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MOUNTAIN Sports & Living Magazine

The 10 BEST Mountain Towns

  • 1.   KALISPELL, Montana

  • 2.   ASPEN, Colorado

  • 3.   TRUCKEE, California

  • 4.   VAIL, Colorado

  • 5.   BEND, Oregon

  • 6.   MAMMOTH, California

  • 7.   STOWE, Vermont

  • 8.   TELLURIDE, Colorado

  • 9.   PARK CITY, Utah

  • 10. STEAMBOAT, Colorado

SOURCEMOUNTAIN Sports & Living Magazine

January/February 1999 issue.  

Kalispell is located on Hwy 93 & 2, 33 miles from Glacier National Park;53 miles from Polson; 15 miles from Whitefish; 19 miles from Columbia Falls; 10 miles from Flathead Lake. "Kalispell" was taken from the language of the Pend d' Oreille Indians and means "the grassy land above the lake." The townsite was platted in 1891. Highlights of the Main Street District include; the Hockaday Center for the Arts, the Whipps Block, First National Bank, Kalispell Grand Hotel, and the Great Northern Railway Depot. Buildings date from 1891 to 1941.

Just 15 miles down the road from Whitefish and the Big Mountain Ski Resort, and the Blacktail Ski Area just south of town.  Kalispell is both a gateway to Glacier National Park and the government seat of Flathead County.  A much hyped land of lakes and 7,000 foot mountains, Flathead was the second fastest growing county in Montana during the first half of the 1990's, (up 20..2 percent).  Kalispell's population doubled during that time and the town has seen big stores like "WalMart" pop up along it's bustling streets.  Business leaders encourage growth while activists battle sprawl.

At $205 million, retirement and disability income accounts for most of the county's annual economic base.  The timber industry is a strong presence; logging and lumber generates some $95 million each year.  Kalispell also has an international airport, Glacier Park International Airport  located about 5 miles from town, as well as a private airport at the southern edge of the city.  Kalispell also has excellent educational opportunities with outstanding programs at FVCC with extension programs through Montana State University at Bozeman. 

Kalispell is also a health care hub; it's home to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, rated as one of the top 100 hospitals in the country by Newsweek Magazine.  (On a philanthropic note, the hospital recently built a $8 million community health and fitness center).  The biggest employer in town is Semitool, a computer products manufacturer with over 1,000 residents on it's payroll.  Another recent large employer in the Flathead Valley is Stream International.

With an average hourly wage of $21, pay rates in Kalispell are significantly lower than those in larger cities.  "This is not going to pay like L.A., says Jim Oliverson" , CEO of Kalispell Regional Medical Center.  There are people who have come to Kalispell and squandered their savings looking for the right job, then gone back home angry and bitter.  There are a ton of writers and consultants, and they are doing well, but they have clients out of the area.

Longtime locals and politicians tend to be strongly in favor of property rights.  This can be terrific if you want to buy a ranch or open a nightclub, but can be difficult if your neighbor doesn't share your values insofar the character of the land. For that reason you need to be concerned about having the proper covenants and restrictions built into your land purchases.

Kalispell is a relatively diverse economy, on the edge of a national park with 75 sunny days a year on the average, and mild winters. 


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