Living in Columbia Falls, MT?
May 16, 2017 11:43 AM   Subscribe

My daughter is considering a 1 year position in Columbia Falls, MT, starting this August (near Whitefish and Kalispel). We've visited the area before and are generally familiar with it as vacationers to Glacier National Park, but have some concerns about weather, people, food and interesting activities, especially in the winter months.

Columbia Falls weather seems similar to Chicago in terms of temperature but probably more snow, but is the lack of light worse? As for people, would it be easy for a liberal vegan to find people and food she could feel comfortable with in Columbia Falls? How easy it to rent an apartment there? Any thoughts or previous experience living in or near Columbia Falls, Mt is appreciated. My daughter is a recent college grad. Thanks!
posted by j810c to Grab Bag (4 answers total)
I have a good friend who lives there. She works for the Forest Service, her husband works for the Park Service. They are liberal, not vegan, likely have some vegan friends. I thought it would be a pretty conservative area and maybe that is true as you get more rural but in Kalispel and Columbia Falls, I think there is a considerable population of liberals.

I think it is colder than Chicago, can't comment on the light in winter. They ski a lot in the winter.
posted by sulaine at 12:52 PM on May 16

Uh, it's going to be a lot colder than Chicago. Plus more snow. BUT - the tradeoff is that it's much drier, so it doesn't feel as cold as the thermometer would lead you to believe. Plus the snow is fluffy and not that gross mushy stuff. It's at a higher latitude so yes, there will be less light in the winter. HOWEVER, it tends to be sunnier than the midwest. Bright dry days below zero are MUCH better than cold overcast humid days above zero.

There's probably a very high proportion of outdoors people in the area - backpackers, climbers, skiiers, hunters, fishers. Hopefully she's into some of that or she's going to get bored. In my experience, backpackers and climbers are pretty liberal. The rest vary. I found that Montana mostly has a live-and-let-live attitude; they keep their politics out of your face and they expect you to do the same. "Vegan" is probably worse than liberal to be honest.
posted by AFABulous at 2:14 PM on May 16 [3 favorites]

I'm from Billings and went to school in Missoula.

Missoula (about 2.5 hours south) is VERY liberal. Lots of vegan options and the like. I have a friend who lives there still and is constantly sharing the vegan food she gets. I think food things like that are trending to smaller cities as many people who love nature are also vegan or vegetarian rather than hunters - or many people only eat meat that they hunt for ethical reasons.

There's also a good chance of college students going back for summer at least. I had a roommate from Kalispell and knew many many more people from there. All mostly liberal.

For weather, generally the further north the more snow and cold months there are. I'd check into the historical weather for more of an idea.

I'd say give it a visit - would weekend trips to Missoula also be an option if she wants to be near a more populated place with more vegan options every once in awhile?

I don't know the area specifically but people in Montana are generally nice and pretty neighborly - although there can be many conservative viewpoints - like most places especially as you get away from populated areas.

Often people in MT go for democratic leaning reps as they enjoy personal freedoms with a conservative federal approach.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:02 AM on May 17

Summers are warm and sometimes smokey from forest fires. Winters are cold and the Flathead pretty much stays gray all winter long. The lack of light and blue skies is a defining characteristic of NW Montana winters. Winters can be long, too. I am in Missoula and we have two inches of new snow on the ground today. We went 240 days without getting above 70 degrees this past year.

Columbia Falls itself is kind of a "meh" town but really the Flathead Valley is just one spread-out town. I don't remember any vegan or particuarly good restaurants in C Falls but there are lots of good restaurants throughout the valley, particularly in Whitefish. More and more places have vegan options.

People are friendly. There is everything you could want to do outside in the summer. In the winter, skiing and snowmobiling are popular. There are a lot of other activities in the winter such as plays, small concerts, etc.
posted by ITravelMontana at 10:33 AM on May 17

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