Insider’s Guide: Schweitzer Mountain Resort
Hittin' the deep stuff. (Schweitzer/Facebook)
Nestled high in the Selkirks of northernmost Idaho, Schweitzer has the feel of a locals’ mountain and a burgeoning destination resort. Its 2,900 acres sit 45 miles from the Canadian border and above lumber town Sandpoint and Lake Pend Orielle. In a season like 2017-2018, Schweitzer gets plenty of snow but conditions can be variable – and weather foggy -- because it’s fed by moisture-laden Pacific storms.
Terrain. Schweitzer’s trail map breaks into two bowls. Front-side Schweitzer Bowl has mostly blacks – and no green ratings – as Schweitzer segregates beginner and teaching zones with Musical Chairs lift serving ample gentle terrain across from main mountain. Atop Schweitzer Bowl, the short but sweet chutes off Lakeview Triple rival any for steeps and cliffs. Acres of glades intersperse with classic groomers. Locals dig the slow Sunny Side double-chair area because it’s off the beaten track and full of expert terrain. On the back side in Outback Bowl, you’ve got super-fast in Stella six-pack, and old-school slow in two-seater Snow Ghost. But ride time is worth it as the ridge spills off into more than a dozen diamond and double-diamond blacks, powder-stash glades crop up all over – especially off Idyle Our T-bar on North Ridge -- and inviting blues corduroy all across the lower half. Little Blue Ridge rolls nearly two blue-pitched miles from top to bottom. Access easy between back and front, and mountain has three terrain parks.
Play. Selkirk Powder Company has snow cats, helicopters and snowmobiles. All duck under the Schweitzer ropes and roam far afield into thousands of acres of backcountry. New heli-skiing delivers riders and skiers for up to 14,000 vert in a day. Snowmobile tours also begin at summit. Base village has trails for X-C, snow bikes and snowshoeing, and a tubing hill. Or, head north 30 miles to casino at Bonner’s Ferry. Twilight skiing and riding from 3 to 7 on Fridays and Saturdays.
Eat. New Sky House at the summit is a welcome addition. Mountain fare, espresso coffee and booze make 360-degree views that much better. On back side, Outback Inn is only other on-mountain respite, but village is replete with down-home, nothing-fancy drinking and dining spots – save for Gourmandie in White Pine Lodge. Down in Sandpoint (6,000 pop.), change pace with lakefront eateries or check out dozens of restaurants all across the gourmet map. DiLuna’s throws out massive breakfasts.
Stay. Selkirk Hotel and White Pine condos are ski-in ski-out options in base village, with ample condos and VRBOs close by. Sandpoint offers cheaper nights, with all manner of chain and local hostelries. For a bit more, stay at a lakeside resort or one of many B&Bs. RV parks abound.
Travel. It’s less than two hours from Spokane airport, and shuttles to on-mountain lodging run regularly. Amtrak stops in Sandpoint. If staying in Sandpoint, you’ll have to rent a car or hitch a ride to park-n-ride halfway to mountain; shuttle from there costs a couple of bucks.
Deals. Selkirk Hotel and White Pine roll out ski-and-stay packages all season long. Fly Alaska Airlines and hustle to mountain to ski and ride free on that day. Wait until 12.30 p.m. Sunday and hit slopes for $30 for rest of day.