There’s something infinitely satisfying about the exhilaration of charging steep lines, lapping lifts bell-to-bell and laughing through face shots with friends — an unrivaled mix of adrenaline, exhaustion and unadulterated fun that every powder hound seeks out with gusto.
And yet, it just wouldn’t be the same without the allure of the après, an enticing end-of-the-day incentive looming just beyond the next roller, promising decadent rewards and rich returns.
The post-ski ritual of boozing, mingling and chowing down that occurs when the lifts stop spinning is engrained in ski culture, and it’s as integral to wrapping up a solid day of stoke as unbuckling your boots.
Here are some of our favorite après options, depending on the mood, the time of night and where you’re at in the Flathead Valley.
Leave Your Boots On
Besides serving up some of the best skiing in the Pacific Northwest, Whitefish Mountain Resort on Big Mountain features a raucous roster of eateries and bars that will prop you up once your legs start to wobble, whether you’re craving an afternoon toddy or a post-ski pitcher of craft beer and a plate of nachos.
There’s no way to avoid placing this mainstay of mountain culture at the top of any list, particularly given all that Big Mountain’s inaugural watering hole has endured.
Having survived fire and financial straits and the quaking of thousands of dancing ski boots, the ‘Stube is nearing the end of an exterior facelift that includes new siding, doors, windows, a roof, and a deck. It’s all part of a long-term lease agreement that owner Scott McIntosh says ensures that ‘Stubers can keep on ‘Stubin’ for years to come.
It’s de rigueur for any powder day to end at the Bierstube, so when the lifts stop spinning, unbuckle your boots and bend an elbow.
Hellroaring Saloon and Eatery
The oldest structure on Big Mountain, this classic chalet was built by Ed Schuele in 1949, when Whitefish’s ski resort was barely two years old. It has since evolved from the first base lodge and the Rocky Mountain Chalet to its longstanding identity as Hellroaring Saloon and Eatery.
Anyone eager for a lunch break can ski right up to the door, sidle up and enjoy the famous mountainous pile of nachos. Stick around for drinks, and enjoy the timeless photographs that adorn its walls.
Ed and Mully’s
Like its Bierstube brethren a snowball’s throw away, this classic slope-side eatery is also entering the 2017-18 ski season with major upgrades, which will not only brighten the mountain’s upper village, but will illuminate the bar and restaurant’s delicious menu, featuring all manner of delicious sandwiches and appetizers.
Named in homage to visionary Big Mountain founder Ed Schenck and the “Father of Skiing” Lloyd “Mully” Muldown, Ed and Mully’s dishes up a living history of this quirky, unique resort.
Whether you’re in search of a roaring fireplace and a high-octane pint of locally crafted beer to warm your core, or a hot cocktail featuring house-distilled spirits to suffuse the soul, downtown Whitefish has you covered. Meanwhile, you won’t want to miss out on the community of Lakeside down the road, with breathtaking views of Flathead Lake, a blue-ribbon brewery and a ski resort all unto its own with Blacktail Mountain Ski Area.
Spotted Bear Spirits
A hot drink is a key constituent in the ambient armor we don every year to ward off a spirit-sucking Rocky Mountain winter, and Spotted Bear Spirits in downtown Whitefish has all the cures to whatever ails you.
We urge you to check out the Powder Day, a hot seasonal drink built with peppermint tea, organic cacao powder, the distillery’s signature Confluence Vodka, a pinch of sugar, and whipped cream from Kalispell Kreamery.
Garnished with a mint leaf and grated organic milk chocolate, the Powder Day looks as good as it tastes.
Great Northern Brewing Co.
Heading down from Big Mountain, the Great Northern Brewing Co.’s striking building is the first prominence to greet you as you pull into downtown Whitefish.
Walk through the door, and its massive gas fireplace, cozy couches and friendly bar staff will offer assurances that you’ve made the correct choice, while the brewery’s upstairs twin balconies and yards of house-made craft beer on tap will keep you coming back.
This Cajun-themed eatery is known for its creative eats, as well as a dusky, welcoming atmosphere that is reminiscent of a Bourbon Street blues bar.
But its menu of craft cocktails makes it truly special.
Warm up after a ski day with the Grand Manner, a flavorful liqueur cocktail built in a pre-heated mug with Grand Marnier, Ruby Port, Spotted Bear Coffee Liqueur, and a dash of Scrappy’s Aromatic Bitters.
Tamarack Brewing Company
We can’t say enough about this Lakeside staple, which offers a consistent suite of delicious craft beer and rotating seasonal taps, plus a two-sided, wood-burning fireplace. The brick hearth and chimney is Tamarack’s lambent centerpiece, and adding to the brewery’s cachet is its close proximity to Blacktail Mountain Ski Area.
You’re hungry. We get it. Here are a few options to slake your appetite at an affordable price.
When the Cuisine Machine’s Tim Good took over at the helm of the former Haskill Station, there was little doubt that his well-known food-truck chops would integrate seamlessly with the brick-and-mortar establishment at the base of Big Mountain Road.
And while Good changed little but the name — it’s now called Last Chair — he added a host of new favorites to the menu while maintaining a friendly and efficient staff, affordable prices and offering beer and wine.
Whether you’ve just finished indulging in a seven-course meal at Café Kandahar or prefer sipping in your snow pants, a stop at the Snug Bar is mandatory.
Not only are its delicious eats less cost-prohibitive from the adjacent Kandahar, which is among the best restaurants in Montana, but the sumptuous wood-burning fireplace in the lodge’s lobby, situated just below Whitefish Mountain Resort’s upper village, is flanked with bookshelves, historic framed photos and comfy couches that will make all your après-ski fantasies come true.
Bonsai Brewing Project
Although we started frequenting this can’t-miss brewery strictly for its microbrews and amazing staff, the addition of chef Paul Meier has since put its menu on the map.
Creative, evolving and designed to feature local ingredients, the menu features staples like grilled kebabs of chicken, grilled ahi tuna or beef, which are also available as a pub rice bowl, as well as a brewer’s gumbo of wine-barrel smoked chicken and Andouille sausage.
Featuring traditional Puerto Rican and Cuban fare with a blue-collar flair, Mama Blanca’s is Latin fusion at its best.
Whether you’re craving Mexican-style grilled corn, authentic Cuban sandwiches or shrimp Diablo, this eatery in downtown Whitefish will keep you fed from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily.