For so-called mountain towners seeking solitude and scenery, there are few places with more options than the Flathead Valley  

HOME BY DILLON TABISH
It should come as no surprise that a place like Montana –
a name meaning mountainous country – features an abundance of sylvan real estate. It has become a well-known, and much sought-after, quality among prospective homeowners, especially in this pocket of the state.

The Flathead Valley is decorated with dense forest vistas that embody the adventurous spirit of living in the mountains.

For some, that means venturing off the beaten path and off the grid, to sections of land without electricity or other modern services away from civilization.

For others, call them mountain towners, the ideal spot is a short drive into the labyrinth of a forested development, such as Iron Horse or the Lakeside Club, that offers the benefits of a community and the luxury of privacy.

Developed in 1999 in the mountains overlooking the north section of Whitefish, Iron Horse features 820 acres of high-end residences tucked amid soaring pines and a private 18-hole golf course.

As general manager Bob Schmidt says, it has everything to offer and holds its own against the finest resort communities in the West.

“When you’re comparing resort towns like Aspen, Vail or Coeur d’Alene – those types of high-end facilities – we end up coming out on top,” said Schmidt.

Living at 3,400 feet on Big Mountain, residents enjoy sweeping views of the valley and Whitefish Lake, and a short drive next door to Whitefish Mountain Resort. Add to that the nearby presence of both Flathead Lake and Glacier National Park and you have an enviable lifestyle.

“It’s all very exciting right here in this area,” Schmidt said. “We’re not in the middle of nowhere. That really is our selling point.”

A decade ago, the town of Whitefish remained more of a secret, but today it’s a small town with a big reputation, Schmidt says.

“If you travel the country and you talk to people about Whitefish, you don’t have to explain where it is anymore,” he said. “They know all about Whitefish, Montana.”

Down the road, along the northern shores of Flathead Lake, the growing community of Lakeside is gaining ground as one of the premier places to enjoy the mountain lifestyle.

The Lakeside Club is surfacing as the latest high-end subdivision on the scenic outskirts.

Sitting among 2,300 acres adjacent to national forest land, the club’s new luxury homesites and cabins overlook the town of Lakeside and the picturesque view of Flathead Lake. Perhaps most unique, the subdivision features a 3,400-foot paved runway for planes, an amenity rooted in the Lakeside Club’s founders, who are pilots who served in the U.S. Air Force.

Aerial View of home

Iron Horse in Whitefish. PHOTO BY GRAVITY SHOTS

More than 30 lots are available in the current phase of development, and this year activity has picked back up after quieting during the economic downturn, according to company managers.

“It’s definitely one of a kind,” said Mark Dana, sales and marketing agent with the club. “(The founders) played around with different parts of the valley. But they ended up in Lakeside because it has so much value. You get so much more for your money. And they saw the potential of it. The views are spectacular. It really is a special place.”

Of course, there are varying degrees of the mountain lifestyle in this valley.

David Fetveit, a real estate broker with Trails West and the president of the Lakeside and Somers Chamber of Commerce, often finds himself being a pseudo ambassador of the Flathead Valley. New or prospective residents commonly ask him about the types of living options in and around the area, and the answer is multifaceted.

“I ask them to compare and contrast all the options we have here: living with views over the valley, over the lake, surrounded by dense forest,” Fetveit said. “We have such a wide variety of options here.”

Lakeside home

A home for sale in Lakeside with spectacular views to the north across the Flathead Valley to
Glacier National Park.

The first few questions are often basics – the size of the home and property. After that, the question becomes simpler – “what type of lifestyle do you want?”

“There are a lot of people who want to live off the grid, so to speak. That usually means somewhere where you’re generating your own electricity,” Fetveit said. “They can get all excited about the idea and romanticize the idea, but I need to give them a reality check.”

As Fetveit says, the winters can become treacherous in Northwest Montana, and those living in the mountains find out first and foremost.

“There are some houses out here in the hills that have a driveway that’s fine in the summer, but you need a Snowcat to get there in the winter,” he said.

Other prospective homeowners want a cabin in the woods as a weekend refuge or vacation destination, for which there are plenty of options.

Together, these properties offer a wide array of choices for different tastes, and the valley has an abundance of real estate options at all corners. Prospective homeowners should contact a local real estate agent for more information.