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by Michael Bowen

Where: Sandpoint, Idaho

Phone: (208) 263-9555

Web site:

Vertical drop: 2,400 ft.

Average snowfall: 300 inches

Lifts: two handle tows, four doubles, one quad, one high-speed six-pack

Hill info: 2,500 acres, 62 trails: 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, 35% advanced, 5% expert

Hours: Daily 9 am-4 pm, Nov. 25-April 10; Nights, 3-8 pm, Fridays-Saturdays from Dec. 17-March 19; nightly from Dec. 24-Jan. 1; and on Jan. 16 and Feb. 20.

Lift tickets: $5-$48

events: Dec. 18, Christmas Tree Lighting; Jan. 8-9, Selkirk Classic (giant slalom, touring, Nordic jumping); Feb. 24-27, USTSA Nationals (telemark racing); Feb. 25-27, Freeride Institute; March 11-12, Stomp Games (open competition).

A Swiss hermit started it. A century ago, a mysterious fellow lived in the Selkirk Mountains near Sandpoint. All anyone knew was that he was from Switzerland -- so the locals named a mountain after the "Swiss man": Schweitzer.

By 1963, the mountain had its first "ski lift." Somebody parked a car at the top of the hill and left it running to power a handle tow (capacity: 2).

Today, the Schweitzer Mountain Resort has eight lifts -- including "Stella," the high-speed "six-pack" -- and they all run with Swiss watch precision, capable of scooting more than 8,000 people every hour up the mountainside.

Yes, things have changed a bit since the days of the hermit -- especially since Harbor Properties purchased the resort four years ago, adding Stella, the White Pine Lodge, 50 condos and a renovated Chimney Rock Grill.

Harbor's renovation of Schweitzer has a chicken-and-egg relationship with the recent resurgence of Sandpoint as one of the Funkiest of Idaho Places To Be -- who's to say which came first? -- but the resort continues to grow. The Stomping Grounds blasts music while snowboarders ride the rails and practice their tricks; for newbies, there's a Terrain Garden with less intimidating jumps. The Selkirk Powder Company will deliver 10,000 vertical feet of pristine backcountry powder to five lucky guests at a time using the Sherpa, a European snow machine. And the resort has even added a new run ("Grant's Nosedive") to the more than 60 that already exist.

With a 2.7-mile run called the Great Divide, the opportunity to whoosh back to the summit on Stella (rising more than 1,500 vertical feet and traveling more than a mile in just over five minutes) and a chance to see three mountain ranges, two nations and two states from the top of the run, you'll be flying in both directions when you visit Schweitzer. But if a strange-looking bearded guy with European accent shows up next to you in the lift line, tell him to go back into the woods and stay there. He wouldn't recognize all the changes at the place known as Schweitzer anyway.

Publication date: 11/11/04

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