A trip to Whitefish, Montana wouldn’t be complete without a cowboy connection.But longtime Whitefish ranch builder Scott Ping is no ordinary cowboy. And Kona is no ordinary horse. They’re both hooked on Ski Joring. “It’s an extreme sport, for sure,” says Scott. “I broke my neck doing it. And eight ribs. And twelve fractures.”What is Ski Joring, you ask? Stemming from winter travel in Scandinavia, a horse and rider pull a skier through gates and jumps in the least amount of time possible. Watch the video for a taste, in case you didn’t catch it as a demonstration sport in the 1928 Winter Olympics.Kona’s a champ, with the breastplate to prove it, from the 2006 championships in Jackson Hole.Despite his litany of injuries, Scott’s still smiling. Probably because he won the North American Championships last year.This year’s season is just getting started, but Scott is puts his 12-year-old Appendix through his paces in the round pen to make sure his legs are sound. There will be $20,000 in prize money at stake January 25th, 2014 during Whitefish Winter Carnival. It’s the largest Ski Joring event in North America. Last year 75 teams competed. Everyone is welcome to give it a try, whether you’ve Ski Jored or not. However, before pulling any skiers this year, these Ski Jorers have some chores to do. When I left them, Scott and Kona were heading off into the forest to find a Christmas tree, chop it down and drag it home through the snow. Something tells me Whitefish always has a white Christmas.And so ends the Blue Besos sojourn to this charming mountain town in Northern Montana. Merry Christmas, Whitefish! Until we meet again.
Google tells me the exact coordinates for Whitefish, Montana are 48.4117° N, 114.3400° W, but this bistro rounded down to the nearest non-fractional number. As someone who only vaguely knows that I reside somewhere above the 49th parallel, this name seems specific enough.Venture inside and you’ll see that everyone else in town managed to find Latitude 48 just fine without the four decimal points. Packed on a Friday night, the smiling hostess still found room for our walk-in appetites. Compliment her on the decadent feather earrings she’s wearing and you’ll learn she designed them herself. Because her dad is into flyfishing. I love Whitefish!If you still have room for another drink after your excellent meal (I had tagliatelle with fire roasted chicken, wild mushrooms and truffle essence: extra-delectable due to the pasta made in-house) there’s a lounge option that means you don’t have to put your coat back on to get to. In fact, you can bring the rest of your wine. Just follow the red arrow… … down to the Red Room. We were lucky enough to catch Kelly West & Crew in the middle of a set. Packaged in a tough-looking tank top and crewcut, she has the most ethereal voice. She plays again on December 20th. If you’re in Whitefish, you have to go see her.
The Lodge at Whitefish Lake is full of photo opportunities. Including this spot on the second floor, giving you a wonderful view of the main lobby. If I wasn’t so obsessed about getting the right shot of this shirt from Forever 21 (with Victoria Secret’s leopard print peeking through) I’d probably take a sneak peek at that moose smiling on the wall downstairs.If you’re worried that I won’t survive the record-breaking frigid temperatures in a sequin mini skirt, fishnets and a see-through shirt, don’t. (Mom, I’m talking to you.) These Michael Kors boots come with detachable sheepskin. Very sensible for this weather.And with the Lodge’s valet keeping my car warm by a roaring fire, the temperature just isn’t an issue…… although after admiring the Christmas decorations for, oh, 30 seconds or so, I was ready to hustle inside to dinner. I’m told that -2 Fahrenheit (-19 Celsius) is unusual for Whitefish, but it couldn’t freeze the charm of the lights overhead, which are nothing compared to what they’ll be on December 13, when the cars clear out of Central Avenue for the annual Christmas Stroll and tree lighting ceremony.Inside Tupelo Grille, the art almost distracted me from my rumbling tummy. Call me a populist, but I love me some Blue Dog. I first discovered George Rodrigue’s cute canine in a Carmel, California gallery and have been hooked ever since. The Cajun connection (George is from Louisiana) makes sense at a restaurant known for its New Orleans cuisine.The room itself has nooks and crannies character, including a back booth you have to shimmy along the bench to get to the end. And oh — the food was fab. The shrimp and crawfish cakes were my fave delish dish of the night. And fyi, if you want skinny fries to be part of your steak frites experience, the waiter will make it happen.Finally, if you still have an ounce (have I ever mentioned how anti-metric I am?) of strength left after Day 1 on your Whitefish Winter Weekend that includes a multi-national road trip to get here, make a stop at the Ultimate Safeway. I wish they had a Safeway this deluxe in Calgary. Just a few blocks south of Montana’s vintage village on US 93, this gourmet haven is open 24/7. More importantly, it has a wonderful vino selection to stock that duo-temperature-zone wine cellar back in your room at the Lodge.
Next up: opening day at Whitefish Mountain Resort.