Enchanted Design Defines the World’s First Ski-in, Ski-Out Treehouses
Tour the amenities and magical ambiance of these luxury treehouses.
Thanks to one woman’s desire to build her childhood fantasy treehouse, you can now stay at the recently opened Snow Bear Chalets in Whitefish, Montana.
Billed as the world’s first ski-in, ski-out treehouses, the three multi-level chalets, built 30 feet in the air, are outfitted with hot tubs, turrets, high-end appliances and the finest bedding. But what really elevates them to the next level is their location — literally on Whitefish Mountain, a top-rated ski resort — allowing skiers to hop on the nearest chair lift in as little as 30 seconds.
Snow Bear is the baby of Gail Goodwin, a real estate developer behind Glacier Bear Retreat in Montana, a continually booked vacation rental inside Glacier National Park. Glacier Bear is worth mentioning since it served as a forerunner, if you will, to Snow Bear, as it possesses the same swooping beams and turrets with fiber-optic constellations. Those two elements were non-negotiable to Goodwin when she first sketched the preliminary design for Snow Bear on a placemat — except her architect left them out of the initial plans. “When I told him what I wanted to build, he just kind of looked at me like I’m crazy,” she says.
It probably wasn’t surprising, since Goodwin already knew she had to find unzoned land in order to attempt the treehouses. “Most homeowners' associations wouldn’t approve of something 30 feet in the air,” she says. Luckily, her realtor discovered the holy grail of land: the founder’s lot, a fully wooded, unzoned parcel once owned by Whitefish Mountain founder Ed Schenk.
Once Goodwin convinced her architect to add the swooping beams and turrets back into the renderings (despite the difficulty and cost), she forged ahead with her childhood fantasy, which she calls inspired whimsy. “If Hansel and Gretel got together with Harry Potter and decided to build a house,” she says, “This would be it.”
Evidence of that aesthetic abounds beyond the sloped storybook beams and ladder-accessible turret. Each chalet also possesses a cantilevered master bedroom, 400-square-foot wraparound deck, gas fireplace surrounded by Montana moss stone, Bosch appliances, Cambria quartz counters, sliding barn doors and floor-to-ceiling windows with unencumbered views of the towering tamarack, ponderosa and cedar trees. (Not only is each chalet named after these trees, but also constructed from its namesake wood.)
However, storybook features are not without their challenges.
“In my 35 years of building projects, this is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done,” says Goodwin, noting that every element had to be lifted in. Then there was the not-so-insignificant matter of executing the design.
Goodwin brought on engineers to mastermind many of the elements found in each one, from the hot tubs on each deck to the cantilevered master bedrooms to the support structures. Think the treehouses are perched on actual tree trunks? Thanks to engineers, they’re in fact four steel beams covered in rubber bark, meant to withstand the area’s harsh weather conditions.
Beyond the design elements, guests can look forward to amenities like a Sonos stereo system, Hungarian goose down comforters and optional services like a private chef, organic catering, grocery delivery and on-site massage. Don’t worry about schlepping ski equipment, since that can be rented at Whitefish. And beginner skiers can breathe a sigh of relief, since the chalets are near the bottom of a slope that’s geared toward any ski level. (The lift can whisk everyone else to their desired ski level.) When it’s time for a break, the village is less than a five-minute walk away.
Each treehouse sleeps between 6 and 10, for a total of 22, and rents from $3,000 to $10,000 a week, depending on the season. Goodwin says Snow Bear is already booking for the 2019 season, but there are still 2018 openings as of this writing.
Look forward to more treehouses in the future, since Goodwin also owns two adjacent lots. She’s not in any rush though. “Right now I just gave birth, and I got to get my baby bears walking before they get any siblings,” she says.