whitefish, montana

when i left rhinelander after christmas, there was an undeniable sadness in the three of us not knowing when we would see each other again. would i come back to wisconsin? would they come back out to seattle? you move across the country and even though planes fly fast and jobs are flexible, it isn’t so easy as a quick car ride and stay at my grandma’s house to see each other. so when would we see each other again? 

that was how our trip to montana happened.

“maybe we could meet in the middle!” i threw out there. eager to ski (or rather, make use of the skis i was about to lug across the country) and eager to get more white out of winter, it was the perfect spot for us to spend a weekend. 

and because my parents love: a. skiing b. montana and c. me (but we won’t say what the most), a trip was quickly booked for the end of january. i went back to seattle (ski bag and all) and just 3 weeks later, i was boarding an amtrak from seattle to whitefish, montana.

still with the ski bag. woof. 

also, for 15 hours. WOOF.

to be fair, the train was cheap and convenient and easy and i would do it again. i got on at 5 pm, rode along the coast until it got dark, very slowly ate a granola bar, and as we turned east i caught up on podcasts and much needed sleep. i woke up a few times in the night as we stopped or jolted, but mostly slept soundly against the window, alone in my row, until i arrived in whitefish, montana at 6:30 the next morning. still in the dark, with the air cold and snow on the ground, my parents were the first to greet me off the train.

my parents have spent so much of their lives together in montana, and one undeniably special place being whitefish. when my mom left the east coast to work in the national parks and my dad left undergrad to pursue everything but formal education, they both ended up working on at the ski resort on big mountain. my dad a lift operator, my mom selling tickets. 

they were just kids then!! they were the age of you and me!! (well, me at least)

so in the year of their 30th wedding anniversary, it ended up being the perfect place to return to. some things had changed — big mountain, for one, has expanded immensely. there are more lifts, moving much faster, to more runs. real estate in whitefish has skyrocketed. and some was still quaint and picture book and exactly the way they left it. the buffalo cafe still serves the best and biggest breakfast. the great northern is the local watering hole. and the views from the mountain are still an undeniable reminder of why montana is big sky country.

we visited a bunch with my parents old ski friends and laughed until beer came out of noses (won’t say whose). we jumped out of the hot tub next to the lake and rolled in the snow. we skied day after day through the fluffiest stuff around. 

we stayed at the lodge on whitefish lake, and i can’t say enough about how incredible it was. i mean, there were fireplaces everywhere. in our room, outside our patio door, in the lobby, in hallways! it was a cabin-lovers dream and facilitated the reading of many leather-bound books. 

when we weren't skiing, we went and watched a skijoring tournament. skijoring is a sport that combines: a. skiing and b. horseback riding which: a. is a thing and b. is insane and also c. is everything i’ve ever wanted in life. i’m still trying to figure out how to sign up for next year (and win $20k, no joke). who’s my skier? and does anyone have a horse i can borrow?

our trip to montana was relaxing and exhausting, the four full days each long, but too soon we were boarding an early monday morning flight to seattle and i was, once again, carrying (dragging) a ski bag through downtown (and don’t worry — it’s also bright red!!). it ended up being a trip planned on a whim, with no expectations. and it ended up being our favorite trip we’ve ever taken as a family. 

so go on all of the adventures, guys. take the overnight train alone. swim in the snow. lose a ski! order the huevos rancheros AND the french toast. wink at cowboys. fall asleep by the fire, two nights in a row. vacation with your parents. just get out there, where ever that is. 

for us, it’s montana!