It’s strange to be visiting a beautiful, progressive ski town like Whitefish, Mont., that has just had its reputation smeared by a neo-Nazi wingnut who bluffs that he will lead an armed march through its streets.
The town mobilizes, the national media descends, the wingnut turns out to be a complete fraud and the good people of Whitefish remain upset by all the drama.
In the meantime, there’s skiing to be done, and that’s what the SkiZer is here to do. It feels odd to be having a great time in the mountains through all of the angst, but in a way, it might be the best response you can have: Ignore it and move on.
So that’s what the SkiZer did for days 22-24 of the season: Put up some vertical and marvel at what a great resort Whitefish Mountain is.
On the menu for the SkiZer was to hook up with some of the very fit older skiers at the resort. Whitefish Mountain offers free skiing to anyone older than 70, and that has created a culture of old-schoolers who keep on shredding at a high level.
Some of them are amazing.
Fred Frost, 74, regularly skis more than 4 million vertical feet per season. Frost attacks the slopes with a vengeance six days a week for the entire season, skiing between 30,000 and 35,000 vertical feet per day. If you try to keep up with Frost, you have to be on your game: he takes no breaks once he starts down the slopes. The only time he stops is to do what he calls “D and R” — “Drain and refill.”
Others, like the over-70 threesome of Ken Meckel, Bob Donahue and Gary Simonsic, are more casual in their approach, but they ski hard.
They take the SkiZer down Langley, a great, steep run that on this day has loose snow and a little blown-in powder. It’s a challenge as we dip in and out of trees, and everyone in the group skis it strongly.
It’s not just the over-70 crowd doing the shredding at Whitefish Mountain. A large group of over-60s rocks the mountain as well.
Pam Shaw, a brash New Zealander wintering in Whitefish, still has 10 years to go for the free skiing, but she doesn’t care — she just wants to hit anything that’s “f***ing off-piste!” Shaw describes just about everything with the F-word (“I’m a Kiwi, but I swear like I’m Australian”), and she takes the SkiZer on some of the toughest runs at Whitefish Mountain Resort.
Steeps, powder and more steeps — Shaw is game, with a spirit that helps give Whitefish Mountain its great vibe.
Days 22-24: Whitefish Mountain Resort
- Vertical for three days: 65,000
- Vertical for the year: 379,000