One of the best things we did on our New Year's trip to Whitefish, Montana was go on a dog sled ride through the beautiful Stillwater National Forest. It was amazing! I found Dog Sled Adventures, in Olney, Montana, after reading a few blogs and some TripAdvisor reviews of things to do in the Whitefish area. I was also thrilled to find a dog sled ride outfit that was owned by a fellow animal lover. The dogs at Dog Sled Adventures were mainly rescue dogs and were all treated well. Even the dogs that could no longer work remained in the dog yard and were taken care of.
When we arrived, the dogs were barking and jumping around very excitedly. They each want to go out on the rides, but only between 8-12 dogs are chosen per sled. Certain dogs partner together better, some dogs need more rest between rides-it seemed to be very much an art to get a team together and hooked up to the sled.
The afternoon we went, four sleds went out. We were bundled into the front of the sled while the musher (driver) stood on the skids at the back. It is windy when you get going fast, so lots of layers and sunglasses or goggles are necessary. The 12 mile loop takes about an hour and half, depending on how fast the dogs are running.
They can't wait to start running!
I can't recommend Dog Sled Adventures highly enough. The Lodge at Whitefish Lake helped us arrange a taxi to get out there-about 35-40 minutes from the Lodge. I did not rent a car during our stay since I was nervous about potentially driving in heavy snow. The road was actually very clear highway until we reached the driveway. A four wheel drive car would have handled it just fine. If you are thinking of booking a ride, call very far in advance. He fills the three rides a day in no time!
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is located directly on Whitefish Lake, just a few minutes from the town of Whitefish, Montana. Whitefish is near the larger town of Kalispell and Glacier National Park. Arriving long after midnight, I did not see just how beautiful the Lodge was until I woke up the next morning. The style of the buildings reminded me a bit of a large Swiss Alpine chalet, but also of the "camps" you find all around the Adirondacks-natural stone, wood beams, and fireplaces everywhere. There was even a large fireplace outside the entrance doors, which made for a wonderfully warm spot to wait for your car! Since I was there New Year's weekend, the Lodge was still fully decorated for the holidays.
The restaurant and bar face the lake, and in the summer there is lots of outdoor seating on the porch and at the pool area. The views of the lake and surrounding mountains were really pretty. People were even cross country skiing across the frozen lake!
Also found along the lakefront was a year-round hot tub! You could walk out to the hot tub from the spa without spending too much time in the freezing cold.
At the Lodge, there are many activities including snowshoe rental, a spa, fitness center, and an indoor pool (small, but lots of fun for kids to play in.) I took advantage of the Lodge's shuttle service to town for dinner and shopping one night. The bus to Whitefish Mountain stops at the Lodge, and they offer some other shuttle trips up there as well.
Before traveling to Paris last March, I spent a quick weekend in Chamonix. Although I am not a skier, there was lots to do and see in this charming town. There are beautiful views of the Alps and Mont Blanc from throughout the town.
My friends and I rented an apartment from Snostation, a rental company located in Chamonix. We were a quick walk from the center of town and Chamonix Sud, another area with restaurants and shops. There was also a grocery store within a 5-10 minute walk to pick up some essentials on arrival. The ladies at Snostation were extremely helpful when letting me into the apartment and helping us out when the building's front door lock was broken (by someone else in the building!) It was great to have someone who spoke English a phone call away for questions. The apartment was well kept, and it even had a pretty view from the balcony.
One fun thing to do on Saturdays is visit the farmers' market in the center of town. If you are staying in an apartment, you will find everything needed for a fabulous après ski dinner. The rotisserie chickens you often find in French markets were available, as well as cheese, charcuterie, vegetables, and baked goods. Many vendors offered specialities from the surrounding Haute-Savoie region, as well as items that seemed a bit more Italian than French. It is easy to forget how close Chamonix is to Italy! (You can in fact ski there for a day while based in Chamonix.) A highlight of the market was definitely the buckwheat crepes we ate for lunch. Mine was filled with local goat cheese and honey and was completely delicious.
Even if you do not ski, you can still get up into the Alps via the Aiguille du Midi cable car. Yes, you will be traveling up the mountain with people with skis, snowboards, parasailing packs, and huge arrays of mountaineering gear (think icepicks), but all you need is warm layers and water. The altitude is quite high and you ascend rapidly, so keep drinking that water! There are viewing platforms on several levels, looking several directions-with large signs to show you what you are looking at (Italy, Mont Blanc, etc.) There are some places to sit and have a snack, but the altitude got to my group pretty quickly and we had no interest in staying up there for any extra time. Despite the sort of terrifying ride, I highly recommend trying the cable car. The views were just too amazing to miss. (Note that this is a different cable car than the one recently featured in the news for stranding riders overnight.)