by Leah Sottile

Where: Whitefish, Mont.

Phone: (800) 858-3930

Web site:

Vertical drop: 2,500 ft.

Average snowfall: 300 inches

Lifts: two high-speed quads, one interchangeable chair/gondola, one quad, five triples, one double, one platter, two T-bars; total of 11 lifts.

Hill info: 91 trails: beginner 20%, intermediate 50%, advanced 30%

Hours: 9 am-4:30 pm daily

Ticket prices: $5-$49

Major events: What could be a bigger event than the opening day? Spend your Thanksgiving on the slopes instead of at the dinner table on Nov. 25. And lift tickets are only $25 through Dec. 19! And if the snow isn't thick by Nov. 27 -- well, even if it is -- Big Mountain will host the annual Pray for Snow Party beginning at 7 pm. That event will feature live music, food and the customary pray-for-snow bonfire. Take a pair of K2 or Rossignol skis for a ride during a demo day on Dec. 11. Welcome the holiday season with festive events throughout December, including Santa's Torchlight Parade on Christmas Eve, the Moonlight Dine and Ski event on Dec. 27 and the Torchlight Parade and fireworks on New Year's Eve. The annual Special Olympics Winter Games will take place this season from March 5-8.

For those craving the quick rush of flying down a black diamond, listening to the melodious silence of the off-trail trees and snow and falling voluntarily into fresh powder, Spokane's local ski resorts are your place to be this winter. That's one great thing about this region; wherever you are, you've got at least one top-flight ski area in close range. After you've made those short treks to Mount Spokane or 49 Degrees North, why not pack the car up for the weekend and enjoy one of the world-class ski resorts to the east? Big Mountain is beckoning.

The 3,000-acre Whitefish, Mont. snow bum's paradise is ready and open for another season (beginning on Thanksgiving). There aren't a lot of huge developments to report about Big Mountain this year in terms of new lifts or runs, but skiers and snowboarders can expect more amenities that make will make a day on the slopes even more enjoyable. Parents can take advantage of the brand new Base Camp Kids' Center. It's a full-service childcare center provided by Kiddie Korner, located just above Big Mountain Rentals. It's a one-stop shop for those renting equipment, needing childcare and wanting to take advantage of the Snowsports Center's programs.

And amenities on Big Mountain just got even better with the new Morning Eagle Lodge. Located in the Village, guests can live it up in luxury ski in/ski out spaces - each featuring breathtaking views of the mountain and Whitefish below, and providing accommodations fit for a king, including a concierge service. The Morning Eagle Pavilion also features a number of new shops, from Snowghost Outfitters and Stumptown Snowboards, to Crazy Bear and Co. Mountain Photography and Montana Tom's Chocolate and Gift Emporium. Think of it as your snowy home away from home. It's only a few hours from your real one.

Publication date: 11/11/04

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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About The Author

Leah Sottile

Leah Sottile is a Spokane-based freelance writer who formerly served as music editor, culture editor and a staff writer at the Inlander. She has written about everything from nuns and Elvis impersonators, to jailhouse murders and mental health...