiful fall day at Lake McDonald Lodge.

The views from Lake McDonald Lodge.

The views from Lake McDonald Lodge.

If your tour takes you down the Seeley-Swan Valley—one of the prettiest in Montana—a visit to the Double Arrow Resort and the first “dude ranch” in Seeley Lake will add a true Montana retreat experience to any tour. The main lodge was built in 1929 with the focal point being a massive stone fireplace in the great room. Choose to stay in one of the three guest rooms in the main lodge (complete with a bed-and-breakfast Montana lodge feeling) or one of the many log cabins throughout the property. Kick up your heels at Stirrups Lounge or experience gourmet Montana-inspired cuisine at the on-site Seasons Restaurant. Other amenities include an indoor pool and Jacuzzi, outdoor tennis courts and horseshoe pits, as well as seasonal activities from horseback riding to horse-drawn sleigh rides in the winter.

Welcome to Double Arrow Lodge.

Welcome to Double Arrow Lodge.

If you need help planning an itinerary, visit our tour operator page here. If you’d like more information on adding a stay at one of the historic inns or lodges in Western Montana to your itinerary, drop me a line here. I am always happy to help.

DP

TOP 5 WINTER EXPERIENCES IN WESTERN MONTANA

Located in the northern Rocky Mountains, it’s no wonder Western Montana’s Glacier Country is known as a winter destination with great recreation activities. Among Montana’s snow-covered landscapes, your FIT clients can have a different adventure every day of the week as they enjoy 300+ inches (7.6 meters) of snow that fall on our mountain ranges and create powder-filled playgrounds in our valleys, making the region ideal for winter-focused experiences.

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To help with creating custom itineraries for your FIT market, here are the top 5 winter experiences in Western Montana.

1. Snowmobiling. With hundreds of miles of groomed trails for riders of all abilities, snowmobiling is one of Montana’s favorite winter pastimes. There are scenic and well-groomed trails for travelers who prefer a more relaxed experience to mountainsides and rock cliffs for the more skilled and extreme adventure seekers. Experienced guides can also help ensure your clients experience the best of Montana’s snowmobile trails and offerings. Additional resources include local snowmobile clubs and snowmobile dealers,

snowmobiling

2. Downhill skiing and snowboarding. The most popular winter activity in Western Montana is skiing and snowboarding at the region’s six ski areas that include small family-owned ski hills to a world-class resort. No matter which one your clients choose, they will enjoy affordable lift tickets, thousands of acres of terrain, fresh powder and, best of all, no lift lines. In addition to our maintained downhill offerings, Western Montana also has incredible backcountry terrain that is accessible via skinning, snowmobile or snowcat.

skiing

3. Cross-country skiing. Situated among various mountain ranges, your clients will find multiple groomed trails systems throughout the region that are ideal for cross-country, Nordic and skate skiing. Due to our location in the Rocky Mountain West, Glacier Country is known for its reliable snow and has a well-maintained trail system that is fun and challenging for both skate and classic skiers of all ages. Most of the ski trail systems have no user fees but will accept donations.

XCountry Skiing in Glacier Country

4. Snowshoeing. Making a comeback with smaller, lighter and easy-to-use equipment, snowshoeing is an easily-accessible activity in Western Montana. Popular snowshoeing locations include Glacier National Park, where free ranger-led snowshoe walks are offered on weekends during the winter months. In addition, many of Montana’s national forests have trails that are prime for snowshoeing adventures, with snowshoe rentals available in most communities.

snoeshoeing

5. Horse-drawn sleigh rides. Perhaps one of the most tranquil ways to experience winter in Montana is on a horse-drawn sleigh ride through a snow-covered forest.  Several properties offer sleigh rides during the winter months to help their guests experience a quieter side of Montana, one that includes a journey across an open meadow, complete with stunning views and hot chocolate beside a cozy fire.

A cowboy on the Bar W Guest Ranch prepares horses for a winter sleigh ride.

A cowboy on the Bar W Guest Ranch prepares horses for a winter sleigh ride.

For more information on Montana’s top 5 winter offerings, check out more winter itineraries and suggestions here. Or, if you would like more information on how to create a custom winter in Montana itinerary for your clients, contact our Tourism Sales Manager, Debbie Picard.

Come join the fun,

RF

EXPERIENCE WESTERN MONTANA BY RAIL

Traveling by train has been a popular mode of transportation for years in Europe and Canada and is gaining in popularity in the U.S. That’s great news to us here in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, especially as one of the most scenic segments of Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the northwestern corner of Montana. Tour operators can create itineraries where their clients can choose to travel the entire route of the Empire Builder, with flexible stops along the way to see what nearby towns have to offer. Or they can have clients travel sections of the route, then bus or rent a car for the remainder of their itinerary. No matter which option is chosen one thing is for sure: Montana by rail is an easy way to travel.

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

Empire Builder near Glacier National Park. Photo: Amtrak.

Running from Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon to Chicago, Illinois, Amtrak’s Empire Builder travels through the northern tier of Montana with stops in seven of Western Montana’s communities, including Libby, Whitefish, West Glacier, Essex, East Glacier Park, Browning and Cut Bank.

Libby is the first stop in Western Montana and is located at the base of the breathtaking Cabinet Mountain Range and along the winding Kootenai River where travelers will find the largest undammed falls in the state and the backdrop to famous films including “The River Wild” and most recently “The Revenant.”

The Cabinet Mountains.

The Cabinet Mountains.

Kootenia Falls near Libby.

Kootenia Falls near Libby.

The next stop is Whitefish–Western Montana’s most authentic mountain town and home to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Known for its world-class skiing in the winter, Whitefish Mountain Resort also offers fun-filled adventures in the summer including mountain biking, an Aerial Adventure Park, an alpine slide and Walk in the Tree Tops. Plus, your clients will see some of the most breathtaking views of the Flathead Valley and Glacier National Park from the top of Big Mountain. Downtown Whitefish boasts gourmet restaurants and boutique shopping along the quaint main street, Central Avenue. Unique lodging options abound in Whitefish from a 4-star hotel, to mountainside lodges and bed-and-breakfasts.

Historic Whitefish Station.

Historic Whitefish Station.

View of the Flathead River from the train.

View of the Flathead River from the train.

A popular stop to disembark is West Glacier, due to its close location to the west entrance to Glacier National Park. The train depot sits across the street from the Belton Chalet, the first lodge built by the Great Northern Railroad at Glacier National Park. Opened in 1910, the Belton Chalet has been fully restored and is one of the most charming accommodations in West Glacier. Plus, their on-site dining room serves gourmet meals made with local Montana ingredients.

Breakfast at Belton Chalet.

Breakfast at Belton Chalet.

Leaving West Glacier, the train travels east along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park as it passes jaw-dropping scenery out every window. The next town is Essex and features the Izaak Walton Inn. Once a railroad bunkhouse, the Izaak is now a historic inn that sits trackside and has lodge rooms, as well as train cabooses and a luxury locomotive that have been converted into adorable lodging options. The Izaak Walton Inn is quite popular with international visitors, cross-country skiers and snowshoeing enthusiast, as well as train historians. Essex is noted as a “flag stop” on the Empire Builder route and will stop if ticketed passengers are getting on or off at the Inn.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn from the train.

Historic Izaak Walton Inn from the train.

Charming bedroom at the Izaak Walton Inn.

Charming bedroom at the Izaak Walton Inn.

Travelers are greeted with views like this from the train.

Travelers are greeted with views like this from the train.

Once the train passes Essex it crests the Continental Divide at Marias Pass and then continues east to its next stop at East Glacier Park. Across from the station is Glacier Park Lodge, an impressive lodge made of timbers that are estimated to be 600 years old. The lodge was originally built by the Great Northern Railway to promote train travel and attract visitors to the region. The East Glacier Park station is open mid-spring through mid-fall.

Beautiful mountain views cresting Marias Pass.

Beautiful mountain views cresting Marias Pass.

East Glacier Park Station with Glacier Park Lodge in the background.

East Glacier Park Station with Glacier Park Lodge in the background.

The next stop is Browning, the headquarters of the Blackfeet Indian Nation. A stop in Browning gives travelers easy access to The Blackfeet Heritage Museum and Museum of the Plains Indians both offering great information on the history and culture of the Blackfeet. Keep in mind that the Amtrak station in Browning is open from mid-fall to early spring (typically October – April).

Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

The last stop in Western Montana’s Glacier Country on Amtrak’s Empire Builder is the town of Cut Bank. The town started as a Great Northern Railway camp with workers who were there to build a train trestle over Cut Bank Creek. Today, it boast abundant outdoor opportunities including fishing, guest ranches, birding, hiking and incredible views of the Rocky Mountain Front.

A few things to note about the Empire Builder and train travel:

  • The scenery is spectacular during every season and the train runs year-round.
  • From April to September Amtrak welcomes volunteers from the National Park Service, Trails & Rails program to offer educational information from the observation car.
  • Each coach seat provides reclining options and a leg rest with a free pillow.
  • Sleeping accommodations range from roomettes to full bedrooms with private baths.
  • Some train travel can be up to half the price of a plane ticket to get to the same destination.
  • Amtrak often gives discounts to children, military, students, seniors and AAA members.
  • The train is eco-friendly and more energy efficient with less emissions than cars or planes.

If you need help planning an itinerary visit our tour operator page here, or want more information on adding Amtrak’s Empire Builder to an itinerary drop me a line here. I am always happy to help.

DP

5 Must-See Places: The Best of Montana’s Highway 2

There are certain places in Western Montana’s Glacier Country that are made for FIT travelers. One such place: U.S. Highway 2. Running through Montana’s northern tier, Highway 2 travels along some of the most scenic places in Glacier Country and introduces its passengers to off-the-beaten-path and well-known attractions.

One of my favorite places along Highway 2: Summit Mountain Lodge (and this view).

One of my favorite places along Highway 2: Summit Mountain Lodge (and this view).

If you’re a tour operator planning an itinerary or trip for your FIT clients, here are 5 must-see places along Western Montana’s U.S. Highway 2…

1. Libby. Located in one of the region’s most scenic and quiet corners, Libby tends to fly under the radar in Montana. But that, my friends, is bound to change. Home to Libby Dam and the Kootenai River, Libby is one of the best communities for experiencing small-town Americana. Recreational highlights include fly-fishing with Kootenai Anglers, setting out on a scenic flight over the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness with Kootenai Aviation or taking a behind-the-scenes tour of Libby Dam, while Kootenai Falls (home to scenes from movies that include “The Revenant ” and “The River Wild”) and its swinging bridge is a short drive west of Libby on Highway 2.

Fall in the Cabinet Mountains.

Fall in the Cabinet Mountains.

2. Kalispell. Situated at the crossroads between U.S. Highway 2 and U.S. Highway 93 is the largest city in the Flathead Valley, Kalispell. A mix of small-town Montana and old-west charm, Kalispell has a lot to offer. In the past, it’s been looked as a drive-through city; a place you pass through on your way to Flathead Lake or Glacier National Park. To which I can honesty say: you need to include Kalispell on your client’s itineraries. During the last few years, Kalispell has rediscovered itself and today, it’s actually pretty cool (you can read more about my 5 unexpected finds in Kalispell here). Not-to-be-missed attractions include Hockaday Museum of ArtMuseum at Central School, main street (home to incredible shops that sell made in Montana goods), Lone Pine State Park, Sweet Peaks Ice Cream and Kalispell Brewing Company.

A bird's eye view of Kalispell Brewing Company.

A bird’s eye view of Kalispell Brewing Company.

3. The Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Forming the southern border of Glacier National Park, the Middle Fork of the Flathead River is ideal for water recreation near the Crown of the Continent. Many outfitters offer guided activities on the river, including fly-fishing, whitewater rafting, scenic floats and kayaking. Most of the outfitters who operate on the Middle Fork are based out of West Glacier and offer guided activities from spring through fall.

Casting a line on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Casting a line on the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

4. Glacier National Park. Highway 2 provides direct access points to Glacier National Park in West Glacier and takes travelers through the southern tip of the park near Essex as it connects the west side with the east side, crossing the Continental Divide at Marias Pass. Highlight between West Glacier and East Glacier Park include Essex and the Izaak Walton Inn, Summit Mountain Lodge and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

The view from Highway 2 near Goat Lick Overlook.

The view from Highway 2 near Goat Lick Overlook.

5. Blackfeet Nation. Bordering the east side of Glacier National Park is the 1.5-million-acre Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Home to the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, the reservation has a rich and incredible culture, especially for clients who are interested in Montana’s touchable history. Highlights include East Glacier Park, Browning, the Museum of the Plains Indian, Lodgepole Gallery & Tipi Village, Blackfeet Heritage Center and the Blackfeet Trail Tour.

Highway 2 just northeast of East Glacier Park.

Highway 2 just northeast of East Glacier Park.

For more information on scenic points, attractions and highlights along Montana’s Highway 2, feel free to drop us a line here.

See you in Montana,
TT

6 Reasons for Tour Operators to Join #RealAmericaChat on Twitter

Truth time: social media has changed today’s marketing landscape. Instead of doing what we’ve always done, we’ve all had to find ways to be more creative, to deliver real-time information that’s helpful and to help spread the word about what it is we do, whether that be a DMO marketer (like Western Montana’s Glacier Country) or a tour operator who sells the United States to international and domestic clients.

A red bus tour on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

A red bus tour on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Here in Montana, we’re big proponents of utilizing the power of social media to connect with our visitors, prospective travelers and partners. We’re also using social media to connect with our business-to-business partners, specifically tour operators. In fact, we know there’s so much merit for using social media in this way that we regularly participate in a twitter chat that’s specifically designed to connect domestic and international tour operators with suppliers in the Real America region of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming: #RealAmericaChat.

And if you haven’t heard about the chat, or if you’re not sure why you should participate, here are 6 reasons for you to join #RealAmericaChat

1. It connects you directly with suppliers in the Real America region. There are numerous on-the-ground reps in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming who want to work with you, and many of them are joining the chat. While you may see a handful of them in person once a year, the chat gives you direct access to multiple businesses across the region.

2. Participants are delivering real-time information on relevant topics. Chat topics vary each month, with topics that have been chosen specifically to arm you with the latest information on the region. Upcoming topics include winter, hidden gems, annual events and festivals, First Nations of the Real America, cowboy experiences and more.

3. It only takes one hour per month. We’re all busy, but we all have one hour each month to help grow our business. We host #RealAmericaChat on the first Wednesday of every month at 8 a.m. MST (3 p.m. BST) and we strive to stay on time and on track to deliver the most relevant information to you—our tour operators who are doing business in the region.

4. Four states, one chat. If you work with folks in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, chances are you’ve seen that the four states like each other and enjoy working together. We know that many of our international visitors want to see more than one place when they’re here and what better way to give them the best experience possible than by working with each other to create multi-state itineraries and experiences. Plus, suppliers from all four states participate in the chat and share information on their area. Instead of having to send individual emails to multiple people (sidenote: we still love and welcome email correspondence!), the chat puts you in direct contact with suppliers from the four-state region all at once.

5. Participation in the chat will make you an expert. After each month’s chat, you’ll be armed with the latest information on the Real America region, making it easier for you to build itineraries, create custom trips for your clients and be known as the contact for planning a trip to Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota or Wyoming.

6. You get to ask questions + get real-time answers. At the end of each chat, we ask what you want to learn more about or receive additional information on, with state or regional reps following up with you on your specific area of interest.

For the latest information on the chat, be sure to follow @RealAmericaChat on twitter or sign up for our tour operators newsletter here

A few other helpful tips:
-To join the chat, log into twitter on the first Wednesday of every month at 3 p.m. BST (8 a.m. MST) and search hashtag #RealAmericaChat.
-Use tweetchat or tweetdeck to follow along during the chat, as there is sometimes a delay in the twitter browser. Sidenote: you don’t need to set up a new account to use tweetchat or tweetdeck; just login to your twitter account and then go to www.tweetchat.com or www.tweetdeck.com. Bonus: all three platforms are free.
-Use #RealAmericaChat in your tweets during the chat, so everyone can see them.
-If you’re using tweetdeck to join the chat, create a column for #RealAmericaChat. All of the tweets that are tagged with that hashtag will automatically populate into that column, making it even easier for you to follow along.
Say hello! Let’s say you don’t feel comfortable tweeting into the chat (especially if it’s your first time joining). Well, not a worry! Feel free to pop in and say hello and let us know who you are and where you’re from. We’re sure that before long, we’ll be twitter buddies.
-Representatives from state and regional offices in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming regularly join the chat. For Montana, be sure to follow Marlee Iverson, Kim Birrell and Debbie Picard. For North Dakota, follow everyone’s favorite cowboy Fred Walker and Travel North Dakota. In South Dakota, say hi to Cole Irwin and South Dakota Tourism. And in Wyoming, follow the J team: James Scoon, Jenn Adu and Jenny McCullough.

Hope to see you all at the next #RealAmericaChat! Until then, feel free to tweet me at @MontanaTia.

See you on twitter,
TT