A Guide to the Nordic Glide

In the Flathead Valley, classic and skate cross-country ski adventures abound

By Tristan Scott
Skiers cruise the nordic trails on Blacktail Mountain. Beacon File Photo

Whether you’re looking for a leisurely backcountry tour after work, a glide along the rolling network of illuminated loops at the Whitefish Lake Golf Club, a leg-burning ascent from Haskill Basin to the base of Big Mountain, or an abundance of trails along the north shore of Flathead Lake, the options are ample for Nordic skiers of all levels and abilities.

Here is a flurry of opportunities right in your backyard.

Glacier Nordic Center at Whitefish Lake Golf Club

Likely the most popular groomed Nordic ski area in the Flathead Valley, the Glacier Nordic Center maintains 13 kilometers of trails for both skate skiing and classic techniques, located at the Whitefish Lake Golf Club, one mile west of downtown Whitefish on U.S. Highway 93 West.

Luminaries line 4 kilometers of trail for night skiing — all night, every night — affording skiers the cold, quiet comforts of kicking and gliding or diagonal striding along snow-covered trails in the winter darkness.

The trails meander along the 36-hole Whitefish Lake Golf Club, with loops located on both the north and south sides of the highway.

Ron and Jan Brunk, owners of Glacier Cyclery and Nordic, are the go-to gurus for gear and information. Or stop in at their Nordic Shop, located at the clubhouse parking lot. It opens when the snow flies and grooming begins.

Dogs aren’t allowed, and the cost is $10 per day, $65 for an individual season pass and $130 for a family.

Grooming updates are available at glaciernordicclub.com, or call Glacier Cyclery and Nordic at (406) 862-6446.

Big Mountain Nordic Trails

More than 23 kilometers of groomed trails begin at the far end of the first Willow Lot near the base lodge of Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain.

Skiers can skate ski on the carpet of corduroy or kick and glide on the classic track. Glacier Nordic Club is providing new signage and maps as the popularity of these trails continues to grow. The trails will lead skiers to loops at the base of Big Mountain, out to Iron Horse Golf Club or into Haskill Basin.

Your Glacier Nordic and Ski Club membership fee funds the grooming duties, and dogs are permitted on the course.

Visit Glacier Cyclery and Nordic for gear and information, and find grooming updates at glaciernordicclub.com

Blacktail Mountain Nordic Trails

Located three miles down the road from the Blacktail Ski Area’s alpine resort, the North Shore Nordic Club is responsible for maintaining these trails, which are often the first to open and the last to close.

The ski area is easy to access from U.S. Highway 93 South. Look for signs and turn west at Blacktail Grocery, then follow the Blacktail Road for 14 miles to the mountaintop. The quality of the grooming is due to volunteer work by the North Shore Nordic Club, which is entirely funded by donations.

For grooming updates, visit northshorenordic.com.

Bigfork Community Nordic Ski Trails

This expanding trail network is located on Montana State land at the corner of Foothills Road and Jewel Basin Road, and features 6 kilometers of flat and gently rolling terrain groomed five days per week.

The North Shore Nordic Club also established and maintains these trails and grooms them entirely by volunteer work. The club leases the trail system from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, as the land is state school trust land.

The DNRC has approved the club’s plan to double the Nordic center’s trail system from 6 kilometers to 12 kilometer’s, and the club is awaiting final approval.

Unlike most of the Nordic trail systems in the valley, both trail systems are free and open to the public. The club relies on donations, but for day-to-day skiing people can just show up, ski, and enjoy themselves.

Izaak Walton Inn

Situated at the southern tip of Glacier National Park, the Izaak Walton Inn’s 33 kilometers of groomed trails meander through a forested valley in the Flathead National Forest, along Dickey and Essex Creeks.

Because the Izaak Walton sits in the so-called “snow belt,” it often has up to a foot more of snow accumulations than trails nearby.

Check in with the staff at the Izaak by calling (406) 888-5700. A day pass costs $10 and some of the trails are dog friendly. The inn is located at 290 Izaak Walton Inn Road, and grooming updates are available at www.izaakwaltoninn.com.

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