A Flathead Valley Nordic Ski Guide

With snow finally covering the lowlands, Nordic groomers are out before dawn grooming a winter wonderland for skiers of all stripes

By Micah Drew
Skiers compete in the Glacier Glide ski races in Whitefish on Jan. 4, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Glacier Nordic Club

The Glacier Nordic Club (GNC) is the valley’s premier cross country skiing entity, offering learn-to-ski classes, moderate and advanced adult training courses, competitive youth programs, and community races. GNC will be hosting a free ski day on. Jan. 21, with free classic ski lessons at the Glacier Nordic Center.

The GNC is also responsible for grooming four separate trail systems in the north valley, plus a PE loop at Muldown Elementary School, and conveniently offers daily grooming updates on X, formerly Twitter, as well as on Nordic Pulse, an app that maps live trail conditions at ski areas around the country.

Skiers can become members of the Glacier Nordic Club, which functions as a season pass to access the Glacier Nordic Center in Whitefish and Meadow Lake Golf Course in Columbia Falls. Adult membership is $99; family membership is $189; and 70+ skiers are just $49. See below for site-specific details and day pricing.

Freshly groomed track in Whitefish. Photo courtesy of Glacier Nordic Club

Glacier Nordic Center
1200 U.S. Highway 93, Whitefish

Conveniently located just a mile from downtown Whitefish, the Glacier Nordic Center at the Whitefish Lake Golf Course offers 12 kilometers of groomed trails for skate and classic skiing. About 4 kilometers are lit at night so skiers can glide from sundown until 10 p.m. The trails are maintained and groomed by the Glacier Nordic Center, which also runs the Glacier Nordic Shop where people can rent gear, get their skis waxed and purchase day or season passes. Adult day passes are $20; children, teen, senior and veteran day passes are $10; folks below the age of 7 ski free. 

Big Mountain Nordic Trails
3315 Big Mountain Road, Whitefish

On the slopes of Big Mountain, the Glacier Nordic Club maintains more than two-dozen kilometers of trail through the forest in collaboration with the Iron Horse Golf Club. This year, the club will again be using its Bombardier 275 snowcat groomer, aka “Kirby,” purchased with a grant from the Montana Department of Commerce, which will help transform the trails into a river of corduroy most mornings by 9 a.m. Access to the trails is from Big Mountain Road and at the trailhead off Haskill Basin Road. There is no fee to ski on the trails; however, donations to the Glacier Nordic Club help keep it maintained. 

Meadow Lake Nordic Trails
100 St. Andrews Drive, Columbia Falls

The Glacier Nordic Club also maintains the trails at Meadow Lake Resort near Columbia Falls, about a mile north of U.S. Highway 2. The 6-kilometer trail is mostly flat with a few gently rolling hills that are perfect for skiers of all ages and ability. An adult day passes costs $20; children, teen and senior passes are $10; folks below the age of 7 ski free. Passes can be purchased at the Meadow Lake Resort Center. The trails are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Round Meadow Trails
Star Meadows Road, Tally Lake

The final stretch of terrain maintained by the Glacier Nordic Club is located on the Tally Lake Ranger District northwest of Whitefish. The trail has seven different loops for a total of 12 miles of easy and advanced terrain that is regularly groomed by the Glacier Nordic Club.
For more information visit www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/flathead/recarea/?recid=67110 and glaciernordicclub.org.

Glacier Nordic Club groomer. Courtesy photo

North Shore Nordic Club

The North Shore Nordic Club has maintained two systems of ski trails in the lower Flathead Valley for 12 years, in partnership with the Swan River Ranger District and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.

Blacktail Nordic Trails
Multiple access points along Blacktail Road, 8 miles from Lakeside

Located on the south face of Blacktail Mountain, about 8 miles above the community of Lakeside, this 25-kilometer trail system is maintained by the North Shore Nordic Club. The well-maintained trails offer skiers great views of Flathead Lake and the Mission Mountains. Snowmobiles, ATVs and other motorized vehicles, and fat bikes are not allowed, but dogs are. Printable trail maps are available on North Shore Nordic Club’s website. There is no fee to use the trail, but donations are always accepted.

Bigfork Community Nordic Center
4643 Foothill Road, Bigfork

The Bigfork Community Nordic Center has 10 kilometers of trail off Foothill Road, not far from the Jewel Basin, with a wide variety of terrain perfect for skiers of all levels. The trail is on State Trust Land and therefore a valid Montana Recreational Use License is required (permits are $10 for individuals, $20 for families and $5 for people under the age of 17 or over the age of 60. They can be purchased from any authorized Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks license agent). Dogs are not allowed.

Dog Creek Nordic Center
8775 U.S. Highway 93, Olney

Located three miles north of Olney, the Dog Creek Lodge and Nordic Center features 27 kilometers of groomed trail on private and public land (specifically the Stillwater State Forest). The Nordic Center offers ski, snowshoe and fat bike rentals, and the Dog Creek Lodge Restaurant and Bar offers breakfast and coffee for a pre-ski pick-me-up, and wood-fired pizzas to warm up with after hitting the trails.

Dogs are welcome on the trail, but require their own four-legged pass ($5/day or $20/season) and owners are asked to make sure their animals are fixed, friendly and that they are picked up after. Adult day passes are $22, youth ages 12 to 17 pay $12 and 11 and under ski free. Lodge guests also ski free. Season passes are available for $100 for individuals and $190 for families.

Izaak Walton Inn
290 Izaak Walton Inn Road, Essex

Located on the southern edge of Glacier National Park, the historic Izaak Walton Inn is the access point for 30 kilometers of trail through the Flathead National Forest that are perfect for skiers of all abilities. While the historic lodge is closed this winter as its new owners work on renovations, the trails will be groomed by long-time Izaak Walton Inn employee Michael Reavis every Friday.

For additional information about all of the cross country skiing opportunities in the Flathead Valley and beyond, visit the XC Skiers of the Flathead Valley MT Facebook page.

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