by Ted S. McGregor, Jr.
Schweitzer made a name for itself in skiing circles last year with its innovative launch of a high-speed six-pack chairlift. Harbor Properties, owners of the resort just outside Sandpoint, called the chairlift "Stella" and gave it the full theme-park treatment, with a storyline that those waiting for a ride could interact with. Sure, it was a little gimmicky, but whatever it takes to get you noticed -- and the bonus is that the waiting-in-line problem that long plagued Schweitzer was helped immensely by the new chairlift.
Schweitzer also got noticed last year by early-season powder hounds who were shut out of Utah, which didn't get snow until later in the season. Any way you look at it, people outside the Inland Northwest are starting to notice Schweitzer.
Although Harbor Properties looks for about 75 percent of its business to come from locals, it is putting in the amenities needed to attract ski tourists from around the world. It's always had great snow and nice runs, but now its getting the other stuff, too. Opening just in time for this Christmas is the White Pine Lodge, a condo project that will also feature shops like Finan McDonald, Spuds Restaurant, the Alpenglow Deli and the Wine Cellars. The Selkirk Lodge remains a great place to take advantage of Schweitzer's ski-and-stay packages.
But it is the skiing that will keep 'em coming back for more, and this year Schweitzer has added yet another run, Bluegrass, which jumps off just about halfway down Chair Six. Major trail clearing efforts have also been completed on some emerging favorites in the Northwest Territory. And some of the places being used for tree skiing were thinned, adding to the experience without changing it.
With views of Lake Pend Oreille, Schweitzer is hard to beat from a scenery standpoint. And it appeals to more than just hardcore downhillers, as it offers tons of cross-country terrain, lots of fun stuff for snowboarders and even a slalom course for speed demons.
And Schweitzer's also hard to beat for having Sandpoint so close by -- a town with distinctive hotels, restaurants and nightspots.