It’s the last hurrah of the ski season here in the Pacific Northwest, and I have a few weeks left to tout the charms of one of my favorite resorts: Schweitzer Mountain.
Schweitzer is located just uphill from the charming community of Sandpoint in northern Idaho. This winter’s 320 inches of snow has left the resort with an upper elevation base of 149 inches and a lower elevation base of 92 inches. So I’d say, “uh huh, they’re ready for spring skiing.”
About The Mountain
The marketing folks at Schweitzer like to talk about the 2,900 skiable acres, 92 trails, and the fact that you can see three states (that’s Washington, Idaho, and Montana) plus a bit of Canada from the summit. This is all true, but my personal experience has more to do with the excellent snow (abundant and powdery, but with a nice tooth), the variety of easy and intermediate runs (comprising 50 percent of the terrain), and the incredible scenery.
The view down the mountain is truly breathtaking, overlooking Lake Pend Oreille (say “Lake Pond Or-RAY”), a 43-mile long recreational paradise. (But that’s another column.)
The Nordic Scene
With nearly 20 miles of trails and a price of $12 for adults ($10 for students and seniors over 65), Schweitzer’s cross-country ski trails are an unsung bargain. A trail aptly named “Picnic Point Out and Back” (a swell little 3-mile sampler) is a lovely way to explore the sport. More difficult terrain is also groomed and available to the advanced Nordic skier. Rental equipment and lessons are available.
If skiing this beautiful mountain isn’t enough — or if you’re fortunate enough to spend sufficient time at Schweitzer to get your fill of skiing and are looking for other activities — check out the snowshoe trails, air boarding, geocaching, and more.
You can snowshoe on your own (utilizing the cross-country trails) or join a hosted hike. Snowshoes are available to rent and the trails here are fun and scenic. Relax afterward with a free movie (three daily shown in the Selkirk Theater) or sign up for a Saturday pottery class.
The all-new, inflatable “air boards” are the latest downhill attraction. Groups head to the summit on the Great Escape Quad then descend it in a pack. The tubes are steerable and, to some extent, controllable in terms of speed.
Looking for something that’s a little less of an adrenaline rush? Engage your mind and your body with geocaching. It’s a high-tech treasure hunt experience involving GPS and the location of several hidden caches. A low-tech version — more like a kiddies scavenger hunt — is also available at the Activity Center. Speaking of scavenger hunts, the Activity Center also offers a photography scavenger hunt list that results in some amazing shots. Or you can take part in the beer scavenger hunt, a.k.a. “The Great Beer Blast,” wherein the over-21 crowd explores half a dozen village tap rooms and a list of micro brews.
Of Course You’re Famished
And like any great ski resort, the Schweitzer Village has a wide array of dining choices, from the regional Cuisine at the Chimney Rock Grill to several coffee shops, markets and pubs. If you venture down the hill to the town of Sandpoint, the options triple.
Schweitzer Mountain remains one of my favorite Pacific Northwest alpine skiing destinations. The nearest major airport is Spokane (Washington) International, from there, shuttles and busses run around $100 plus $10- to $15 per additional rider. Driving time from Spokane is 1.5 hours.
Sally O’Neal is an ungraceful, but enthusiastic skier who enjoyed Schweitzer Mountain again this winter. For more information, point your browser to (www.schweitzer.com).