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Old 01-18-2014, 12:43 PM
5 posts, read 19,094 times
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I'll be moving to the area in the coming months with my family of 6. I'll be working in Kalispell, but I think we all universally prefer Bigfork in particular or Whitefish with the exception of the Echo Lake and Many Lakes area of Kalispell--I'm not a big fan of the way the area are aroud Kalispell has been cleared of all of the pines and forest and a bit too "strip-mally." I guess what I struggle with is that there is a lot to like about Whitefish, but I'm leary. The last place I want to live is a place like Aspen or Vail where you have a lot of outside money, a lot of drugs, and a dalliant, Trustafarian culture. Should I at all be concerned about that in Whitefish? I didn't necessarily get that vibe in my times there. I would like to find an area with a good community of working professionals and a healthy bluecollar population, as well. In other words, more of a healthy mix.

We're moving to the area to live outside. Flyfishing, hiking, hunting, swimming, snowshoeing, Nordic skiing... all of the above. I'd love to find a place with a more 1950s vibe than anything like what you're seeing in America's urban centers these days. We're looking to find smaller schools, to become active in a local community and church, and I'd really like to find a place where I can strap on a pair of skiis or snowshoes or my hiking boots depending on the season and go for a quick jaunt after work or on the weekend. Or where the kids can hop in the lake or river after school or go skating in the winter. The Jewell Basin area of Bigfork really appeals to me, and it seems like Whitefish has similar amenities, though maybe even closer. The golf course, for instance, turning into a Nordic ski area is kind of cool; I don't like golf, but to each his own.

Any thoughts on comparing the the two places? I'm not really that worked up about big city amenities. The theatre in Bigfork is not that important to me. If those were the things I wanted, I'd move to NYC. A few restaurants is nice, where Whitefish seems to do much better, but I realize that has more to do with the constant influx of tourists, as well.

I'm really not sure quite what to make of Columbia Falls. It wasn't quite as attractive to me driving through as either Whitefish or Bigfork and the schools don't rate nearly as well, at least if you're just looking at testscores. Maybe a bit more blue collar, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. I'd be curious to hear more.
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Old 01-18-2014, 02:21 PM
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Big Fork is a summer lake town, Whitefish is winter ski town with a summer tourist season, & Columbia Falls is an old company town.
Your money will go farther for real estate in Columbia Falls.
I personally enjoy Big Fork in the Summer but would not live anywhere in the Flathead in Winter. I am not a fan of gray gloomy winters. None of these areas have near the numbers of trust fund types that own places in the Southwestern Montana.
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Old 01-18-2014, 06:51 PM
Location: North Dakota
7,032 posts, read 8,195,061 times
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Bring a large amount of money if you want to live in those areas. I don't know how cheap Columbia Falls is but most of western Montana has a high cost of living and low wages. Kalispell, Whitefish, and Bigfork have high costs of living and getting the equipment for these activities is not cheap. Remember that you also can't eat scenery.
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Old 01-19-2014, 07:29 AM
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I'm not so much worried about having to eat scenery, as I have a job that will allow us to live quite comfortably. Maybe not with the biggest, prettiest box we could plop down in a pedestrian subraround lot around some other parts of the country, but fairly nice.

I've lived in gray areas in the winter. The key is to be active throughout the winter and perhaps take advantage of a lightbox.

I'm more interested in comparisons of the area. My income is set, and we're not going hungry.
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Old 01-19-2014, 08:48 AM
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OP, Where are you coming from?
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Old 01-19-2014, 12:21 PM
Location: Idaho
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I'd lean toward Columbia Falls.

Whitefish has sales tax.
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Old 01-19-2014, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by cumminszhere View Post
OP, Where are you coming from?
I'm originally from Western North Carolina and am now living in Tennessee. I've lived a bit in Minnesota and Iowa, as well, so I know a bit about winter and gray, which others had referenced. I actually really enjoy the snow and grew up hiking and rafting in the mountains where I grew up. Montana seems like a beautiful combination for us.

I think what we're also looking to find is a closer-knit community where we can begin to form some lifelong friendships and shared interests. We're pretty active and have active kids. It always seems like that is how it starts for us, but I'm tired of moving and ready to put down some roots.
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:42 AM
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I've spent awhile in both Columbia Falls and Whitefish but can't give any advice on Bigfork other than having driven through there.

Your money would go further in C. Falls, but if it's not an issue I prefer Whitefish. There's just so much more to do, all within a quick walk or bike to downtown. It is certainly more touristy, but there are more restaurants, the farmers market is more lively, having the beach on Whitefish Lake is nicer than having the boat launch along the Flathead river. When I go for a bike ride in Whitefish on a nice day I see lots more people out biking, walking, running, enjoying the day than I did in C. Falls (even accounting for the population difference) and I like seeing people out and about.

Whitefish does have its share of multi-million dollar vacation homes along the Lake and up towards the ski resort, and of course the younger ski-bums so it has a bit of that resort town stuff, but in the 5 summers I've now spent there I feel like the vast majority of its residents are just normal folks.
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Old 01-23-2014, 05:38 AM
154 posts, read 218,735 times
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OP, I think you might like Bigfork the best of the three choices. You’ve got the lake at your doorstep, Jewell Basin next door as well as the Swan Valley just south of you.

All three locations are a short drive away from each other anyway.
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Old 01-24-2014, 08:50 AM
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My brother was the newspaper editor in C. Falls for a few years. He & his wife bought a nice, newer, small home there and the price compared to the other towns you are considering was about half! C. Falls is a nice, quiet, little town with a good highway to Kalispell. Quite a bit of traffic, for Montana, but good roads and not far to travel. The closer to Flathead you are, the more you will pay. If money isn't an issue for you (as seems the case for most who live in the most scenic parts of the Flathead area) then go for wherever you like best. If you want to save some $$$ then perhaps C. Falls would be a good choice.
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