Here in Texas, we generally aim for Colorado when ski season rolls around each winter.
Sure, some Texans subconsciously understand that people ski in other states, including California, Wyoming, and Utah. But until last year it never fully registered for me that Idaho, perhaps best known for its potatoes and trout, makes a fine ski destination, too.
Since then, I’ve logged trips to five Idaho ski resorts. I found a lot to love last week at Schweitzer Mountain, located about 80 miles from Spokane. The resort opened in 1963 and today 10 lifts whir away on its privately owned land.
From Texas, fly into Spokane and make the hour and a half drive to the mountain. You’ll be glad you did.
In the meantime, here are our favorite reasons not to overlook Schweitzer:
- With 2,900 acres of terrain in the Selkirk Mountains of the Idaho panhandle, Schweitzer ranks as the biggest ski resort in Idaho.
- You’ve got to love a place named for a Swiss hermit who supposedly enjoyed a hearty bowl of cat stew now and then. According to the Bonner County Historical
Society & Museum, the mountain was named Schweitzer, which is German for “Swiss,” after just such a person. He was eventually hauled off to an asylum, but his name stuck.
3. At the funky and cozy Talus Rock Retreat just down the road, where I stayed a night, one room features a shower built into an artificial tree.
4. If it snows hard like it often does, you might not realize the resort is perched just above Lake Pend Oreille. The views are superb.
5. There is no sprawling megaplex at the base area. It’s small enough to find your friends between runs, and the clock tower makes an easy meeting point.
6. Head to Headwall, a perfectly pitched black slope with widely spaced trees, for the best terrain on the mountain.
7. Even the wildlife at Schweitzer has attitude. Signs next to the on-mountain trail maps remind visitors to watch for coyotes, a familiar sight to most Texans. In January, one chased a skier down a run, nipping her and sending her into a tree well.
8. The cool, modern Humbird Hotel at the base makes a fine place to hang your skis. Later this year, a hot tub will open on its rooftop. Until then, you can use the outdoor pool and tubs at the neighboring lodge, the Selkirk.
9. Channel your inner European and order fondue, wiener schnitzel, or raclette at the Crow’s Nest. They make a good old fashioned, too.
10. The nearby town of Sandpoint has a quaint downtown packed with restaurants and shops. Don’t miss MickDuff’s Brewing Company, housed in a beautiful old post office. (Attention salad lovers – Sandpoint is also home to the salad dressing maker Litehouse Foods.)