E-mail Story   Print Story
  Comments (0) Total Thursday Apr. 24, 2014
 
A Nordic Wonderland, Closer Than You Think
Minutes out of Whitefish, Stillwater Mountain Lodge offers 25 kilometers of groomed trails in the forest
Kirsten Sabin, Reid Sabin, Tom Healy and Meagen Healy, left to right, talk about opening the Stillwater Mountain Lodge while sitting in the warming room where patrons check in and can rent gear. Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon
Barely 10 minutes west of Whitefish, 25 kilometers of meticulously groomed Nordic skiing trails wind through a secluded and delightful section of state forest.

The trail network’s sense of solitude belies its close proximity to town, and has caused the Stillwater Mountain Lodge to remain an enigma to some local outdoor recreationists. Simply put, a lot of people who hear about the trails think they are farther away than they actually are.

“I’ve had people say, ‘I’ve been meaning to come out but I thought it was a lot farther. I was surprised at how close it is,’” Kirsten Sabin, one of Stillwater Mountain Lodge’s four owners, said.

Stillwater Mountain Lodge is in its eighth season of offering lodging and outdoor recreation near Murray Lake, yet even as it approaches a decade it still, “on some level, is getting discovered,” as another owner, Tom Healy, put it.

But those who have discovered Stillwater have a tendency to come back, eager to explore more of the trail’s diverse terrain, which has plenty to offer for classic and skate cross country skiers of all abilities and ages.

Dog lovers and families in particular have good reason to make the short trip to Stillwater. Twelve of the 25 kilometers of trail are dog-friendly, and kids under the age of 12 ski and rent equipment for free.

“One of the key elements is that we want to provide a family, affordable experience,” Healy said.

Healy and his wife, Meagen Healy, own the lodge with Sabin and her husband, Reid Sabin, a former two-time telemarking world champion who over a decade ago became the first American to hold a World Cup telemarking title. These days, Reid devotes his energy to the lodge and his kids, leaving his competitive racing days behind him.

And the lodge, just like two active kids, requires a great deal of energy.

In the winter, Reid and Tom wake early to groom the trails for three to four hours. Then they man the ski shop, or “Warming Hut,” where visitors can warm up with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and chat with the knowledgeable owners. The four owners do everything at the lodge, from the skiing responsibilities to the lodging duties.

The great room of the main lodge at Stillwater Mountain Lodge. | Lido Vizzutti Flathead Beacon


The summer season is busy as well, with the ski trails used as mountain biking trails and recreation such as fishing and swimming offered at Murray Lake. Stillwater’s owners have a fee-based agreement with the state to use the land on which the trails are located. An added bonus is a nearby trailhead accessing the popular Whitefish Trail.

The lodge, a renovated private residence, offers two attractive suites and a studio, striking a balance between luxurious, rustic and charming. It can sleep up to 15 people, an ideal arrangement for groups or families, and a perfect base for events. Stillwater has hosted family reunions, weddings and other gatherings. There is a fully equipped, modern community kitchen next to a large living area, or “great room.”

Among the amenities offered are satellite TV, wireless Internet, private phone lines, gas woodstoves, furniture, personal refrigerators and luxuries like a spacious bath with a double Jacuzzi in the east suite. Nightly rates during the peak seasons range from $115 to $155 for the studios and suites, or $425 for the entire lodge.

Following a renovation completed last year, the Nordic House, where the Warming Hut is located, now has its own cozy suite that can accommodate up to six more people overnight.

Eight years after opening, Stillwater may still be getting discovered but the four friends appear to be thoroughly enjoying the discovery process. They relish the day-to-day challenges of running a business in the woods and the Sabins have had the pleasure of watching their two kids learn to cross country ski on their trails.

Reid Sabin, left, talks skis with Paul Strahl at the Stillwater Mountain Lodge west of Whitefish. | Lido Vizzutti Flathead Beacon


And the four friends also enjoy the opportunity to host events that hold a little more meaning than simply a day on the snow. On Feb. 10, Stillwater Mountain Lodge will host a ski race in which proceeds go to the American Cancer Society. The event is in honor of Karen Longhart, a friend who passed away from cancer two years ago.

The race is divided into three distances: 48 kilometers, 24 kilometers and 3.2 kilometers. Up to 68 people have participated in the past. And though it’s officially a race, it’s decidedly light-hearted, as evidenced by the “off-the-couch” award offered to the participant who trains the least yet manages to finish the 48K race. Part of the award will be a bag of Doritos.

“It’s for serious, amazing athletes and people who just want to have fun,” Meagen said. “Everyone can come.”

For more information, visit www.stillwatermtnlodge.com.
 
No comments have been posted for this article.

 
Kellyn Brown
Kellyn Brown3h
@kellynbrown
Former pro skier has plans for an academy for young adults looking to train in the outdoors http://t.co/YFOI9pdVVf http://t.co/R8NCamjqUD
Dillon Tabish
Dillon Tabish3h
@djtabish
Former pro skier has plans for an academy for young adults looking to train in the outdoors http://t.co/YFOI9pdVVf http://t.co/R8NCamjqUD
Molly Priddy
Molly Priddy38m
@mollypriddy
@FABarnhill @EmilieRSaunders Call me when you've started organizing your own hands. "Left pinkie." "Left ring finger" etc.
Tristan Scott
Tristan Scott33m
@tristanscott
@ClimbGlacier @hike734 @erichpeitzsch @bradlamson Need to compile list of impressive climbing/enduro feats in MT. Msg me with ideas.
Flathead Beacon
FB Headlines2h
@flatheadbeacon