Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Idaho
Schweitzer is one of Idaho’s largest ski areas, but it’s still uncrowded. One skier per acre (2,900 skiable acres) is a good-sized crowd here.
Its acreage is the largest in Idaho and its vertical drop (2,400 feet) is second only to Sun Valley’s 3,400 feet. It’s been known to the region for nearly half a century as a true skiers’ mountain, but now that the word is out nationally, things will certainly change.
A European-style village with shops, restaurants and lodging provides creature comforts, with more developments on the drawing board. However, many visitors stay in Sandpoint, 11 miles away on the shore of beautiful Lake Pend Oreille. This is the sort of place that people visit, then try to figure out a way to move here. Located between the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains, overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, Sandpoint was originally a lumber town on the water. The shoreline, with its fjords, small inlets and peninsulas, resembles Washington state’s San Juan Islands.
Schweitzer has mostly east-facing terrain. Compared to Rocky Mountain resorts, the elevation (6,400 feet) is not high, but it gets plenty of snow from its position in the Selkirks. When storms come from the north, the snow is dry and fluffy, but more often it’s wet and dense. It’s drier than the Cascade Concrete that falls on Washington and Oregon areas, but still wet enough to have earned the local term, Panhandle Premix.
Schweitzer cut its trails like Salt Lake City built its streets—wide enough to turn around a team of oxen. You wouldn’t want to try that on Schweitzer’s slopes, but rest assured that there is plenty of room to execute your turns. When the skies are clear, the vistas are outstanding: From the summit, skiers can look east into Montana’s Cabinet Range and north to the Canadian Selkirks. And the view of big Lake Pend Oreille is memorable.
A recently installed surface lift provides access into a backcountry stash the locals call “Little Blue.” The area has five advanced runs and glades. The resort has also added a moving carpet in the learning area.
The region is home to both Schweitzer and Silver Mountain. Both mountains are roughly equidistant from the lakeside city of Coeur d’Alene, a fun place to stay. It’s thriving with plenty of dining, nightlife and shopping. The lake, one of 55 in the area, is more than 25 miles long. Near town are plenty of parks and hiking trails, and the Coeur d’Alene Resort has a floating boardwalk over the water that’s almost a mile long.
Photos by Woods Wheatcroft/Schweitzer Mountain Resort