The 2,900 acres of skiable terrain make Schweitzer the largest resort in Idaho, exceeding better-known Sun Valley by about a third. The summit elevation of a relatively tame 6,400 feet makes Schweitzer a good choice for those susceptible to altitude sickness. From the summit, the ski area provides 2,400 vertical feet of skiing across two main bowls, Schweitzer Bowl and Outback Bowl. The mountain receives an average annual snowfall of 300 inches.
"We're actually a really big mountain which a lot of people don't realize," said Haley Sorbel, Schweitzer's communications coordinator. "We're well-known for our tree skiing, so that's definitely an attraction. We have tree skiing on the intermediate level and it just goes up from there. We ranked third [in tree skiing] in North America in 2007 by Skiing magazine."
Assuming the region’s tendency for foggy conditions does not materialize, the scenic views are definitely a highlight of the Schweitzer experience. The centerpiece of the valley, Lake Pend Oreille, covering 148 square miles, may be smaller than Lake Tahoe, measuring 191 square miles, but Idaho’s largest lake may be just as picturesque.
The Selkirk Lodge, White Pine Lodge, and various condos are the lodging choices at the base area. Options in the town of Sandpoint, 11 miles away from the resort, range from quaint bed-and-breakfasts to a Super 8 for the budget-minded.
While Lake Pend Oreille makes Sandpoint a year-round tourist destination, the town’s economy also relies on Coldwater Creek, the women’s clothing retailer headquartered there. In downtown Sandpoint, a 9,300-square-foot flagship store— complete with an upstairs wine bar-- is about twice the size of an average Coldwater Creek retail location.
"Sandpoint is an art town. It's a small town, but there are a lot of art galleries," Sorbel said. "It's right on the lake, so that's a huge attraction."
Located just 45 miles south of the Canadian border, Schweitzer is not as difficult to reach as it might seem. Most major airlines, including discount carriers Frontier and Southwest, fly into Spokane, Wash., an hour-and-a-half drive away from the resort.
(Photo Credits: Schweitzer Mountain Resort)