It’s about midway through the ski season, so there’s no time like the present to treat yourself to a getaway that offers quality time on the slopes, après-ski relaxation and a charming small town full of independent shops and restaurants.
That last part might sound like a far cry from what you’d find at Crystal or Summit at Snoqualmie. But Schweitzer Mountain Resort, located in Sandpoint, Idaho, is easily accessible from Seattle and is just a two-hour drive from Spokane.
Boasting nearly 3,000 acres of terrain, Schweitzer is best known for good old-fashioned skiing in a charming setting. But it also offers a plethora of other outdoor activities for those looking to try something new in the snow, as well as plenty of delicious restaurants and a lovely downtown area if you want to take some downtime to explore and shop.
Here’s what you need to know.
How to get there
For travelers in the Greater Seattle area, it’s approximately a six-hour drive to Sandpoint, so a road trip is one option. Or, you can opt to take a 45-minute Alaska Airlines flight to Spokane, then rent a car to complete the two-hour drive to the ski area.
A major bonus of taking this quick flight is that Schweitzer is part of Alaska Airlines’ Fly Alaska, Ski Free program, which means that, upon presenting your boarding pass, you’ll receive a free lift ticket for that same day.
However you choose to travel, I strongly recommend having a car for the duration of your stay. Downtown Sandpoint is about 30 minutes from Schweitzer and is home to a number of excellent restaurants, bars and shops. Even if you plan to spend every possible hour skiing, you’ll work up an appetite — and there are limited dining options at Schweitzer Village itself once the lifts close for the day.
Schweitzer is best known for its skiing and snowboarding trails — and for good reason. Thanks to the diverse terrain, there’s a trail for everyone’s skill and comfort level.
And although it’s the biggest ski area in Idaho, Schweitzer is small enough that a group of friends and family can easily split up depending on which runs they prefer — and then reconvene for a lunch break before returning to the slopes.
I also noticed that, likely due to its “off the beaten path” location, Schweitzer was less crowded this winter than popular ski resorts I’ve visited in Utah and Colorado.
Although skiing is the main draw, it’s far from the only way to enjoy the great outdoors in this gorgeous area.
Schweitzer has 20 miles of Nordic trails, so whether you enjoy cross-country skiing or are interested in giving it a try, this is the perfect opportunity. There are trails suitable for every skill level and beginners can sign up for lessons through the ski area’s SnowSports School.
Guided snowshoeing hikes are another great activity to consider. There are three hike options, all of which offer the opportunity to take in the scenery at a slower pace. The Moonlight Hike is especially popular. It begins at 4 p.m. with a walk through the forest to take in the stunning sunset views, and the moon lights up the trail on the way back.
Other activities include guided snowmobile tours and a tubing park where you can enjoy a fun slide down the mountain before you’re pulled back up for the next run. Tubing is especially popular among families with children, but it’s important to note that the minimum height requirement is 42 inches.
Where to stay
The highly anticipated boutique hotel Humbird officially opened its doors on Feb. 8. During a January trip, workers were busy putting the finishing touches on the 31-room hotel, which is located in the heart of Schweitzer Village.
After taking a tour of the almost-finished property, I made a mental note to return to Schweitzer just to stay at Humbird. With a unique design that’s best described as a contemporary twist on a classic ski lodge, Humbird’s highlights include the Glass Room, with games and stunning panoramic views, plus a state-of-the-art fitness center, a coworking space and more. And dog lovers definitely won’t want to miss out on the meet-and-greet sessions with Schweitzer’s avalanche patrol dogs. Frolicking with furry friends on the hotel patio after a day on the slopes? It doesn’t get much better than that.
If you’re not looking to splurge, Selkirk Lodge is an excellent option. It’s not as luxurious as Humbird, but it has spacious rooms and amenities including a swimming pool, hot tub, movie theater and restaurant, Chimney Rock Grill. Be sure to make use of the kitchenettes in the rooms, which include a minifridge, microwave, toaster, sink, dishware and a dining table.
Visitors staying at Selkirk should be sure to book online through Schweitzer’s website to take advantage of this hidden perk: discounted lift tickets that can be purchased on-site for the duration of your trip.
Where to eat
When it’s time for a lunch break, head on up to Sky House to eat a fresh meal while enjoying the scenery from the top of the mountain. Menu offerings include everything from a rib-eye to vegetarian pho, so there’s something for everyone.
Back at Schweitzer Village, be sure to eat at Gourmandie at least once. The charcuterie board is a must, and the eatery has extensive beer and wine options. Gourmandie is the ideal spot for dinner when you’re not up for the drive to Sandpoint proper.
Now that Humbird has opened its doors, so has the hotel restaurant and bar, Crow’s Bench. It promises “upscale Alpine-inspired cuisine,” and like the rest of the hotel, Crow’s Bench is poised to become a hot spot in the village.
If you do head to downtown Sandpoint, start with drinks and appetizers at MickDuff’s Brewing Company. Do yourself a favor and order the fries and the beer cheese soup to share. Fries dipped in the soup proved to be the heavenly appetizer I never knew I needed.
Dinner at The Fat Pig was another treat. The food is made using local ingredients and, because we couldn’t choose an entree, my group opted to split a number of appetizers and main dishes. We were especially enthusiastic about the duck nachos, the cauliflower salad, the Fat Pig burger, the shrimp-and-pesto macaroni and cheese, and the stuffed portobello.
If you can tear yourself away from the slopes and scenery for a few hours, I recommend taking a morning or afternoon to explore downtown Sandpoint.
Cedar Street Bridge Public Market is an indoor marketplace that’s home to boutique shops and local artisans, as well as a coffee shop and bistro.
Downtown Sandpoint also has a number of fun shops to suit everyone’s taste and budget. My personal favorites were Bella Terra Boutique, La Chic Boutique, Zero Point Crystals and Azalea Handpicked Style. The downtown area is small enough that you can easily browse all the shops until you find the perfect souvenir.
For the full ski-town experience, Sandpoint and Schweitzer are hard to beat. When you leave, it’s likely you’ll already be planning your return trip.