Bike retreat caters to cyclists
By MATT BALDWIN – Whitefish Pilot
Every detail has been considered with the cyclist in mind at the Whitefish Bike Retreat.
From the mechanic’s room and bike wash station, to the little packages of energy supplements placed gently on each guest’s pillow, the retreat is all about catering to the trail-weary rider.
“It’s a treat for cyclists,” says retreat owner Cricket Butler. “I want to pamper them a little bit.”
Originally from Charlotte, N.C., Butler opened the retreat off Beaver Lake Road in 2013. Last Thursday she was busily preparing the bunk house for a large group mountain bikers set to take over the secluded lodge that sits just a rock throw away from the Whitefish Trail.
As she worked, a few guests were taking full advantage of all the amenities at the retreat. One lounged around on the comfy furniture and flipped though the piles of biking magazines and guide books, while the other cooked up a hot breakfast in the full kitchen.
“We were going to leave early this morning,” one of the guests said, “but this place is so nice we decided to stay for a bit.”
Butler says Whitefish is primed for a place like the bike retreat with the recent flurry of trail development. The ever-expanding Whitefish Trail is out the back door, Whitefish Mountain Resort is adding more progressive freeride trails each summer, and hidden gems like the Swan Crest or Reid Divide lure riders to the valley from around the world.
“Whitefish is on the forefront of being a cycling destination,” Butler said. “It’s just getting started. Montana has a wildness and remoteness that some people just crave.”
The Whitefish Trail, in particular, has been a big draw for the retreat. A short 1/8 mile spur path from the bunk house connects riders to the Beaver Lake portion of the trail.
While guests come to ride the trails, they equally enjoy their downtime at the retreat.
Having pedaled the Tour Divide trail four times — an off-road route between Canada and Mexico — Butler knows a thing or two about what cyclists are looking for between long days on the trail. She was also a through-hiker before her cycling days, completing both the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail.
An old barn on the property has been renovated into an immaculate bunk house that serves guests with shared bathrooms, kitchen access, laundry, a dining and lounge area, and an outside patio. There are four private rooms, two shared rooms with bunks, and a handful of campsites on the property.
Butler says the price for lodging has to be reasonable to draw guests. During her cycling adventures, Butler would sometimes sleep in a city park, church or even a ditch before she’d overpay for a night of lodging.
A cycling lodge should also provide a sense of community where guests can sit around a table with like-minded adventurers and swap stories from the trail.
“Our guests really like the overall atmosphere here,” Butler said. “Cyclists of all types can gather and talk about their journey and experiences. It’s the interaction between guests that make this a unique destination.”
With the retreat situated seven miles from town, Butler offers a free shuttle to and from Whitefish, and for a fee will shuttle guests to nearly anywhere within reason. She recently picked up a group in Helena who stayed at the retreat then biked back to Helena.
Along with cozy accommodations, the retreat rents paddleboards to guests for use on Beaver Lake or Murray Lake. There is also a “hound hostel” so dogs have a place to stay while guests head out on the trail.
To learn more about the retreat visit online at www.whitefishbikeretreat.com.