PHOTO: Chip Kalback
Long ago, high in the mountains in Idaho’s panhandle, where the Cabinet Mountains meet the Selkirks, a Swiss hermit built a small cabin in a basin with a massive, glistening lake. The man was Swiss military, and when his home was searched as part of a crime investigation, the police found the corpses of cats that had been missing. Nobody knows who he was or where he came from, but the mountain above the cabin was named after him—Schwietzer Mountain, or “Swiss man” in German. And in 1963, the ski resort of the same name opened.
“This is God’s country.” That’s what former Schweitzer owner James Brown used to say when he stood on the mountain’s 6,400-foot summit. Joelle Traynor, Brown’s granddaughter who grew up skiing at Schweitzer, says the place took his breath away like no other place could.
Even with Sandpoint, Idaho, population 7,500, located 20 minutes away, Traynor says you can always find unskied terrain at Schweitzer. The 2,900 skiable acres of terrain are a formidable opponent to better-known resorts, but this is largely a local's spot.
Schweitzer is known for tree skiing. When the northwest fog engulfs the mountain, these tree lines are a saving grace, lighthouses in an ocean of white. Siberia, Headwall, and the trees to the left of J.R. are safe bets for some amazing snow and untouched lines. At Schweitzer, crowds are rarely a problem—but if you want to leave civilization behind, take the T-Bar and head over to the base of Big Blue peak to access the backcountry. Swing by Outback Inn for a burger on your way back inbounds and relax by the bonfire for lunch. When Mother Nature is generous, the South and North Bowls provide the deepest, steepest terrain Schweitzer has to offer.
If you’re looking for vertical, the Lakeview triple is a quick jaunt to the top of chutes where you can make ten laps before 10 a.m. Also, ski over to Stella's on the backside, a six-seater that was built in a barn full of antique equipment. Standing in line, you can hear the sounds of pounding metal and the gurgling of a boiler. After skiing in the North Bowl, catch Snow Ghost to the top. This old double maintains a charm for those feeling nostalgic for the simpler times, but bundle up. It's one long ride.
After a long day, everyone heads to Tap's where you can catch sports highlights, shoot pool, and sometimes listen to a live band. By 7 p.m., Tap’s is dead. Mosey on over to the little hole-in-the-wall pub, Pucci's, to keep the party alive. Order a local beer on tap, and definitely get some of their tots smothered with cheese. This sleepy ski village is pretty much lights out by 10 p.m. So head to Sandpoint for two must-sees: MickDuff's, the local micro-brew where the food is just as delicious as the suds, and up the block to The Hive for live music.
Pizza and a cheap pitcher of PBR won't do you wrong at Powder Hound Pizza. If you have trouble finding a table, order your pie to go. If you're looking for something a little more sophisticated, Chimney Rock Grill is the place for you. In town, Arlo's is you're spot to load up on some much needed carbs with it's Italian cuisine while Jalapeno's is a go-to for enchiladas and a margarita.
When staying on the mountain, the resort has a few options. The Selkirk Lodge is a hotel that offers a small movie theater, an outdoor (heated) pool, and hot tubs. Across the way is the White Pines Lodge with condo-like arrangements including a full kitchen. You can also find deals on ski-in/ski-out condo rentals through White Pines, except holidays can be a real bummer of a price tag. Off the mountain, La Quinta is a good spot as it is within walking distance to local restaurants, boutiques, and pubs, but still is only about a 20-minute drive to the base.
Schweitzer Ski Area
2900 skiable acres
Lift Ticket: $77