Apres-Ski Relaxation: It Takes A Village

Last week, I waxed enthusiastic about my experiences at Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort (see “Releasing My Inner Powder Pig”). What I failed to mention was the ski-in/ski-out convenience of Schweitzer Village.

The ONLY Way To Ski
I’ll admit it: I’m a comfort seeker. I may spend a lot of time in the Great Outdoors, doing things such as hiking, bicycling, kayaking, and skiing, but at the end of the day, I want a good meal and a comfortable place to lay my head. (Is it any wonder that the titles of two of the books I’ve written begin with “Hot Showers, Soft Beds, and Dayhikes”? The hikes are important, but so are the lodgings!)

Sally O’Neal Coates

Once I had been spoiled by the amenities of a quality trailhead bed and breakfast, I wasn’t too keen on the idea of sleeping on the ground anymore. Who wants a handful of gorp and instant coffee when you can have a smoked salmon omelet and a café latte before you hit the trail?

Likewise, after experiencing the convenience of ski-in/ski-out lodgings, I’m loath to do the “ski-rack-and-commute” shuffle the next time I ski. There’s nothing quite so decadent as relaxing in your cozy lodge room or condominium until the lifts open or the coffee is gone (depending upon your personal priorities), then descending in an elevator, removing your skis and warm, dry boots from your own personal locker, stepping out the door, clicking into your bindings, and cruising down the hill.

Little Village On The Hill
Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort is located in northern Idaho just outside the community of Sandpoint. Sandpoint itself is a cute little town, home to several cottage industries, numerous artists and artisans, a winery, a handful of good restaurants, and the Coldwater Creek (clothing and accessories) flagship store. It’s a great little town, and the ski hill is just a few miles away. But on the mountain itself, you have the Village.

The Village at Schweitzer. (Photos by Doug Marshall)

Schweitzer Village is tiny, but includes the basic tourist infrastructure of lodging (Selkirk Lodge, White Pines Condominiums, and an assortment of private condos), shops (sportswear, gifts, equipment, groceries), and restaurants (pizza, Mexican, casual, and fine dining), as well as a bar/lounge with weekend entertainment and a youth lounge for teens. The lodge and condos are upscale, well appointed, and reasonably priced for the quality.

All The Comforts Of Home
After a hard day of skiing, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. A hot buttered rum or steaming mug of cocoa at Mojo Coyote café, a soak in the hot tub overlooking Lake Pend Oreille, perhaps a game of cards in my comfortable condo. I don’t need a street fair or a Mardi Gras (though, come to think of it, there was a Mardi Gras celebration at Taps Lounge the Friday I was there…).

As for dining, my lamb chops at the Chimney Rock Grill were quite nice, but then again, so was the linguine and clams I whipped up in my own kitchen the next night. I love good food, casual or fancy, but I also like the option of changing into my pajamas and hanging out in the comfort of my own home-away-from-home. More than once over the course of the long weekend I thought about the refrain from the play Camelot: “I wonder what the peasants are doing tonight?”

Year-round pool at Selkirk Lodge.

Choices, Choices
I never took a swim in the year-round pool, nor did I listen to the live entertainment in the lounge or watch one of several free first-run movies shown daily. But it was nice to know all those options existed. I didn’t buy that $350 apres-ski designer sweater, either, but I did pick up a new pair of socks. And when we discovered we lacked sour cream for the potatoes we intended to bake in the convenience of our condominium kitchen, it was nice to know we could pick that up at the little convenience store.

The Village at Schweitzer is small, but well designed with the tourist in mind. Once we parked our car in the secure underground parking lot, we didn’t remove it again or even see it until we were ready to leave four days later. Now THAT’S a ski vacation!

Sally O’Neal Coates is a travel writer and satisfied skier who makes her home in southeastern Washington State. Her books include “Hot Showers, Soft Beds, and Dayhikes in the Central Cascades” and “The Unofficial Guide to Bed and Breakfasts and Country Inns in the Northwest.” For more information about Schweitzer, go to http://www.schweitzer.com.

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