Whitefish, MT

Berms are the name of the game on Kashmir. Travis Adams keeps his eyes up and his speed high while ripping into one of the trail's signature features. NIKON 1/150 sec, f/14, ISO 80

Whitefish, MT Back for Seconds with Nick VanHorn

The flavor of riding around Whitefish, MT can be likened to a well-balanced, three-course meal.

There are short loops to satiate those initial hunger cravings, hearty all-day epics as the entrée, and lift-served flow trails to end the feast with a slight sugar rush.

A decade ago, it was a very different meat-and-potatoes style of riding. All the ingredients were present, but there were no chefs to envision and create the full buffet. Since then, the community has rallied to develop and maintain a growing menu of trails that is delicious, exhilarating and fully satisfying.

To whet the palate, the Whitefish Trail is the perfect way to prepare for local riding in the Flathead Valley. When I first rolled into town 10 years ago, only a few sections of the trail, linked by logging roads on lumber company property, were within pedaling distance from town. There was always the threat of one of those trails disappearing during a logging operation. Now, thanks to a group of dedicated locals, the nonprofit Whitefish Legacy Partners and generous land owners, that once-truncated assortment of singletrack has been linked into a 36-mile trail system, all rideable from town, all fast, flowy and as smooth as butter. One section is still missing, and the completed trail will provide the final link between town trails and those of nearby Whitefish Mountain Resort.

Every menu has an old standby, one that never lets down, and the Tally Lake area has been a staple of Whitefish mountain biking since the beginning. Whipped up well before the days of excavator-polished flow trails, it is true old-school, hand-built, skinny singletrack. While the trail isn’t overly technical, it is rugged enough to warrant full attention and a tap on the brakes from time to time. Bill Creek Trail, known locally as #800, is another example of a Whitefish classic, a multidirectional ride that is as tasty heading north as it is south, each direction with its own distinct flavor.

Pedaling along the Whitefish Trail will bring you to numerous other riding zones, including Spencer Mountain, home to some of the spiciest trails around, complete with woodwork that would make any engineer proud. This includes a handful of black-diamond, “expert-only” options—if you like airtime and tricky features, head to jump trails like Otter Pop, Flow Factory, Spooky Pete’s, Recess, and Malice in Plunderland, which can keep even the most ambitious shredders satisfied (and scared).

For those looking for pure, gluttonous descents, the recently built downhill trails at Whitefish Mountain Resort deliver just that. Like other areas, the resort has offered lift-accessed mountain biking since the mid-1990s, albeit of the XC loop or service-road variety. But a few years ago, they began constructing purpose-built trails like Kashmir, a beautiful gauntlet of berms that will leave riders’ heads spinning. A collaboration between local trail-building company Terraflow Trail Systems and Whitefish Mountain Resort’s crew, Kashmir was recently recognized by IMBA as a “model flow trail.”

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Whitefish culinary experience are the chefs themselves. Throughout the past 10 years, the quality of riding around Whitefish has made leaps and bounds, and that can be attributed directly to entities such as the Flathead Area Mountain Bikers and Whitefish Legacy Partners. They have organized and rallied the community to take ownership of trail development through fundraising, trail building and maintenance.

A great meal is much more than the sum of its individual courses; it’s the vibe and ambiance that form the whole. Combined with the town’s multiple breweries and bustling culture, Whitefish is the type of establishment that leaves customers hungry for a second helping.

Travis Adams farms a little airtime on upper Kashmir, which weaves through some subalpine before dropping into the forest below. NIKON 1/600 sec, f/5.0. ISO 800
High-speed stoke. Brittani Marquand keeps her grin on while ripping the Whitefish Trail. NIKON 1/50 sec. f/6.3, ISO 80
Many friends on a shred day. Yvonne May, Lisa Slagle and Brittani Marquand bask in the midsummer sun as they pause along one of the Whitefish Trail's many scenic overlooks. NIKON 1/1250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 800
The style of riding on the Whitefish Trail is fast and flowy, a perfect combination for beginners and seasoned riders alike. Yvonne May, Lisa Slagle and Brittani Marquand wind through wildflowers under a pine-tree canopy on one of the trail's smoother sections. NIKON 1/1250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 800
The clear cut on the Reid Divide is a remnant of Whitefish's logging past, one that also provides some spectacular views. Yvonne May, Jake Christianson and Tom Danley enjoy the window of opportunity. NIKON 1/1250 sec, f/9.0, ISO 640
Whitefish locals Ray Peacock and Travis Adams play a game of cat and mouse down the Bill Creek section of Trail 800. NIKON 1/1600 sec, f/9.0, ISO 500
While Whitefish's long winters make for great skiing, by the later months locals are ready for some sunshine. Ray Peacock and Travis Adams take a moment to appreciate the clear summer skies. NIKON 1/800 sec. f/4.0, ISO 1000
Contrary to popular belief, Xerophyllum tenax - also known as "bear grass" - isn't actually grass, nor does it have anything to do with bears. Yvonne May rides through a thick patch of the vibrant lily along Trail 800. NIKON 1/1250 sec, f/4.0, ISO 3200.

Freehub Magazine Issue 8.3, the Montana Photo Book, is a visual guide to the trails of the Treasure State. We selected four local photographers, Reid Morth, Jason O'Neil, Tom Robertson and Nick VanHorn, to document their respective hometowns of Big Sky, Helena, Missoula and Whitefish and capture the experience and vibe that fill the mountains of the Montana high country. Be sure to check out all the other articles!