Schweitzer Mountain: Big league peak in a small town setting

By Bob Goligoski

Every now and then, one feels the need to get away from the California crowds and lift lines and find a distant, quiet, no-name ski resort with amazing skiing that few have ever heard of.

Such a place is Schweitzer Mountain, a resort I recently visited in the northern Idaho panhandle just outside Sandpoint. With 2,900 skiable acres, it is larger than Sun Valley. Boasting some 92 runs and trails, it is the largest ski resort in either Washington or Idaho.

Adult lift tickets are only $79 every day. Lift lines are virtually always short in this out-of-the-way spot some 90 miles from the Spokane airport. Schweitzer is in a snow belt that reliably dumps about 300 inches year.

Any level of skier or rider can find slopes and runs to their liking. Chutes and faces for the heroes. Long cruisers for the middling crowds. Two wide open bowls to explore. And some of the best tree skiing in the country.

The novice area merits special attention. Schweizer has one of the best beginner hills that you will ever find. Conveniently located right at the base on the Musical Chairs lift, it is long, wide, gentle and perfect for bunny skiers.

And adjacent to the 2,900 acres of lift-accessed terrain are 4,350 acres of skiing and riding served by Selkirk Powder Guides. They run a cat skiing operation that can take you far into the back country.

For the nordic skiers in your group, Schweitzer has a superb 32 kilometer network of trails. Two snow tubing lanes are quite the diversion. Or rent snowshoes or a fat tire snow bike.

I tried a snow bike with mixed results. The scenery was spectacular. But trying to peddle the bike through six inches of ungroomed snow was no fun. Be sure and wait until the trails are groomed.

One could bed down in one of the two large, slope-side lodges at the base – Selkirk or White Pine. Or rent a ski-in, ski-out house or condo. There is a small village at the bottom of the lifts with a handful of cafes and bars.

Sandpoint is just 11 miles down the winding mountain road. It is a charming hamlet of 8,000 souls on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Scout around town and find about a dozen hotels, motels and numerous restaurants. For chow, some locals have recommended MickDuff’s, Trinity at City Beach and Eichardt’s.

One plus about Schweitzer is the low elevation, certainly a benefit for those bothered by high altitude. The top of the mountain is only 6,400 feet. Some Tahoe area resort peaks rise over 10,000 feet.

The newish Sky House restaurant sits atop the summit. Sitting on the deck with a cold brew in hand, one can see Idaho, Washington, Montana and Canada.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort
10,000 Schweitzer Mountain Road, Sandpoint, Idaho

Idaho’s Bald Mountain is one of world’s top ski resorts

SUN VALLEY, IDAHO — Three words never heard on the slopes of America’s first winter resort are “carry your speed.”

The flat spots that so often require arduous treks at other resorts simply aren’t part of the landscape or lexicon at Bald Mountain, the broad-shouldered behemoth at desert’s edge in central Idaho. Two words define Baldy: “consistent pitch.” A feature unmatched in North America, it begins at the 9,150-foot summit and ends on the floor of the Wood River Valley, 3,400 vertical feet below.

In between lies what many seasoned skiers contend is the best terrain in the world. After thorough exploration of the mountain and its dazzling variety, disagreeing may be difficult.

That steady pitch can be experienced on delightful long descents that range in steepness from the 19 degrees of College, the easiest run, to more than 40 at the brutal bottom of the misleadingly named Sleeping Bear. (Another word never heard on Baldy is “short.”)

If you’ve never skied this unique mountain, bear in mind that to do it and yourself justice, you should at least be comfortable on slopes intended for intermediate skiers. Although some runs are designated least difficult, they would be rated intermediate at most other North American resorts. The less skilled will be far more comfortable at Sun Valley’s other hill, Dollar Mountain, which also caters to snowboarders.

The first thing that might strike the first-timer is the convenience and speed of the lift system, which boasts 14 conveyances. Eight are fast detachables, including a gondola. Although Baldy is among the truly big mountains of the West, getting from one extremity to another — say from the Warm Springs base lodge to Seattle Ridge — requires but a single lift ride and should take even a slowpoke no more than 15 minutes.
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Sugar Bowl, Sun Valley resorts team up on deal for season passholders

Sugar Bowl Resort has partnered with Sun Valley Resort to give Sugar Bowl’s Unrestricted and Slightly Restricted season passholders free skiing at the Idaho ski resort. The agreement also offers Royal Gorge Cross County passholders complimentary cross-country skiing at Sun Valley Nordic Center. Combo Sugar Bowl/Royal Gorge Unrestricted and Slightly Restricted passholders will have access to both downhill and cross country skiing at Sun Valley Resort.

A two-night minimum stay in Sun Valley Resort Lodging is required for eligibility. Some blackouts apply. The program is available all season long, but is not valid with other offers or discounts. Sugar Bowl and Royal Gorge passholders may call Sun Valley Resort and ask for the Sugar Bowl “Sweet Deal” to reserve discounted lodging, on a space available basis, at 800-786-8259.

Sugar Bowl’s passholders can take advantage of new non-stop regional jet service from SFO to SUN on United Airlines, with daily flights beginning Dec. 12.  Reservations can be made  by visiting

The Sun Valley Resort announcement complements Sugar Bowl’s free skiing program with Grand Targhee Resort, which allows season passholders to ski the Wyoming resort for free this upcoming season when booked in conjunction with Grand Targhee lodging. Sun Valley and Grand Targhee are about a four-hour drive from one another, allowing Sugar Bowl’s passholders to enjoy free skiing at two iconic Idaho and Wyoming resorts this season.