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Top 10 Flathead Ski Hills (that aren't Big Mountain)

Updated: Mar 18

Sure, you have skied Big Mountain, but what about Little Mountain? These are the top ski hills in Whitefish, Glacier National Park, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, and beyond.

Everyone and their mom know that skiing in Whitefish means one thing: skiing the Big! But only a few people know about skiing the hill behind Western Building Center, the rope tow at the top of Logan Pass, and the ski hill in downtown Columbia Falls. Intrigued? Read on to discover the hidden ski hills of Whitefish and beyond.


It's illegal* to talk about skiing in Whitefish without talking about Lloyd "Mully" Muldown. Pictured above posing for a photo on Big Mountain, Mully helped pioneer skiing on Big Mountain. His legacy lives on today in things like Muldown Elementary, Mully's on Chair 2, and Ed & Mully's restaurant on the Big.


Mully moved to Whitefish from Minnesota in 1928. Skiing was in its infancy in those days, so he got his skiing fix by skijoring behind cars and hiking the hill by Spencer Mountain. Soon, he began to venture up "that big mountain" in 1933. The Hell-Roaring Ski Club was formed in 1937 with Mully as president. His contributions to Whitefish and skiing cannot be overstated as he would go on to help build the first cabin on the mountain, coach the high school ski team, teach lessons for the ski school, and dedicate his career to the Whitefish School system.


Mully loved to ski and we can't help wondering if he ever took some turns down these other ski hills:

  1. Frenchy's Little Mountain

  2. Silver Buckle Ski Area

  3. Buffalo Hill Ski Hill

  4. Steven's Meadow in West Glacier

  5. Belton Ski Hill

  6. Termaat's Ski Area

  7. Downtown Columbia Falls

  8. Logan Pass

  9. Hungry Horse

  10. Whitefish's Newest Rope Tow on Skyles Lake (Opened in 2024)


*A brief review of the Whitefish City Code didn't reveal the law about this, but we're 99% sure it's in there somewhere 😉

 

#1: Frenchy's Little Mountain


Whitefish used to be home to two ski resorts: Big Mountain and Little Mountain. Laurence "Frenchy" DeVall built Little Mountain across the road from his restaurant, Frenchy's Chinese Gardens, in 1962. It was located where Western Building Center sits in Whitefish today.


The rope tow started turning on January 19, 1963, with prices of:

  • $1.50 for an adult (5 hours)

  • $1.25 for a student (5 hours)

  • $.50 for an adult (1 hour)

  • $.35 for an adult (1 hour)


Little Mountain boasted two runs. the shorter one was 500 feet long and about 200 feet wide. The larger of the two was 700 feet long and 75 feet wide. The rope tow that served both runs was on its second life as Frenchy had purchased it from the defunct Silver Buckle Ski Area. It ran every night except Monday and was the perfect place for kids and beginners to learn to ski before venturing to Big Mountain.


Frenchy's Little Mountain grew to include a drive-in restaurant and a roller skating rink. In 1975, Pat Curran tied his skates on and attempted to beat the world record for consecutive roller skating. The record stood at 179 hours and Curran hoped to hit 200 hours. Hallucinations plagued his attempt as the hours ticked by and the pain in his feet grew. He eventually cut the toes out of his skates to help ease the pain. Curran's coffee-and-cigarette-fueled attempt fell short at 100 hours and 15 minutes.


 

#2: Silver Buckle Ski Area

Ski hills weren't exclusive to Whitefish - Kalispell was home to several rope tows in the 1950s. The Silver Buckle Ski Area started in 1957 on Airport Road in Kalispell. The work, however, started in 1956 when workgroups of students were bussed to the hill in exchange for ski cards to be redeemed the following ski season.


In the ad pictured above, the 1st Annual JayCee Carnival on 3/10/1957 offered the first Women's Cross Country Ski Race in the area. Gaile Torgeson won the race, which qualified her for a race later that season on Big Mountain.


Silver Buckle ran from 1957-1960. While it only operated for a few years, it is remembered for being a great place to learn to ski, fun ski club events, and Ladies Day Wednesdays.


 

#3 Buffalo Hill Ski Hill

It might not be possible to count the number of people who learned to ski on the Buffalo Hill Ski Hill (aka the Buffalo Hill Golf Course). The rope tow was located near the 9th hole behind the clubhouse.


Skiing at Buffalo Hill was unique because it was free! When it started in 1951, they charged $.05 - $.15 but stopped charging after volunteers and sponsors stepped up to operate the ski hill. Rip Wilson (a longtime teacher at Flathead High) volunteered to run the tow and was a driving force to keep the hill going. The rope tow was also sponsored by an organization called Teen Town, which paid for the gas. (Teen Town was a social recreation group where parents and teenagers joined together to create social opportunities for the community.)


Skiing at Buffalo Hill was never a guarantee. It relied heavily on snow and skiers to make it worth it to turn the tow on. If the snowpack or turnout was low, the tow could be turned off for the weekend. But when the conditions were right, the hill buzzed with kids learning to ski. The Flathead High School Ski Club (also coached by Rip Wilson) would come out to help teach lessons.


Buffalo Hill was one of the longest-running ski hills in the Flathead Valley. It opened on Saturday 2/10/51 and ran through the 1970s. In 1977, the City of Kalispell even spent $3,000 to buy a rope tow from Big Mountain to upgrade the hill.



 

#4 West Glacier

Have you ever dreamed of skiing in Glacier National Park? If so, you are not alone! The West Glacier Ski Hill opened on 1/26/1957 at Stevens Meadow. The first rope tow ran on a 4-horsepower motor and went 400 feet up the hill. The next year, the rope tow was upgraded to run off a Jeep motor donated by Marlin Metcalf and extended to 600 feet.


The West Glacier Ski Hill immediately encountered a problem in the form of a herd of elk that called the hill home. The herd often bedded down on the hillside at night, which left large divots across the slope.


The West Glacier Lions ran the rope tow at Stevens Meadow for two seasons before returning to the Belton Ski Hill in 1959.


 

#5 Belton Ski Course


The Belton Ski Hill started in March 1938 when the Glacier Ski Club was formed to help advance winter activities in the area.


The club received a permit for a ski hill located "opposite (south) of the west entrance to Glacier National Park." In 1940, the club approved the purchase of a lift and installed a rope tow on the ski course a few months later.


The Belton Ski Hill competed with the Hellroaring Ski Hill in Whitefish in the early years. It featured a slalom course, a downhill course, and jumps suited for experts and beginners.


Unfortunately, the Belton Ski Hill would become less popular than the one in Whitefish and slowly fade away. The West Glacier Ski Hill replaced it in 1957 for two years before the West Glacier Lions brought the rope tows back to Belton Hill because it provided a bigger slope.

 

#6 Termaat's Ski Area

Termaat's Ski Area was one of the most popular places in the 1950s and 60s! Harold Termaat, a Kalispell rancher, opened it in January 1954 on his family farm. It was located near Lake Blaine in Creston. For the next 14 years, Harold and his wife, Florence, ran two rope tows, a snack bar, a ski shop, and a warming house.


Once called the "cheapest place to ski in the US and Canada", Termaat's charged $.50 to ride the rope tows. The two rope tows serviced two different slopes; one was 1400 feet long and the other was 1000 feet. Stories say that young skiers stuck to the short slope, while only the brave skiers ventured to the harder side.


Fun was always abundant at Termaat's Ski Area! They offered night skiing, lessons with the Kalispell Ski Club, and free lessons on Friday night. You could also book the hill for a party for $5. The biggest challenge for Termaat's was consistent snowpack, which averaged about 12-18 inches a year.


At the end of the 1968 season, the Termaat Ski Area closed for the final time. Harold and Florence moved their ski shop to Whitefish where they owned and operated the Terrace Motel.



 

#7 Downtown Columbia Falls

This ski hill used to hide where no one expects - in downtown Columbia Falls! It was located "one block east and south of City Hall on Nucleus Avenue." (Daily Interlake - 2/14/1965)


This little ski slope opened in February 1965. The Columbia Falls Lions Club created the slope and provided the rope tow for it. While we have limited info about this ski hill, we know that it hosted the Kalispell Ski Club's Adult Frolic Night on Tuesday, 2/16/1965. The evening included lessons, chili, and a surprise Warren Miller movie afterward.


Do you have more info about the Columbia Falls Ski Hill? If so, please comment on this post or email us at info@stumptownhistoricalsociety.org. Thanks!


 

#8 Logan Pass

A ski area on Logan Pass in Glacier National Park would be one of the most breathtaking spots to ski in the United States! While there has never been a permanent ski hill on Logan Pass, there have been a few temporary rope tows and ski events on Logan Pass.


In 1939, the Belton Ski Club and the Glacier National Park Ski Club hosted a state invitational ski tournament at the top of Logan Pass. The event drew participants and spectators from all over. They enjoyed a "Ski Party" on 6/18/1939 before the tournament the next day. Racers competed in the downhill, slalom, and double slalom races for both men and women.


In 1958, Logan Pass opened on the earliest date in its history to that point - May 23. Percy Lenon saw a golden opportunity and brought a portable rope tow to the top of the Pass. Newspapers reporting on the event state that carloads of skiers came from Great Falls, Missoula, Kalispell, and Calgary to ski Logan Pass!


 

#9 Hungry Horse


The 1950s were the golden age for skiing in the Flathead Valley. (In terms of how many different hills you could choose from!) For example, people could stop in Hungry Horse for a quick run before heading up to West Glacier to finish out their day of skiing.


The Hungry Horse Ski Hill opened in 1949. It was sponsored by the Hungry Horse Recreation Association. The parking lot was just off the lower access road to the Hungry Horse Dam. It was a smaller hill, with a 7.5 HP motor pulling skiers to the top of a 400-foot hill.


 

#10 Whitefish's Newest Rope Tow on Skyles Lake (2024)

A new Whitefish ski area quietly opened at the beginning of 2024. Located behind Skyles Lake on the backside of Lion Mountain, the t-bar is owned by Jimmy and Bria Deats. This new tbar is on private property and currently opens occasionally for friends and family.


The idea for putting a t-bar on their property started last year when Jimmy began planning to convert his tractor to run a rope tow. Before the tractor idea came to be, Jimmy found something unbelievable on Facebook marketplace: a complete t-bar for sale in Eureka. The tbar is originally from outside of Dillon.


The Deats family, including sons Levi and Jesse, took to turning their backyard into a ski slope. It was a massive project that involved cutting the runs, clearing the brush, setting the tbar supports, fixing the engine, refinishing the wooden tees, and installing safety measures. Jimmy also added to his collection of ski equipment with a groomer and a snow maker.


When the snow works out and the Deats' family schedule lines up, Jimmy and Bria turn the chairlift on and invite some kids over to ski. "I just want a place for kids to come and ski, especially if they can't afford to ski somewhere else," said Jimmy during one of their nights skiing the t-bar. It's a very fitting sentiment for the Deats, whose family has been longtime members of the Big Mountain Ski Club.

 

Thank you for reading this month's Stumptown Stories newsletter about the ski hills and rope tows of yesteryear!

-The team at the Stumptown Historical Society

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