Schweitzer sounds like a ski resort in Switzerland. But no, it’s in Idaho, and it’s big and beautiful. In fact, Schweitzer is the biggest ski resort in Idaho and Washington with 2,900 acres, bigger than more-famous Sun Valley (with 2,100-acres) or Crystal (2,600). Schweitzer is in the Selkirk Mountains -a span of the Rockies in Idaho’s panhandle just 50-miles from Canada.
I dubbed Schweitzer the Lake Tahoe of Idaho on our first ascent – riding the Great Escape Quad to the summit. On a clear day you can see Montana, Washington, The Canadian Rockies and beautiful Lake Pend Oreille stretching below (which means ear lobe in French - the shape of the Lake). Equally stunning are Schweitzer’s snow ghosts that guard the steep groomed runs and glades, as snow crystals and rime cling to pines and lift towers.
Schweitzer feels big, a respectable 2,400’ vertical, but not so high that you have altitude issues at 6,400’. With five distinct ski areas on varying aspects, you can change weather systems (read: snow, fog, sun) from Schweitzer Bowl on the front side, the Basin and Lakeview Triple area, to Outback Bowl. I felt right at home on the Frontside’s well-pitched steeps of White Lightening to perfectly spaced trees in Headwall. I also loved the A-C Chutes and my namesake Heather’s Run dropping off the stunning ridgeline. The Snow Ghost Double is old-school cool, climbing slowly and scenically 1,900’ vertical to steeps and more bowls, along with Schweitzer’s longest run, 2.5-mile mellow Little Blue Run over to the Stella Six Pack in Outback Bowl.
Schweitzer has plenty of trails, and loads of in-between pockets, plus limitless backcountry to poach – you can easily ski a week at Schweitzer uncovering new stashes. Once you have cycled all the powder in bounds, Selkirk Powder Cats offers cat skiing on an additional 3,000-acres leaving right from the ski resort summit. We didn’t get to that, since there’s also après ski in Idaho, don’t you know?!
Pretend you’re in a European ski village at Schweitzer, passing the alpine clock tower on your way to wine and cheese tasting at Gourmandie, a massage at Solstice Spa, or brewskis at Pucci’s Pub a cozy local bar. To me, Taps Bar was perfect for 3 après ski reasons: live music, a view of the Lake and the ski slopes, and friendly Idahoans.
Schweitzer’s alpine village is relatively new and well laid out - with lovely condo suites in the Selkirk Lodge or White Pine Lodge just a snowball’s toss from the slopes. The tasteful rocky mountain décor in our unit was only topped by the big outdoor hot tub with that unforgettable, ever-changing Lake view. At sunrise, sunset, and alpenglow – Schweitzer is stellar. Next season, a spectacular summit lodge opens promising phenomenal views.
For lodging off-mountain, a little lighter on the budget, the town of Sandpoint is very cool too, just 15-minutes down the mountain road, on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Sandpoint has a super cool vibe – comparable to Bend Oregon or Durango Colorado.
You will be hearing more about Schweitzer, sister resort to Whitewater in Nelson, British Columbia. Schweitzer gets dumped on in big Pacific Northwest storms, can you say “El Nino”? Locals joke about the heavy snowstorms, and how if you can’t see - just ski. But when the sun shines on Schweitzer, and there’s fresh snow, it’s big and beautiful with bountiful skiing.
I suggest you visit Schweitzer, as part of Northwest ski safari hitting Silver Mountain and Whitefish in Montana as well. More on Whitefish’s Big Mountain skiing next week.
By Heather Burke
Photos by Greg Burke