After Crystal Crawford went on Thirst Gear’s last tour in Missoula in 2020 where she and a group of friends pedaled a trolly from bar to bar, she was determined to start a similar business in the Flathead Valley. A year later, she bought the exact same trolley and launched Glacier Gears and Beers in Kalispell.
“I kept saying, ‘Why doesn’t the Flathead have this?’ It’s so fun and it’s a time sucker for people traveling,” Crawford said. “I really wanted to do something different that we didn’t have.”
Crawford started running tours in June, offering private and public tours with a sober driver for groups of a maximum size of 15 who plan their own route across downtown Kalispell to visit the local watering holes. The trolley is equipped with festive lights and a speaker. The tour starts and ends at Roadhouse Bar and Casino, formerly Scotty’s Bar.
The tours are two-and-a-half hours long running Wednesday through Sunday. Weekday tours are at 5:30 p.m. and there are two on the weekends at 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. The trolley has no motor and is completely human powered. Cups with lids are provided on the trolley and alcohol consumption is allowed because it’s classified like a limousine or taxi since the driver is sober.
After her first tour of college students who hailed from Montana Technological University out of Butte, Crawford realized she had to establish some rules, which now include no jumping off the trolley. Occupants can drink while riding, but glass is prohibited, and they can’t exit with a beverage because it would be an open container.
Crawford says the trolley gets a booking every time it’s out for a tour from someone who sees it heading down the road, and Kalispell has been receptive to the mobile party, with drivers honking in support.
“It’s been really fun and people are really excited about it,” Crawford said.
The trolley taps out at about five miles per hour, fits perfectly in the bicycle lane on U.S. Highway 93 and the driver controls the brakes.
Crawford originally designed the routes to focus on the craft brewery scene, but she soon realized people would rather choose their own and patrons often stop at Moose’s Saloon or Casa Mexico for dinner.
While many of the parties pedal for a classic booze cruise, Crawford says the routes can be adapted for other stops, too. She had one party request a three-stop tapas tour for appetizers and another party of kids went to Frugals for ice cream and stopped at the park.
“It may say beer in the name, but it doesn’t have to be about drinking,” Crawford said.
Crawford hopes to expand Glacier Gears and Beers to other areas of the Flathead, including Whitefish, but she says she will need to buy another trolley with a motor to offer a pedal assist to go uphill and ride across the viaduct.
In addition to the trolley, she wants to set up a floating pedal pub, which could entail tours in Bigfork Bay or on Whitefish Lake in a pontoon boat with pedals.
“I really want to branch out into the water,” Crawford said. “That’s all the rage I’ve seen in cities. Maybe next year I want to expand into a paddle pub.”
For more information, visit www.glaciergears.com.
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