Tag Archives: Whitefish

TOP 9 TOUR OPERATOR QUESTIONS ABOUT WESTERN MONTANA

As the Glacier Country tourism sales manager, I travel to trade shows all over the U.S. fielding questions about what to see and do in Western Montana from tour operators. While most product developers have been to Montana to put itineraries together, there are many tour operators who put tours together based on suggested itineraries and the help of the destination experts. When sitting down for an appointment, one of the first questions I ask is “Have you ever been to Montana?” The answers vary, but the three most common responses are “Yes; It was breathtakingly beautiful; I can’t wait to go back. My clients love it.” Or, “I remember going through Montana as a kid, and I need to go back.” Or “No, but it is on my bucket list to see and I wanted to meet with you because our clients are requesting tours to see the region.” I’ve gathered the top nine most frequently asked questions by tour operators about Glacier National Park and Western Montana as a tour destination.

A picture perfect day at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

Q: What will there be left to see when the glaciers are gone from Glacier National Park?
A: While there are still 25 remaining active glaciers, most are tucked into higher elevations. A few are visible from the Going-to-the-Sun Road, and a few others from a short hike off the road. What is really stunning to see is the magnificent terrain that the glaciers have carved out and created over a vast expanse of time. The towering peaks, majestic valleys and sparkling waterfalls aren’t going anywhere. So even after the glaciers are gone, believe me, there will be plenty left to see.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Spring day in Glacier National Park.

Q: What are the dates that the Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park will be open to motor vehicles?
A: Glacier National Park is open year-round and is beautiful throughout each season of the year. However, the highest point of the Going-to-the-Sun Road where it crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass is at an elevation of 6,647 feet (2,026 m), and Montana does experience a lot of snow at that elevation. Beginning annually around April 1, plows begin to clear the roads of snow in the higher elevations. By mid-May, most of the road is clear and open to hiker/bicycle traffic. The National Park Service takes this time to do any major repairs to the road and then schedules an opening of the entire road to vehicular traffic from mid to late June, and it remains open to mid-October (weather depending). This is a good place to check accessibility of the Going-to-the-Sun Road. https://www.nps.gov/applications/glac/roadstatus/roadstatus.cfm

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

The Going-to-the-Sun Road takes you past beautiful waterfalls.

Q: If we can’t take the motorcoach on the Going-to-the-Sun Road, how do we see Glacier National Park?
A: It is true, vehicles and vehicle combinations longer than 21 feet or wider than 8 feet are prohibited between Avalanche Campground on the west side of the park and the Rising Sun picnic area on the east side due to rock overhangs and roadway twists and turns. It’s best to park the motorcoach and have everyone climb aboard a tour provided by a Glacier National Park concessionaire—either a red bus tour or Sun Tour. On the red bus tour your group will travel in a vintage 1930s restored bus. The buses seat 17 people and have canvas roll-top roofs. The drivers are called jammers, because, back in the day, they had to jam the gears to get the buses to climb the steep hill grade. You have the choice for your tour to go out and back, or you could deadhead the motorcoach on the other side of the Going-to-the-Sun Road and pick up your clients and continue on your way. The Sun Tour buses travel the same roads but tell the story from the Blackfeet perspective. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the Indigenous people that have called this place home long before it was a national park. Many of the peaks, valleys and waterfalls are named after bygone Blackfeet tribal members, and the start of the tour is blessed by burning sweet-grass.

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

Groups enjoy red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Q: How long should I plan on spending in Glacier National Park, and what is there to do?
A: Most itineraries include driving the main roads, so people only see a very small percentage of the park. However, I understand itineraries are tight, so if you only have one day to spend in Glacier National Park, this blog post addresses it. I recommend two days at a minimum. One day to tour by road and by boat and learn about all there is to see and do. The next day, plan to get off the beaten path and explore trails, waterfalls, wildlife viewing and flora. For the more adventurous, there are professional guides and outfitters for horseback riding, hiking to alpine lakes and whitewater rafting down crystal clear rivers. One of my favorite places is Running Eagle Falls in the Two Medicine Valley. The trail is handicapped-accessible and a good short path for everyone. The spectacular falls are where two separate waterfalls come together in the same location.

Moose sightings in the spring.

Running Eagle Falls, also known as Trick Falls is easy to get to in the Two Medicine Valley.

Q: We know we want to see Glacier National Park, but what other “must-sees and dos” are in Western Montana?
A: The list is long, but here are a few highlights. Explore the Blackfeet and Flathead Indian reservations to learn about American Indian traditions. The Flathead Valley towns of Whitefish and Kalispell are full of shopping, galleries and historical sites. Whitefish Mountain Resort has an abundance of group activities all summer long. Bigfork is a charming village with shops, eateries and live theater. Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—has boat cruises and other adventures like Wildhorse Island, a day-use state park with, yes, wild horses on it. The National Bison Range is an 18,000-acre preserve for driving tours with around 350 bison, plus elk, deer, pronghorn and bears. Missoula—the second largest city in Montana—is a cultural hub with fantastic music, brewery and restaurant scenes. Both the Seeley Swan and Bitterroot valleys draw outdoor enthusiasts and history buffs alike.

A horse-drawn wagon ride with Bar W Guest Ranch in Whitefish is a fun activity.

All smiles at a chuckwagon dinner outside of Missoula.

Q: How can we incorporate an American Indian experience into our tour?
A: There are several American Indian pow wows that take place during the summer months on the Blackfeet and Flathead reservations along with heritage sites. In Browning, visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and the Blackfeet Heritage Center and Art Gallery. Stop in at the Lodgepole Gallery and Tipi Village to see Blackfeet Indian art, or choose to stay and experience American Indian culture by camping in a teepee and eating a traditional bison dinner. Request a step-on-guide to showcase the Blackfeet reservation including buffalo jumps, teepee rings and medicine lodges. On the Flathead Indian Reservation experience the culture and heritage of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes at The People’s Center in Pablo.

Teepee stays along Lower St. Mary Lake with stunning views of Glacier National Park.

Cultural dancing on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

Q: What kind of hands-on, experiential things can our clients enjoy?
A: Here is a partial list; you choose the fun. Pick sweet Flathead cherries from an orchard. Ride the alpine slide or take a gondola ride for spectacular views at Whitefish Mountain Resort. Cast a line into a blue-ribbon trout stream. Soak in a hot spring. Stand-up paddleboard or kayak on the largest freshwater lake in the West—Flathead Lake. Personalize a Glacier National Park trip with The Glacier Institute. Meet a smokejumper and see what he/she wears when parachuting in to fight a wildfire. Enjoy a historical walking/architecture tour. Take in a small-town rodeo. Mine for sapphires. Go with a guide (llama trekking, whitewater or scenic rafting, fishing, horseback riding). Experience a Broadway-caliber theater performance. Visit a local lavender farm and make sachets or lavender lemonade. Meet and listen to a cowboy poet. Learn to line dance. Talk with a wrangler at a chuckwagon dinner. The list goes on. In fact, here are 102 things to do.

A group rafts the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.

Touring the Smokejumpers Visitor Center in Missoula.

Q: I keep seeing Missoula highlighted in magazines on all the “best of” lists. Tell me more about Missoula?
A: Missoula is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream surrounded by seven wilderness areas and at the confluence of three rivers. You can kayak, raft or tube through downtown or take a relaxing hike just minutes from your hotel. Missoula is known for its spectacular natural beauty and nearby blue-ribbon trout fishing. Downtown boasts shopping and dining, with an abundance of restaurants, cafés, breweries and distilleries offering something for everyone. Known for its eclectic culture, visitors will find this arts and culture hub filled with nightlife, symphony, theater, film festivals, college sports, ballet, opera, roller derby, weekend farmers markets and daily summer happenings in Caras Park along the Clark Fork River.

Hiking the M trail overlooking Missoula.

Playing on the water at Brennan’s Wave on the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

Q: How do we get to Western Montana? Are there airports, and which one should we fly into?
A: Traveling to Western Montana and getting to Glacier National Park, are both easier than you might think. With two airports to choose from —Missoula International Airport (MSO) and Glacier Park International (FCA) located in Kalispell—train service (Amtrak’s Empire Builder), car rentalsbuses and a well-maintained highway system, it’s pretty simple. Interstate Highway 90 runs east and west anchoring our region, and U.S. Highway 93 runs north and south.

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 Adventuring!

DP

THE 5 1/2 FREE THINGS YOU’LL RECEIVE WHEN YOU MEET IN WESTERN MONTANA

Everyone loves the word FREE, but we’ve all been conditioned to assume it’s “too good to be true.” If you’re choosing to hold your meeting or convention in Western Montana’s Glacier Country, let us show you how we do FREE and how it can help the bottom line for both meeting planners and conference attendees.

1. Let’s begin with hotel shuttles from either of our Western Montana airports. Missoula International Airport (MSO) is a short 7-minute drive to downtown Missoula. Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, is a 15-minute drive to both Whitefish and downtown Kalispell. All of our larger branded conference hotels in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish offer FREE shuttles to and from the airport. If you’re traveling into our region on Amtrak’s Empire Builder, shuttles from Whitefish properties are available to pick up and drop off at the depot in Whitefish as well as some Kalispell properties.

Missoula International Airport. Photo: Missoula Airport.

2. Whether you’re driving in for a regional meeting or renting a car from the airport for a pre or post-conference sightseeing adventure in Western Montana, parking is always FREE at our lodging properties. While most of our hotels do not offer valet parking due to the easy parking-lot-to-lobby access, The Lodge at Whitefish Lake—the only 4 diamond hotel property in Western Montana—does offer FREE valet service.

Schedule a horse-drawn wagon ride with Bar W in Whitefish for a conference outing or pre/post vacation activity.

3. Wi-Fi is a necessity for conference attendees, and charging for it does not fit into our western hospitality philosophy here in Montana’s Glacier Country. All of our conference hotels offer FREE Wi-Fi in guest rooms and either FREE or minimal cost in conference spaces. When utilizing AV services, meeting planners will find that conference hotels in Western Montana offer very affordable rates on everything from projector packages to Polycom needs.

State-of-the-art AV services. Photo: SpringHill Suites Kalispell.

4. Staying healthy, focused and connected is critical while attending any meeting. Access to business centers, fitness centers, pools and hot tubs is never an additional charge in Western Montana conference hotels and resorts. So pack those running shoes and that swimsuit without fear of having to pay extra, it’s FREE.

Bring those workout clothes. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

Bring those swimsuits. Photo: Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

5. Montana is one of only five states where there is no state wide sales tax, so we encourage attendees to leave a little space in their suitcases for lots of made-in-Montana items. Meeting planner clients will only see a service charge on a final BEO, not on guest rooms or other meeting services.

Utilize the great outdoor space found in Montana. Photo: Holiday Inn Downtown Missoula.

An outdoor dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

1/2. Bonus: At just 7%, Montana’s lodging tax is half of some neighboring states (10% in Whitefish, which includes their 3% resort tax). Look to Western Montana’s shoulder seasons (spring and fall)—specifically the months of March, April, May, October, and November—for the best availability and rates on guest rooms and conference space.

Spring in Montana is a great time to meet and visit Glacier National Park as a pre or post conference vacation.

Another thing that is FREE, our services! For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect venue for your meeting in Western Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,
DP

YELLOWSTONE TO GLACIER NATIONAL PARK ITINERARY

As the Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country, I spend a significant amount of time traveling around the U.S. attending trade shows to promote the western region of Montana to domestic group tour operators, international tour operators and travel agents. One question that often comes up, “What’s the best route to take between Montana’s two national parks, Yellowstone and Glacier?” While each route offers its own scenic beauty and not-to-be-missed attractions along the way, one of the most direct routes is through Butte and Missoula. On this park-to-park trip, you’ll stick mainly to interstates and U.S. highways, but in Montana, even the freeways are scenic. You’ll also travel along some of this corridor’s coolest offerings—like the richest hill on earth in Butte and Lewis and Clark Caverns in Whitehall.

Day 1: West Yellowstone to Missoula
After adventuring in Yellowstone National Park, it’s time to head north. Leaving West Yellowstone, travel north on U.S. Highway 191 and then west on U.S. Highway 287 along the beautiful shores of Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake, both created in 1959 when an earthquake hit the Madison Canyon River Area. Stop in at the Earthquake Lake Visitor Center to see remembrances of the event.

Goodbye Yellowstone, headed to Glacier National Park.

Next up is the charming town of Ennis in the heart of heavenly trout fishing in Southwest Montana located on the banks of the Madison River. After leaving Ennis, give yourself enough time (two hours) to stop and see the Lewis and Clark Caverns, Montana’s first and best-known state park.

Ennis is one of Montana’s most popular fishing towns.

Montana’s largest state park, Lewis and Clark Caverns.

Head north again and meet up Interstate Highway 90. Follow the signs to Butte. History, personality and charm are part of the walkable “uptown” district, and it’s the perfect place to stop and eat lunch. Local favorites include a Wop Chop or a pasty (pronounced pass-tee). Then jump on a trolley tour to learn about the characters, famous folks, miners and scoundrels that lived and worked in Butte.

Farther west on I-90 (1.5 hours) is Missoula—the cultural hub of Montana. Spend the afternoon exploring the city’s downtown, including boutique shops, a thriving culinary scene, breweries and live music venues. Be sure to stroll over to the Brennan’s Wave overlook, where you are likely to see a kayaker (or several) playing on the man-made whitewater wave on the Clark Fork River. No visit to Missoula is complete without a stop at the Smokejumper Visitor Center, located near the Missoula International Airport. As the nation’s largest training base for smokejumpers, the visitor center showcases displays, dioramas and videos related to the lore of America’s legendary parachute wildfire fighters. Take a guided tour of the parachute loft and see the brave men and women that face these wildfires.

Shop the boutique stores in downtown Missoula.

Kayaker on Brennan’s Wave in downtown Missoula.

Overnight in Missoula

DAY 2: Missoula to Kalispell
Head north on U.S. Highway 93 out of Missoula and you’ll soon be on the tribal lands of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The reservation encompasses 1.3 million acres and is home to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

At Ravalli, (30 minutes from Missoula) travel west on state Route 200 and north on U.S. Highway 212 to the National Bison Range—one of the oldest wildlife refuges in the nation. With more than 18,000 acres, the range is home to 350 – 500 head of bison, as well as black bear, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, elk and white-tailed deer.

Over 350 bison roam the National Bison Range.

After leaving the National Bison Range, continue north on U.S. 212 to the town of Charlo, and stop at Allentown Restaurant (located in Ninepipes Lodge) for lunch and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Mission Mountains from the dining room. Following lunch, stroll over to the Ninepipes Museum of Early Montana to experience a treasure trove of information, including exhibits, artifacts and displays from early settlers. Take a quick peak in at Great Gray Gifts for the perfect made in Montana souvenir.

Views from Ninepipes Lodge and Allentown Restaurant.

From here, travel 20 minutes north on U.S. 93 to the community of Pablo and stop in for a visit at The People’s Center. Self-guided tours of the museum are available, but we suggest you schedule a tour with a guide for a truly memorable experience.

As you continue north on U.S. 93 and drop into the town of Polson, you’ll capture a breathtaking view of Flatead Lake—the largest natural freshwater lake in the West. Attractions in Polson include the Miracle of America Museum and its amazing collection of Americana curiosities.

Continue north around the west side of Flathead Lake to Kalispell, the commercial hub of the Flathead Valley. Stop in the Conrad Mansion Museum and visit the historic home of Kalispell’s founding family built in 1895.

Overnight in Kalispell

Day 3: Kalispell to Glacier National Park
Kalispell is located just 45 minutes from the west entrance to Glacier National Park. A wilderness of lakes, towering peaks and remnants of glaciers is readily accessible. Stop in West Glacier and get your provisions for the day. Include snacks and water, as those are scarce once you head into the park. Apgar Village offers watercraft rentals and spectacular views of Lake McDonald. Stop into Eddie’s for some delicious ice cream and a souvenir before heading over to the Apgar Visitor Center.

Views from Apgar Village in Glacier National Park.

You’d be hard pressed to find a more scenic drive in the lower continental United States than the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. Travel to the hand-hewn, grand Lake McDonald Lodge (20 minutes from West Glacier) where you can hop aboard a red bus for a tour of the 50-mile-long Going-to-the-Sun Road (various tour lengths available; reservations required). There are vehicle length restrictions on Going-to-the-Sun Road, so leave the driving to someone else. The historic canvas-top tour buses were introduced in the 1930s and have since been restored and outfitted with propane engines—gift from the Ford Motor Company. Additionally, Sun Tours offers tours on the Going-to-the-Sun Road including narrative from the Blackfeet Indian perspective.

Red bus on the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park.

Narrated boat tours on historic wooden boats with Glacier Park Boat Company are offered several times a day on Lake McDonald, Two Medicine Lake, St. Mary Lake, Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. The St. Mary Visitor Center is also definitely worth a stop while you’re in Glacier National Park. Hike more than 700 miles of trails including short hikes to waterfalls,  extended backcountry hikes to unnamed lakes, and everything in between. Glacier National Park has something for everyone.

Imagine yourself sitting here on this boat cruise on Lake McDonald.

For this complete itinerary and other itinerary suggestions visit our tour operators site. If you need further assistance in itinerary planning feel free to drop me a line, I’m always here to help.

Happy Adventuring,

DP

TOP 10 PLACES TO VISIT THIS FALL IN WESTERN MONTANA

Many visitors to Western Montana’s Glacier Country arrive in July and August, but I’d like to let you in on a little secret that you can share with your FIT/Group clients: fall is one of the best times to visit Montana. The changing colors of vibrant red and orange hues are breathtaking. The weather can have a flair for the dramatic, with bright blue skies one minute and snow the next, but that is what makes autumn in Montana uniquely pleasing. We’ve rounded up some of the top things to add to a fall itinerary under Western Montana’s big blue sky.

The view of Swiftcurrent Lake from Many Glacier Hotel.

Top 10 List:

  1. Glacier National Park – The Crown of the Continent encompasses more than 1 million acres and features the famous Going-to-the-Sun Road. Pro tip: boat cruises and hiking trails on the east side of the park, are less crowded and lead to stunning views.

    A red bus in Glacier National Park.

  2. Blackfeet Indian Reservation – Visit the Museum of the Plains Indian and the Blackfeet Heritage Center & Art Gallery to learn about Blackfeet culture and traditions.

    Statue of a Blackfeet warrior.

  3. Whitefish – This resort town offers fine dining, boutiques and breweries. An easy 15-minute drive to Whitefish Mountain Resort offers weekend activities on the mountain until the end of September.

    The Aerial Adventure Park at Whitefish Mountain Resort.

  4. Kalispell – Make Kalispell your home base for your Western Montana adventure, and explore this charming town’s museums and galleries. Flathead Lake is just a 10-minute drive away and it’s only 30 minutes to Glacier National Park.

    Montana Trolley ride in historic Kalispell.

  5. Flathead Lake – The largest natural freshwater lake in the West is home to ample water-sport activities, boat cruises and six state parks, including Wild Horse Island, which can only be accessed by boat.

    Sunset view of Flathead Lake

  6. Flathead Indian Reservation – Experience the traditions of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes at the People’s Center in Pablo.

    Cultural dancing at Ninepipes Lodge.

  7. National Bison Range – This 18,500-acre preserve is home to 350 head of bison, plus elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, black bear and coyote.

    Bison roam the National Bison Range.

  8. Missoula – Home to the University of Montana and known as Montana’s cultural hub, Missoula is full of shopping, dining, breweries and distilleries, and offers Montana’s finest music scene.

    Hikers are able to hike the “M” trail and oversee all of Missoula.

  9. Seely Swan Valley – Considered one of the state’s most scenic drives and an outdoor lover’s haven, the Seeley Swan Valley offers lakes, trails, mountains and state parks. The perfect place to watch the western larch trees (also known as tamaracks) turn the forests and hillsides a vibrant gold.

    Tamarack trees in autumn.

  10. Bitterroot Valley – Discover history at the St. Mary’s Mission in Stevensville and Daly Mansion and Margaret Daly Memorial Arboretum in Hamilton. Chose to hike from over 100 trailheads or bike the 50-mile-long paved Bitterroot Trail.

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

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

 

Happy fall!

DP

MEET WITH MONTANA AT IMEX AMERICA 2018

For the fifth year in a row, Montana will be attending and exhibiting at IMEX America October 9 – 11, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. This year, the Montana booth will be bigger and better than ever as we welcome meeting planners to stop in at the MONTANA booth get your photo taken with a real live Montana Cowboy and learn more about Montana as a meeting destination. Whether you are looking for the perfect luxury guest ranch for a corporate incentive group, a large branded hotel with a ballroom and breakouts for the association conference or the mountainside hot springs resort for the board retreat, Montana has it all.

The perfect backdrop for a Montana dinner event.

We invite meeting planners attending IMEX America to make an appointment with our booth representatives from Bozeman, Big Sky and Western Montana’s Glacier Country—including the cities of Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish—to learn about the variety of meeting offerings in Montana. Without further ado, please meet the meetings experts from Montana that will be attending IMEX America 2018.

Daryl Schliem, Visit Bozeman – Bozeman CVB

Returning to the Montana booth this year is Daryl Schliem, the President and CEO of the Bozeman Convention & Visitors Bureau. The hospitality options and outdoor activities that attract meeting planners to the Bozeman area include an abundance of recreation, resorts, shopping, museums, breweries and its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park. In town, you’ll find plenty of local flavor in Bozeman’s historic downtown shops, restaurants and galleries. From a casual boardroom meeting to the formal ballroom soirée, Bozeman has plenty of meeting and function space as well as over 2,500 guest rooms. Boasting the largest and busiest airport in Montana, Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport offers many direct flights to major cities in the U.S., making Bozeman the perfect mountain meeting setting, providing everything a group needs to get business done by day along with an exhilarating Montana experience waiting just outside the conference room door.

Candace Carr Strauss, Visit Big Sky – Big Sky Chamber of Commerce

Joining the Montana booth this year is Candace Carr Strauss the CEO of Visit Big Sky, the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. Candace will discuss with planners the inspiration that comes from alluring landscapes, fresh mountain air and unlimited outdoor adventure creating an authentic Montana meeting memory. Big Sky offers a variety of lodging and venue options from family friendly hotels to 5-star luxury penthouses and private homes to fine dining and one-of-a-kind outdoor adventures. Winter is king in Big Sky with ski-in ski-out properties at Big Sky Resort offering 5,800 acres of skiing terrain. Summer offers more availability for meetings and retreats along with easy access to the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park only 40 miles away. Big Sky is located an hour south of Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport with easy transfers.

Dawn Jackson, Discover Kalispell – Kalispell CVB

Representing Discover Kalispell in the Montana booth again this year is Group Sales Manager, Dawn Jackson. As the gateway to Glacier National Park and Flathead Lake, Kalispell is in the middle of Montana’s most iconic natural places and the ideal environment to increase conference attendance and utilize the city’s venues and modern amenities to conduct effective business. With two new hotels opening in 2018, Kalispell offers over 1,800 guest rooms and 56,000 square feet of meeting space for citywide groups of up to 4,000 attendees. Kalispell’s community is filled with unique shopping, cultural offerings, fine restaurants, wonderful events and welcoming smiles. Kalispell’s international airport, Glacier Park International, offers year-round direct flights to five major markets and additional seasonal directs to another five markets making access to Kalispell incredibly easy.

Mimi Hall Gustafson, Destination Missoula – Missoula CVB

Serving as the Director of Sales and Services for Destination Missoula, Mimi Hall Gustafson will be returning to IMEX to talk about meetings in Missoula this year. Missoula is the second largest city and cultural hub of Montana as it provides the perfect blend of business and pleasure for meeting attendees with outdoor adventure, abundant nightlife, unexpected sophistication and a thriving food scene. Whether the meeting is an intimate corporate retreat or a large association conference, Missoula has something for everyone. With nearly 170,000 square feet of meeting space and 3,400 guest rooms at hotels for every budget level, Missoula is a great destination for meetings up to 2,000 attendees or citywide events for up to 5,000 attendees. Plus, direct flights arrive into Montana’s second busiest airport, Missoula International Airport from 13 major U.S. markets.

Dan Hansen, Explore Whitefish – Whitefish CVB

As the Marketing and Sales Coordinator for Explore Whitefish, Dan Hansen focuses on group travel and will be joining the Montana booth this year. Whitefish creates lasting impressions and earns rave reviews for meetings, events and corporate retreats. With more than 1,200 guest rooms and 46,000 square feet of meeting space, Whitefish is perfect for groups up to 300 attendees and citywide events of 2,500 attendees. Plus, Whitefish has a unique combination of breathtaking scenery, year-round recreational pursuits and a vibrant town that offers diverse accommodations and outstanding hospitality. An added bonus: getting to Whitefish is easy. Amtrak’s Empire Builder makes daily stops in Whitefish from both Seattle/Portland and Chicago, while direct flights arrive regularly into nearby Glacier Park International Airport.

Debbie Picard, Western Montana’s Glacier Country Tourism

The final member of the Montana booth at IMEX America will be Debbie Picard, Tourism Sales Manager for Western Montana’s Glacier Country. Debbie works closely with the three regional CVBs of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish along with other meeting venues in Western Montana outside of these three hub cities. Within the western region of Montana is an array of properties that are well-equipped to host meetings and conventions of various sizes, including small events, incentive travel, corporate retreats and large conferences. These properties include luxury guest ranches, hot springs resorts and mountainside lodges. And when you combine these meetings offerings with two international airports, shoulder season prices and team-building activities, it’s easy to see why meeting planners are taking a look at Western Montana as a meetings destination.

If you’re coming to IMEX America 2018, let us know. We’d love to meet with you and talk meetings in Montana.

A few things to keep in mind for IMEX:

*To meet with Montana’s Glacier Country, Kalispell, Missoula and Whitefish, make an appointment with Western Montana’s Glacier Country. The four Western Montana representatives will be sharing each 20-minutes appointment session throughout the show (think of it as a one-stop Western Montana appointment stop).

*Bozeman and Big Sky are taking separate appointments.

*If you can’t meet with us during the pre-scheduled appointment times at IMEX, feel free to stop by our booth anyway. We welcome drop-ins and will be hosting daily giveaways.

And if you’re a meeting planner not attending IMEX America, we’d still love to help you plan your Montana meeting. All of the contacts listed above are happy to help you find the perfect fit for your meeting needs.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. Or, if you need help locating the perfect destination for your meeting in Montana, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

Meet in Montana,

DP

MEET IN MONTANA – A MEETING PLANNER FAM TRIP

We all know that the best—and quite frankly the only way—to really know if a destination is right for your next meeting, conference or corporate retreat is to experience it firsthand. With that in mind, the first week of June, Western Montana’s Glacier Country invited four professional meeting planners from around the U.S. to Montana for a familiarization (FAM) tour to visit our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, where we showcased meeting facilities, off-site venues, farm-to-fork offerings and authentic Montana experiences that seemed custom-made for meetings.

After flying into Missoula International Airport (MSO) the group took a scenic 30-minute drive to The Resort at Paws Up an authentic working cattle ranch and one of Western Montana’s luxury guest ranches. The ranch has varying accommodations from lavish guest homes to riverside glamping tents that include a camp butler who’s dedicated to your group’s needs. The glamping tents were a hit with the planners and we took a few minutes to relax around the fire along the Blackfoot River—one of Montana’s premiere blue-ribbon fly-fishing trout streams.

Relaxing around the campfire at Paws Up.

After the site tour we returned to Missoula, Montana’s second-largest city and cultural hub—and met up with Mimi Hall Gustafson from Destination Missoula—the official convention and visitors bureau—and took a short walk along the Clark Fork River to Caras Park to watch river surfers on Brennan’s Wave. After tasting and touring Montgomery Distillery we ventured to one of downtown Missoula’s premiere restaurants, Plonk Wine Bar, where we dined in the elegant wine cellar. We had a restful night’s sleep at the Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown, (featuring 200 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. feet of meeting space) considered one of Missoula’s leading convention hotels. The next day started with a site tour and breakfast at DoubleTree by Hilton Missoula Edgewater (featuring 171 guest rooms and nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting space) before visiting some of Missoula’s meeting and event spaces including The Wilma Theater, Missoula College and the unique and expansive meeting space at the University of Montana followed by lunch overlooking the U of M Grizzlies stadium.

Colorful drinks from Montgomery Distillery.

The view from the Canyon Club overlooking University of Montana’s stadium.

The drive from Missoula to Bigfork north on Highway 93 happens to yield some of the most scenic vistas in Montana, including the National Bison Range and the Mission Mountain Range. With Montana’s spring wildflowers on full display, the drive through the Jocko and Mission valleys was stunning.

Our next stop on the FAM tour was an overnight at Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge. Family owned and operated for over 65 years, the 2,000-acre resort sits on the east shore of Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake in the West—where it offers both horse and water recreation, as well as accommodations that vary from small cabins to rustic lodges and 5,000 square feet of meeting space. While the resort hosts families for week-long vacations from mid-June through Labor Day, it can be reserved for groups the months of May, early June, September and October making it the ultimate spring or fall retreat destination.

Tour of Flathead Lake Lodge.

Fun ride home from Steak Fry via an old fire truck.

After a hearty ranch breakfast, we meet up with Dawn Jackson from Discover Kalispell—the Kalispell Convention & Visitors Bureau. After several site tours we ventured out to Purple Mountain Lavender, and owner Deb took us on a tour of her farm where she grows, cultivates, drys and manufactures everything lavender from sachets to lavender lemonade and shortbread cookies. The afternoon took us to downtown Kalispell and a lunch dine-around featuring DeSoto Grille, 406 Grill and Slit Rock Café. After some down time the planners enjoyed an insightful historical tour on the Montana Trolley, a service that’s used to transport groups on specialty tours and events throughout the Flathead Valley. The trolley dropped us at the Conrad Mansion—once the home to Kalispell’s founder, Charles Conrad—for a tour and delicious dinner served on the mansion lawn, the perfect setting for off-site receptions.

Group or spouse outings to Purple Mountain Lavender.

Beautiful dinner at the Conrad Mansion in Kalispell.

Our overnight accommodations were at the conveniently located Red Lion Kalispell in the heart of downtown Kalispell (featuring 170 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space).

Our final destination was the charming mountain town of Whitefish where we were greeted by Dan Hansen with Explore Whitefish—the Whitefish Convention and Visitors Bureau. Our first stop was to visit the newest boutique property in downtown Whitefish—The Firebrand Hotel (featuring 86 guest rooms, a small meeting room and board room). We headed up to Big Mountain and stopped in at Whitefish Mountain Resort and lodging options including the option to buy out the mountainside Kandahar Lodge for groups of 10 to 50 in the spring and fall months. We had lunch at Casey’s in downtown and enjoyed the rooftop lounge and the beautiful views of the mountains and valley.

Next on the itinerary and a highlight for the planners was a visit to Glacier National Park. Upon entering the park, we stopped for a photo at the Glacier Park sign, then continued on to Lake McDonald Lodge were we embarked on a boat cruise with Glacier Park Boat Company aboard the DeSmet on Lake McDonald. It was a perfect afternoon in Glacier National Park.

Welcome to Glacier National Park, ladies and gentlemen.

Having some fun on the DeSmet on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park.

Our final evening was spent touring Grouse Mountain Lodge and dining at one of the local favorites, Abruzzo Italian Kitchen one of Whitefishes newest additions before heading to The Lodge at Whitefish Lake (featuring 101 guest rooms and 10,000+ square feet of meeting space) on the shore of Whitefish Lake for a restful night’s sleep.

Good morning from The Lodge at Whitefish Lake.

After a delightful breakfast, the planners departed Glacier Park International (FCA) (a 15-minute drive from downtown Whitefish) for home.

It was an action-packed week full of great food, fantastic venues, fun activities and lots of learning about Western Montana’s meeting options.

If you would like more information about Western Montana’s Glacier Country as a meetings destination (feel free to check out our week at #MeetInMontana on instagram or if you are interested in participating in the next meeting planner FAM highlighting our three anchor cities of Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish, drop me an email here.

Meet me in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: 5 GREAT PLACES TO EXPLORE MONTANA BY BICYCLE

Western Montana’s Glacier Country has seen an increase in unique and niche markets that love the open roads, stunning scenery and local hospitality. Cycling is definitely one of them. If you are a tour operator offering cycling adventures we’ve asked the experts and our friends from Adventure Cycling Association, located right here in Missoula Montana, to share their top 5 destinations in Montana for adventure cycling.

Bikers enjoy the Bitterroot Mountains.

The Adventure Cycling Association’s route network has 3,500 miles of mapped bicycle routes in Montana, and more than 42,000 around the country. We encourage you to explore Montana by bicycle, where you can take in the smells, sights, locals, communities and culture at a pace that allows you to appreciate all Montana has to offer.

TransAmerica Bicycle Trail
With the incomparable Madison Range as a backdrop, cyclists explore the backroads, farmers markets and small towns of Big Sky Country using pedal power alone.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Northern Tier Route
A trio of riders explores a wild and remote section of the Northern Tier Bicycle Route from Libby to Whitefish.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here. 

Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail
Thousands of cyclists travel in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark every year. Here’s a small piece of that route, featuring the stunning plateaus and winding river bottoms of north-central Montana.

The Lewis & Clark Bicycle Trail was created to celebrate the anniversary of the Corps of Discovery’s 1804 – 1806 historic journey and offers cyclists the opportunity to follow the path of the intrepid explorers, captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. It includes seven map sections detailing the 1804 – 1805 westbound trip, roughly following the Missouri and Columbia rivers, and one map section showing Clark’s 1806 eastbound return along the Yellowstone River in Montana, totaling 3,562.5 miles.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
Crisscrossing the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico, Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the longest mapped off-pavement cycling route in the world. Along its 2,768-mile course, it cuts through some of Montana’s most wild and spectacular country. See it here through the eyes of two young travelers from faraway lands.

There is an excellent opportunity to view wildlife such as bear, deer, wild horses, pronghorn antelope, eagles, osprey, sandhill cranes and other animals and birds. The route is rich in history, with ghost towns, deserted mines, wagon routes and old Spanish land grants, and is near or passes through several national parks, including Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.

To purchase maps, digital data and route highlights, click here.

Adventure Cycling Headquarters
Every summer we enjoy the parade of bicycle travelers who drop by our office here in Missoula, Montana. These cyclists come from all over the world. Last year we had over 1,400 visitors! Their variety of style, equipment, route and purpose is endless. In 1982, Greg Siple began recording our visitors on film and asking them to tell their stories, creating Adventure Cycling’s National Bicycle Touring Portrait Collection. The Open Road Gallery features selections from this collection in Adventure Cyclist magazine and on our website.

We invite you to visit the Adventure Cycling HQ, meet the staff, take a free tour, grab an ice cream from the visiting cyclists’ lounge and check out some of the portraits hanging on the walls that are featured in our Open Road Gallery collection.

Lisa McKinney is Adventure Cycling’s communications director.

GUEST POST: A FEW REASONS TO VISIT ABC ACRES IN WESTERN MONTANA

Amid towering mountain panoramas, alpine lakes and endless wilderness, ABC acres—a vacation farmstead in Western Montana’s Glacier Country—has been named a Top 6 Place to Take the Kids for a Farm Stay by the Travel Channel, and is honored to be part of the Great American Farm Tour 2017 hosted by Justin Rhodes of Abundant Permaculture.

There are many reasons to set your vacation sights this way, but here are just a few.

Views of ABC Acres Farmstead.

Agritourism at Its Finest
Our guests join us on the adventure of growing and raising healthier food options while regenerating the world around us.

ABC acres has created an exciting agritourism service geared toward farm-stay vacations, complete with educational and participatory components for guests to learn about the farmstead’s ongoing regenerative agriculture systems and how that directly benefits the local and global community. Such services include customized farm tours and workshops, self-guided walking maps, strategically located informative kiosks, plus the occasional movie night and Friday social. Guests can accompany farm staff on livestock feeding chores (a kids’ favorite), or experience an even more hands-on “work-along,” for those wanting to get their hands a little dirty.

ABC acres strives to offer visitors a glimpse into an agricultural operation that heals the land, grows strong livestock and provides truly clean and healthy food choices.

Feeding the animals leaves a lasting impression on kids.

Kids will find new best friends on the farm.

Farm Stays, Farm Store and Concierge Services
ABC acres offers two newly-built and very well-appointed homes for their Farm Stays and vacation rentals, with plans in the works to increase lodging capacity. Both homes were constructed with health and wellness in mind. They were built without VOCs (volatile organic compounds), and incorporate non-toxic spray foam insulation, HEPA filtration for high-quality interior air all season long and “alive water” systems to reinvigorate and re-energize water at all points of use, all contributing to the underlying theme of healthy environments, which pervade throughout the farmstead.

While visiting the farm, you may witness things like elk and deer grazing the pastures at dusk, osprey fishing for trout in the waterway and farm staff running pasture irrigation—or any number of the processes that go into the design and earthwork of a fully-functioning permaculture system. It is these on-farm experiences that give staying at ABC acres its uniqueness and charm.

As an additional service, ABC acres’ Farm Stay manager remains available (before and during visits) to answer any questions guests have, assist with local information and planning, and coordinate off-farm activities considering where and what to explore. Beyond a place to simply rest your head, the hospitality of ABC acres is here to enhance the experience for our guests and help them create lasting memories.

ABC acres’ latest announcement is the construction of a new farm stand and gift shop, due to open this spring. Dine on farm-raised goods, purchase farm-related books and toys, take home gifts and apparel for family and friends, or a souvenir to remember your time in Montana.

Pick up fresh goodness like this pickled garlic.

The label says it all about these eggs.

Heart of the Bitterroot Valley
Conveniently located just a few miles south of Hamilton, a short walk to the Bitterroot River and bordered by picturesque farms and public lands, ABC acres provides an idyllic combination of wide-open spaces, wildlife and outdoor adventure, just minutes from this thriving valley’s small-town happenings and city amenities.

Whether you’re looking for mountain biking deep in the forest, hiking any of the numerous trails, canyons and creeks spread throughout the Bitterroot and Sapphire mountain ranges, world-class fly-fishing, skiing, hunting, birding, you name it (not to mention charming mountain towns, historical sites, and local festivals), the Bitterroot Valley has more than its share of adventure and opportunity.

Conveniently located just north of the valley, and within an hour’s drive of ABC acres, is Montana’s second largest city, Missoula, ready to receive travelers from all sides of the globe at its international airport. Missoula is a vibrant city, home to cutting-edge restaurants and breweries, along with a lively nightlife and music scene.

Guests enjoying the view of the Bitterroot Valley from the farmstead.

Enjoy fly fishing or bird watching along the Bitterroot River.

Proximity to Other Regional Wonders
Some people say no Montana vacation is complete without a trip to Glacier National Park, and Yellowstone National Park is a must-see as well. ABC acres happens to be situated between the two, roughly equidistant from both (a four or five-hour drive to either). This offers an excellent opportunity to cover the region, experiencing the best of all worlds.

Montana is known for its many lakes, and just a few hours’ drive north from ABC acres (and en route to Glacier National Park) are two of its finest. Flathead Lake is the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, surrounded by many small towns and public access points. Picturesque Whitefish Lake sits at the base of Big Mountain, and the resort community of Whitefish boasts an exciting downtown, waterfront hotels and some of the best skiing in the state.

Experience ABC acres and reconnect with the wonders of nature that Montana so abundantly provides.

Greetings from the cattle.

About ABC acres
ABC acres is a Permaculture Farmstead in Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. Permaculture is a design science that looks to incorporate elements found in natural ecosystems such as diversity, resiliency and stability, and place them into an agricultural system for healthier and more productive results.

Established in the fall of 2012, this family-owned and operated farmstead focuses on sustainable food production, healthy living systems and regenerative ecological design. Our cattle, chickens, goats, turkeys and pigs are out on open pasture, eating, resting and living the way nature intended.

As visitors and Farm Stay guests take in all that ABC acres offers, we hope to stir emotions that create conversation for global change. We are certainly trying to do our part by walking a new walk, and we welcome one and all to our little slice of Montana heaven so that you too can be amazed by the wonder and magic of our natural world.

13 NONSTOP FLIGHTS TO WESTERN MONTANA’S GLACIER COUNTRY

Getting to Montana has never been easier. With the increase in passenger demand for the treasure state and some of the larger airlines now offering direct-flight access into Western Montana as a travel destination from their main hubs, the time is right to visit and see for yourself why they call it Big Sky Country.

Fly direct from Dallas and Chicago to MSO on American Airlines. Photo: American Airlines

Western Montana’s Glacier Country offers ease of accessibility via two bustling regional airports, Glacier Park International (FCA), located in Kalispell, and Missoula International (MSO), located in Missoula. Whether you are a meeting planner looking for a relatively undiscovered mountain destination or an association needing convention space near an international airport, we’ve got you covered in Missoula, Kalispell and Whitefish. For tour operators with clients who have Glacier National Park on their bucket list, cut your clients’ time on a motor coach and consider flying into one of our regional airports before jumping on a coach to see the sites.

A picture perfect day at Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park.

Historic red bus tours in Glacier National Park.

Six major airlines (United, Delta, Alaska, American, Allegiant and Frontier) provide service between these airports, with a combined 13 nonstop flights (some seasonal) to major cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Oakland, Phoenix/Mesa, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle, offering flight schedules that make planning your next conference or tour in Western Montana’s Glacier Country a breeze.

Enjoy western hospitality. Photo: Triple Creek Ranch

Choose from unique to conventional meeting spaces.

If attendees or clients are not located in one of these direct flight markets, not to worry; it’s a short flight from most hubs on these major airlines. To learn how simple it is to get to Western Montana, find out more.

Come see the Milky Way in big sky country.

For more information on meeting facilities in Western Montana, visit our Glacier Country meetings website. For more information on tour itinerary options, visit our Glacier Country tour operator’s website. If you need additional information, drop me a line; I’m always here to help.

See you in Montana,

DP

GUEST POST: DESTINATION ADVENTURE WITH WHITEFISH BIKE RETREAT

Located in beautiful Glacier Country with access to Western Montana’s wilderness right outside our door, Whitefish Bike Retreat offers adventure like no other. Here, our focus is on the bike and the adventure traveler, whether you’re visiting as part of a larger U.S. biking itinerary or you’re on an international tour. Our proximity to Glacier National Park is a major draw for travelers. We’re just a 30-minute drive from the gorgeous Crown of the Continent, and we’re also close to downtown Whitefish, the charming ski town and summer hot spot. This area boasts endless year-round outdoor recreation and fun.

Aerial view of Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Summer is stunning at WBR. From the aerial photo, you can see our lodge, campground, trails, skills area, pump track, ridge deck, office/camp store and the woods we call home. Book a bunk in our lodge or pitch a tent in our campground, and ride around our trails or venture onto the Whitefish Trail System, encompassing 42 miles of natural surface trails with 12 trail-heads. The WBR crew is here to help you navigate the trails and find your way around this exceptionally scenic part of Montana.

WBR also offers day adventures. Rent a mountain bike trail-side so you can ride the Whitefish Trail without having to transport your own bike to a trailhead. When you’re finished with your ride, feel free to come back and hang out with us, and share your stories from the day. Grab a pint of our favorite local ice cream at Sweet Peaks, and recover in one of our hammocks to top off a day well spent.

Bikepacking on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

For those of you looking to venture further out on a longer ride, plan a bikepacking adventure where you are limited only by the time you have available. We offer mountain bike and bikepacking bag rentals, so all you need to bring is your gear and sense of adventure. We can help you pack a bike, find a route to explore and shuttle you to the trailhead, or pick you up when you’re finished.

Embark on the ultimate adventure. WBR is located near the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which is the longest off-pavement bicycle route in the world, starting from Banff in Alberta, Canada, crisscrossing the Continental Divide and ending in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Riders on the Whitefish Trail.

Fat biking around Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Biking isn’t reserved for the warmer months. Winter offers load of fun. Join us for a snowy winter-wonderland adventure. Our lodge is open year-round, with groomed fat bike trails stretching from the front door out into and around the Beaver Lake area. These winter trails are shared with snowshoers, cross-country skiers and fat bike trail enthusiasts. Our lodge offers guests easy access to winter activities and a comfy place to end the day with family and friends, warming up in the wood-fired sauna.

Wood-fired sauna for guests.

Getting here is easy. For those of you flying into our closest airport, Glacier Park International (FCA) in Kalispell, we offer a shuttle. Amtrak rail service running from Seattle or Portland to Chicago passes right through our region, with a stop in Whitefish, and we are happy to offer a shuttle from the train depot. During our office hours, we offer free town shuttles to get guests back and forth between WBR and Whitefish, where you can take advantage of buses to Glacier National Park or Whitefish Mountain Resort, or enjoy downtown Whitefish—one of the friendliest towns in the West, with an array of shops, galleries and eateries.

Shuttle drop-off for riders.

For more information on biking adventures in Western Montana, visit our website at
www.whitefishbikeretreat.com or give us a call at 406.260.0274.

SLEEP – WAKE – RIDE – FIND ADVENTURE

Cricket

Cricket – owner of Whitefish Bike Retreat.

Cricket Butler moved to Whitefish 2012 and opened the Whitefish Bike Retreat (WBR) in 2013.  She has a long history of cycling and adventuring including long distance hiking and kayaking to mountaineering and knows how to cater to visitors looking for an active vacation.  Her love for Montana and passion for cycling shows in what she has created and helps others find their own adventure in beautiful Northwest Montana.