Northern Idaho’s “Little Secret” Steps Up Dining Amenities.
Pat Rotchford, 76, sat in The Nest, the new top-of-the-mountain restaurant at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, looking very happy.
He was drinking red wine by the fireplace with his friend, Debbie Stanley, eating prime rib sliders and Vietnamese spring rolls—not your typical mountain fare.
“Everything we’ve had here has been excellent,” said Rotchford, who has been skiing for 70 years, many of those at Schweitzer.
Sufficiently refreshed, Rotchford and Stanley geared up and hit the slopes for more afternoon skiing at this exceptional mountain in North Idaho.
Schweitzer has always been a mountain with great terrain and few skiers (“It’s our little secret,” Stanley says). Now, with the just-opened Sky House lodge on Schweitzer’s summit, the resort has taken a step up to match the amenities of great resorts around the country.
The beautiful $3.8 million, 9,000-square-foot facility houses two restaurants with 360 degree views of the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains and Lake Pend Oreille. Besides the upscale bar-restaurant Nest, the Red Hawk Cafe offers hearty, cafeteria-style mountain fare.
The Nest has a creative menu of small plates, none more expensive than $13, designed by executive chef Pete Tobin.
“It gives people a chance to have a quick bite and then head back to the slopes,” Tobin said.
Snow, terrain and more
- Location: Schweitzer is about 15 miles from the resort town of Sandpoint on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is about 45 minutes away, and Spokane, Wash., with its international airport, is about 90 minutes drive. For those traveling by train, Amtrak stops in Sandpoint.
- Snowfall: 300 inches fall annually, keeping the slopes covered from December to April most years.
- Terrain, lifts: With 2,900 acres of terrain on its front and back sides, Schweitzer is the biggest resort in North Idaho and the state of Washington next door. One high-speed six-pack and two high-speed quads do most of the people-moving, along with one triple and three double chairlifts. About 50 percent of the terrain is rated beginning or intermediate; 50 percent is advanced or expert. Outside the resort’s boundaries, advanced side-country skiing abounds.
- Vertical: 2,400 feet from a summit (6,400 feet) to the back-side base. The main village is at 4,700 feet.
Lot to lift access
- Parking: Schweitzer has two large parking lots on the mountain with unloading zones and also has a large parking lot on the valley floor served by a shuttle bus.
- Public transportation: Several companies offer service from Sandpoint to the resort.
- Accommodations: The Selkirk Lodge and White Pine Lodge are excellent choices at the village base; on-mountain condominiums also are available, as well as lodging in all price-ranges in nearby Sandpoint.
- The vibe: With its empty slopes on the weekdays, Schweitzer feels like a well-kept secret; friendly locals from Sandpoint, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane are happy to show you the ropes.
- Dining: Besides the Sky House restaurants, the resort offers a back-side lodge called The Outback Inn and a large base lodge restaurant. In the village, there are several restaurants, including Pucci’s Pub, the place to go for a post-shred beer.
- Mountain life: Beyond the lift-skiing, Schweitzer has cat skiing, snowmobiling, tubing and excellent Nordic trails.
- The new Sky House summit lodge, which will remain open this summer for weddings and special events, helps elevate Schweitzer to a top-tier resort.
- Affordable package deals, ample snowfall and empty midweek skiing make Schweitzer an enticing destination for a multiday vacation. Single day senior tickets are $69.30 online.
- Vast terrain gives skiers a lot to explore at one of the Northwest’s best resorts.