Whitefish Logo

March 2-9, 2014

   Let’s just get the jokes out of the way right off the bat!  Early in the week the fog hung thick over Big Mountain, making seeing and skiing a challenge.  “Ski the Fish” became “Ski the Fog”,  “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” was immediately adapted as official song of the trip and the orange “Foggipops” were everyone’s new favorite word.  But a little inclement weather was never going to get the best of this group!  Nope; if we can’t ski, we just divert all that extra energy into partying, and we did plenty of that. 

But there were plenty of positives about this amazing resort that more than offset the few low visibility days.  First of all, we were excited to have 8 new club members on the trip.  Welcome Allie, Anne, Doug, Michelle, Maria, Duane, Jackie and Lowell! Power Skiing Super Senior Bobby Jones got to ski for free.  Couple that with our military retirees being able to ski and rent for half price and you’ve got yourself a bargain.  I rented skis for 6 days for $87!  The Learn to Ski/Board lessons and the private lessons were practically free compared to high-end resorts like Aspen, and everywhere you were surrounded by genuinely nice people.  Rides to the village of Whitefish were easy and complimentary via the S.N.O.W. bus.  The famed Snow Ghosts and deep snow evoked a comment from Karen that the landscape looked like a cross between the Grinch’s Whoville and Star Wars’ Planet Hoth.  It was truly breathtaking!  The Kandahar Lodge, a ski-in to the door property, featured a wonderful, large, well-appointed lobby with a huge stone fireplace, where many of us camped out for much of the week.  That, along with its daily breakfast, daily housekeeping, bar, first-class restaurant, sauna, exercise room, and amazing outdoor hot tub, rivaled any European lodge you could find.  Top all of that off with the majestic mountains, views of Glacier National Park & Whitefish Lake, thousands of acres of terrain and 360 degrees of trails from the summit and you’ve got yourself a winner. Even Jesus was there between the Heaven and Hellroaring runs! 

Now let’s back it up a bit, and take a look at the trip from the beginning.
The first unfortunate incident preceded the trip.  A snow snake in a gully at Wisp ambushed Val Mills the weekend prior to our Two Nation Vacation, fracturing her tibia.  This necessitated her swapping out her skiing for some surgery.  We all missed your smiling face, Val, and wish you a complete and speedy recovery.

Our first surprise of the trip was boarding our flight to find Bill Harrison sitting in the front row of the plane.  I thought it was a stealth plan on his part to secretly join the trip, but turns out he was heading to Utah to ski with his family.  Hope he had a great time and will bring them all along with us next year.

Leaving BWI at O-dark-thirty was nothing new for HSC, but the 5-hour layover in SLC was an unusual and unwelcome development.  Undaunted, many of the group found their way to the Squatters Pub for a few rounds of adult libations and some breakfast.  Not that eating breakfast tacos was ever on my bucket list, but I have now checked it off.  The short flight to Kalispell was uneventful, and all of our luggage actually arrived.  A quick stop for food and booze followed, with an arrival at the Kandahar Lodge around 6p.m.  With bags delivered to our rooms by the super-friendly staff, many of the group headed up the hill to check out the Bierstube for a quick bite.  Five of us checking into rooms in the West Wing were chatting in the hall when a weary woman opened the door to inquire as to whether or not we planned to party in the hall all night.  Apparently we were preceded by a group of rowdy Canadians who had spent the previous few evenings drinking and vomiting alternately in the hall and the hot tub.  We quietly slipped inside our rooms.

Monday morning saw most of the group down for early breakfast in the lodge.guide in fog  Skiing the lower mountain seemed like the best plan of attack, given the near whiteout conditions on the summit.  A few took lessons in the morning.  The more ambitious participants headed to the top and soon became aware of and enamored by the orange fog balls, which we quickly renamed “Foggipops”.  If you strained real hard, you could just see from one to the next, which guided you down the mountain until you emerged from the fog.  No tree skiing took place on this day, except for Steve, who was under the tutelage of an instructor for the day!  With all of the fresh snowfall overnight, the powder was amazing.

The Kandahar Lodge hosted a Welcome Party in the evening, providing snacks, drinks from the Snug Bar and a few speakers.  Jennifer gave us some pointers on the lodge, some options for fun things to do on a non-ski day and tips about the resort itself.  She was followed by a rep from the snowmobiling company on the mountain and a Whitefish Ambassador.  It was the first of several delightful evenings gathered around the fireplace in the lobby.

Great grooming and better visibility in the afternoon made day two more encouraging.  Many took advantage of the free guided tours of the mountain offered by the Ambassadors.Whitefish Ski Day  (This would play a crucial role in Anne’s misadventure later in the week.  Stay tuned for more on that.)  Again, a group of us took advantage of the great deal on private lessons and had Betka work on some of our bad habits.  She was wonderful, quickly diagnosing our individual quirks and giving each of us exercises to fit our needs.  Observers may have mistaken Candy, Joyce, Susan and I for monks as we skied down the mountain with no poles and our hands in a prayerful position in front of us.  Candy even threw in a “Namaste” or two.  Hanns was apparently the teacher’s pet, as he was allowed to keep his poles.  Towards the end of the lesson, Susan may have become somewhat bored, as she decided to get up close & personal with Joyce, doing a bit of a bump and grind.  Betka did not approve, but we thought it was funny.  Gary Mills unwisely opted to take what he thought would be a quick dip through the woods and back to join the others on the trail.  Instead, he found himself standing next to a sign that said “cliff” followed by a long trek through the trees.  But as Kelly Clarkson says, whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.  Not the last time in this report when I will need to use those words – read on.

Tuesday evening found many of the gang donning their beads and masks before heading to the village of Whitefish for some Mardi Gras shenanigans.  Taking our cue from the aforementioned weary woman’s tale of Canadian cavorting, Doug, Michelle, Bill, Rick, Susan, Hanns and I decided to pass ourselves off as Canadians, eh?  (Which brings to mind the song from the South Park movie – Blame Canada.)  WhitefishOnly a half block from the bus stop, we spied a pub that shall remain unnamed.  The location was encouragement enough, but the sign in the window, which declared “$3 Hurricanes,” cemented the deal with no further discussion needed.  We toppled thru the door to a pirate-themed party, and cozied up to a long table that was occupied by two nice youngsters who had been enjoying a quiet evening.  You might ask yourself, “How good could a $3 Hurricane actually be?”.  At the unnamed to protect the not-so-innocent pub, the answer is “excellent.”   By round two of the Mardi Gras specialty, we had the nice couple drinking them with us.  The establishment only had 10 of the special glasses, so we had to take them back to the bar for refills – toss, rinse, refill.  On round three, they seemed to forget the toss & rinse part, leaving us to discover previously neglected fruit, or rinds from previously eaten fruit in our glasses.  Luckily, we were all good friends and nobody caught any cooties.  The food was delicious, and once again we were surprised by how cheaply such a fun time could be had in Montana.  Next door at the Crush Lounge, Allie, Steve and Rob were also celebrating Fat Tuesday in style with Gumbo, Jambalaya, Huckleberry Margaritas and other various adult drinks.

Steve and Allie spent Wednesday “travelling at the speed of dog” at Montana Dogsled Adventures.  While a misread bus schedule and a misleading car rental ad made getting to the site an adventure in itself, they had a fantastic time careening around an 11-mile loop through the forest.  Watching dogs vie to be picked was almost as much fun as the ride itself, as each of the 125 animals on site howled their own version of “pick me – pick me”.  Eleven dogs were eventually hooked up, Allie and Steve were loaded into a very comfortable sled, and then they were off!  A truly excellent experience – the sled even caught some air a couple of times. 

Fernie Ski ResortMeanwhile, 20 of HSC’s more daring fellows climbed aboard a bus and headed for Fernie resort in British Columbia.  Falsely secure in the knowledge that a full passenger manifest had been faxed to both the U.S. and Canadian customs offices a week earlier, we bounded towards the border – and then it began. It seems as though the manifest is no longer required by Canada, eh, and therefore is ignored.  One of our own needed to be questioned about a teenage prank that happened back in his youth.  That’s right, folks, no pranksters allowed in Canada.  While he was enduring the equivalent of being in the principal’s office, American Scoundrel #2, Big Bad Bobby Jones,Fernie Ski Outfits was pulled from the bus to prove that he was not the felon Robert Phillip Jones of Canada who was on the loose.  Bobby was required to remove his jacket and pull up his sleeves.   Thankfully, his only tattoo is NOT on his forearm.  #1 was deemed admissible, and we were allowed to enter the Great White North. Arriving shortly at Fernie, we were given ski pins, lift tickets and rain ponchos.  Yup, it was raining cats and dogs at the base of the mountain.  Most of the group took advantage of the ski ambassadors for a few guided runs.  Apparently challenged by the “steep and deep” at the summit, Bill G and Anne attempted the double luge down one of the slopes.  The wet snow was definitely grabbing at our skis.  Down below, it was like plowing cement.  For the less determined, the local restaurants were more than accommodating, serving up hot soup, burgers and local brews.  Anne and Michelle were the real troopers that day, making more runs than the rest of us.  Anne even had to stop for a bandage on her chin midday.  (First effort of the new girl to try to impress upon us how tough she is).  Returning to the U. S. was much quicker and much funnier.  When Bobby was again singled out and asked if he had ever lived in Canada, his quick reply of “No, and I don’t have any tattoos, either” brought a round of laughter from both his friends and the Border Officer.  She asked where he did live, and replied with an equally witty “Well, yaba daba doo” to his answer of Flintstone.  We stopped off at the First and Last Chance bar and restaurant for a quick use of the “facility” and purchase of some Huckleberry Vodka – one of the many specialties that feature the tart local berries. husband day care It was also here that we belatedly noticed the clever sign for Husband Day Care – leave him with us and just pay his bar bill.  The remainder of the trip was uneventful, and we were treated to a great view of Whitefish Resort as we headed back to the lodge.  That evening, a party broke out around the fireplace once again, and I understand that some trash talking and huckleberry vodka shots took place.  At any rate, it seems that nobody wanted anything Huckleberry flavored for the rest of the week.

Most of us made Thursday our non-ski day of rest.  For those on the mountain, the sun broke through and offered up the best day of skiing/riding so far.  Visibility up top made glade skiing and the more challenging runs a viable option.  Others did some “retail therapy” or window-shopping in town. 

Ed and Mully’s was the site of our group dinner that evening.Bob's Tattoo   Appetizers were followed by a delicious spread of pizza, spaghetti, salad and breadsticks.  Everyone mingled, showed pictures and swapped stories.  Some took to the pool tables for a friendly rivalry.  I thought that I could heckle Bobby Jones by presenting him with a fake tattoo, but he had beaten me to the punch and was already inked up with a “skull and crossbones”, plus a “Mom” tribute on his upper arm.

One of the many nice amenities of the Kandahar was their heated boot room that adjoined the ski room.  At least, it seemed really nice until Friday morning when The Dogg’s boots went missing.  (Song reference #3 – These Boots Were Made for Walking”.)    After notifying the Kandahar Kops, and searching the area, Gary headed down to rent some boots and hit the mountain.  For such a large mountain, it was surprising how often we encountered other members of HSC on the slopes.  Such as when Gary was waiting in line behind Jim, and noticed that something about Jim’s boots looked very familiar.  Mystery solved.  Seems Jim was renting boots, and they had been moved around.  Well, he was the only one to get to demo two pairs of boots.   After the boot swap, Gary and Rob headed into the woods, followed by Anne.  She didn’t know that rule #1 is to never follow Gary.  Three went into the woods, and only two came out.  After 20 minutes of looking for Anne, the guys decided she had turned back, which was in fact what she had intended to do.  However, her ski got too close to a tree well, and she was sucked in up to her shoulders.  Fortunately, she remembered the ski patrol telling them that their phone number was on the lift ticket.  Calmly, she made the call to them and waited.  After 45 minutes of terror, she flagged down a 13 year old snowboarder named Evan.  His father soon joined them and began to dig Anne out.  Finally, with corrected location given to the ski patrol, they came and got Anne back to a run.  We are all so thankful that this ended without tragedy.  

Meanwhile, The Dogg wasn’t the only one with accessory issues that day.  Seems Susan departed the room without bothering to put on her ski pants.  She was in the boot room with one all buckled up before she noticed a draft.  Hmmm, what is worse than putting on your ski boots in the morning?  Oh yes, having to do it twice. 

We seemed to occupy a rotating table at lunch that day.  Every time some of us got up to leave, more came in the door to grab their seats.  Great way to avoid the dreaded seat search at peak food hours.

Sunshine!  Real, true, shadow-casting sunshine arrived on Saturday.  We had peeks of it for several days before, but this was almost a Bluebird Day all day long.  Combined with the fresh snow, it made for a quintessential ski day, and a perfect ending to the week.Whitefish Snow Ghosts  We topped it off by returning once again to the lobby for an “Eat & Drink the Leftovers Party”.  Everyone was in attendance except Tim, who had to leave a day early. (As it turned out, he spent 17 hours trying to get home early, with 11 of them spent at Kalispell.  Seems his Alaska flight was canx due to frozen brakes.)   I think there must have been about 2 bags of chips per person left over.  Allie made and Steve hauled in enough pasta for almost the entire club.  Bill and Doug spent part of the evening trying to recruit young Rachel and Steven from Portland, who we surrounded by the club when we took over the lobby.  They were stuck waiting for transportation (maybe on our bus?) around the avalanche zone to get their delayed Amtrak train back home.  We successfully obtained their contact information and will hopefully co-opt them into our group as the Oregon Chapter of HSC (like our chapter from Minnesota) for future trips.  When I checked at the front desk to make sure we were not being too noisy, the reply was “Not at all.  In fact, you are one of the nicest groups we have had.”  I felt like a proud mama lion.

Everyone remembered to turn forward their clocks on Saturday night, and dutifully had their luggage in the hallway in the morning.  What could possibly go wrong this late in the game? yellow school bus Avalanches, that’s what.  When they have an avalanche next door in Glacier National Park, they are not allowed to take Amtrak passengers through there for 48 hours.  So all of the coaches belonging to our contractor were diverted to carry them around the park and put them back on the train in Whitefish.  How did we get to the airport you ask?  Cheese Wagon.  Yep, we all got on the school bus for a trip down memory lane.  After admonishing my group to stay in their seats and keep their hands to themselves, we chugged up the highway for 20 minutes, followed by a van carrying our bags.  Check in was going smoothly when they started asking us if any of us wanted to give up our seats because they were oversold by 5 passengers.   Then by 7.  Then by 5.   When they finally upped the ante to $600 per person, free dinner, free hotel and upgrade to first class the next morning, several of us stampeded to the counter to take them up on their offer.  We began to board, and suddenly, they didn’t need us to stay behind.  Turns out there were a few empty seats.  Who taught them to count?
(D.E.L.T.A. = Didn’t Ever Learn Tricky Arithmetic???)

We dropped off the three members of our Minnesota Chapter HSC at the MSP airport and hustled to get some food and catch the plane home.  First time ever, a friendly cart driver stopped and offered Hanns, Anne and I a ride.  Sometimes its good to be old – not you, Anne.  Once again we were blessed with the arrival of all luggage, and the merry band disbanded.

A quick postscript, as there were reportedly several “lift-scapades” throughout the week.  Kim is reported to have fallen off a lift.  I bet that was the first time in many years!  (Linda, who admits that she almost took out Rick herself as they were loading, ratted Kim out.) Then there was an unnamed lady who duly impressed the instructor by falling off the lift as a dramatic start to the lesson – also the first falling dismount in a long, long time.   Just as the lift operator stuck the T-bar behind Michelle and I, Michelle admitted that she had never ridden one before.  I imagined the worst, but we stuck the landing – phew!  But the award for most challenging lift ride goes to Candy, our fearless leader.  She and the Bobs headed for chair 2 Monday around 10am.  They started up and bam, Candy's right ski dug into the snow under the lift and popped off!!  They rode all the way up with her wondering what was going to happen at the top.  Luckily it slowed at the top so she wasn't launched off.   Bobby J. and Bob B. skied quickly away and turned to watch Candy do a ski and one footed hop down off the lift without falling!!  Her lost ski was recovered down below and was brought up on the chair by another skier.  As Roseanne Roseannadanna used to say, “it’s always something”. 

Thanks to all who participated in the trip.  Hope you had as much fun as I did. 



2014 Whitefish Group