WHITEFISH – Dale Duff was teaching school in Eureka in the 1970s when his father, Roy Duff, called him one day with a proposal.
Roy was going to run for Flathead County commissioner and wanted some campaign assistance from his son. He already had plenty on his plate, namely ownership of Rocky Mountain Transportation.
“He told me, ‘If I’m successful, I’ll sell (the transportation company) to you,’” Dale recalls. “‘If I’m not, we’ll go into business together.’”
Roy lost. That was the end of Dale’s teaching career and the beginning of his partnership with his father. By the 1980s, Dale had bought out the whole business from his father and taken on full ownership.
Whitefish-based Rocky Mountain Transportation has come a long away since its modest beginnings in 1946, when the entrepreneurial Roy Duff was one of many men and women across the nation finding their way in the business world following World War II.
“This was a great little town after World War II,” Dale Duff said of Whitefish. “And there was a great generation of guys, entrepreneurs.”
Roy Duff’s original business, Whitefish Taxi, initially offered 24-hour taxi service and eventually added a tow truck, a school bus contract and a Hertz rental car franchise. Dale Duff said the rental business is Hertz’s oldest franchise operating in the nation. During the busy summer months, Duff said Rocky Mountain Transportation offers more than 300 rental cars.
The younger Duff speaks with great respect of his late father, who passed away a couple of years ago and paved the way for Rocky Mountain Transportation’s success today. Duff said his father was a two-term mayor, director of Big Mountain Resort, a city councilor and a member of the fire department, among other titles. The Roy Duff Memorial Armory is named in his honor.
“One guy had all of this going on,” Duff said. “Tom Brokaw said this was the greatest generation and I really believe that.”
Duff himself has plenty going on today too. Rocky Mountain Transportation, in addition to its Hertz car line, operates 16 buses for local schools, four transit coaches, six motor coaches and several vans. The motor coaches fit between 47 and 55 passengers, Duff said. The company also recently acquired a 14-passenger 1936 White Motor Company bus and an eight-passenger 1927 Cadillac, which is on display at the airport.
Tour operators, local businesses, conventions and other groups hire Rocky Mountain Transportation to charter groups to and from events and on sightseeing tours. Duff said the company has about 30 drivers who travel throughout Montana, Canada and elsewhere in the nation.
The agency also works closely with Glacier Park International Airport, Glacier National Park, Amtrak and Whitefish Mountain Resort, providing the SNOW Bus shuttle service for the resort. Duff said his company contracts with the U.S. Forest Service to transport firefighters and carries Montana Army National Guard soldiers to Helena for training.
“We’re a pretty diversified transportation company,” Duff said.
Including office staff, mechanics and drivers, Rocky Mountain Transportation has 65 employees altogether.
“I’m so very, very fortunate to have such good people here,” Duff said.
Rocky Mountain Transportation was originally located in downtown Whitefish, but as its fleet grew it became necessary to move. Around the time Duff partnered with his father in 1976, the company moved to its current location on East Edgewood Drive. The current facility has a maintenance shop, offices and storage.
“It’s an active place,” Duff said. “There’s a lot going on seven days a week.”