If you're looking for the highest place to get a good meal in all of Idaho, you might just find it atop Schweitzer Mountain. Located 6,375 feet up and between the Great Escape and Snow Ghost runs, Sky House replaced the rustic Wang Shack. The former spot was "an old shed held together by duct tape and spoiled beer," jokes Schweitzer Mountain Resort marketing manager Dig Chrismer, "yet it held a special charm and our local skiers loved it."
In its place, Sky House offers sit-down and to-go dining, much-needed bathrooms and a ski patrol station. In a rush to get back to the slopes? The Red Hawk offers snacks you can eat on-site or take with: fruit ($1.50), homemade organic cookies ($5) a fresh salad ($7), or a beverage, including juice, coffee and beer ($2.50-$7).
For a more leisurely pace, unpeel some of the layers and grab a seat inside the Nest, either along the bar or at the nearly floor-to-ceiling front windows (the wraparound deck, where seating for 90 beckons, is best left for warmer weather). You can also order from the Nest bar and take your beverage into the spacious dining area with killer views of Lake Pend Oreille to the southeast, and both the Cabinet and Bitterroot mountain ranges.
The Nest menu is mostly small plates, ideal for sharing, with nothing too heavy to slow your mountain mojo. Have a bowl of baked onion soup ($12) or New England clam chowder ($9) or nibble on marinated mushroom and tomato bruschetta with seasoned ricotta ($10). Baked spaghetti has a bright, scratch-made sauce, served alongside toasted bread with a tangy balsamic drizzle ($10). Nestled in a small cast iron pan and topped with tart cornichon pickles, Raclette potatoes is a Swiss-German dish of crispy potato and bacon, dill and the melted cheese for which the dish is named ($13).
A key factor in the design of the menu, says executive chef Peter Tobin, is transportation. They haul everything up to the summit and back down again in a snow cat twice a week, so food service is on real dishes, using flatware and linens to minimize disposables, and all food is prepared fresh.
"Our menu has to warrant every ingredient," says Tobin, whose accomplishments include receiving numerous American Culinary Federation awards and mentoring countless future chefs in more than 20 years as chef instructor at Spokane Community College's Inland Northwest Culinary Academy.
That means a menu with some crossover, like the spicy chili sauce, which covers the Firework Shrimp ($13) and reappears in the Vietnamese spring rolls ($11), while chopped walnuts are used to garnish the roasted curried cauliflower ($10) and the risotto ($12).
Sky House isn't just for skiers and snowboarders. Backcountry snowmobilers can access the lodge from the Priest Lake side of the mountain on designated trails or through a guided trip with Selkirk Powder Company, says Chrismer. Pedestrians are welcome as well; purchase a $20 lift ticket in the Village and earn a $10 discount on your Sky House meal or beverage. The view alone is worth it.
Warm-weather plans for Sky House range from catered weddings to special events, including wine dinners. Specific details, including the cost of the lift ticket, are still evolving, but one thing that won't change is feeling like you're at the top of the world. ♦
Sky House • Schweitzer Mountain Resort, 10,000 Schweitzer Mountain Road, Sandpoint • Open Sun-Sat, 10:30 am-sunset • schweitzer.com • 208-263-9555
EATING ON THE MOUNTAIN
With all the food venues available to Schweitzer Mountain Resort visitors, it's a good thing that skiing and snowboarding burns so many calories.
Start your day on the mountain with a cup of joe in Schweitzer Village at Cabinet Mt. Coffee in the Lakeview Lodge or Mojo Coyote Cafe in the Selkirk Lodge. Stock up on gourmet snack items — cured meats, artisan cheese, wine and beer — at Gourmandie in the White Pine Lodge, or enjoy a light bite such as the Brie panini with smoked turkey and apple ($11).
Between runs, grab a burger inside the Lakeview Lodge Cafe or snag a slice of pizza at Powder Hound Pizza ($3.50-$4.50). Feed your crowd with a whole pie, like the Thor's Hammer with red sauce, mozzarella, Canadian and traditional bacon, sausage, and pepperoni ($21/$29).
You can get pizza by the slice ($5-$6) or a whole pie ($16-$30) from Sam's Alley at Taps inside Lakeview Lodge. A hot spot for good-natured shenanigans like trivia night and ski and board parties, Taps features a popular deck with a commanding view of the village, as well as hearty pub food like sweet potato fries ($11) and barbecued pork rib tips ($15).
Located inside White Pine Lodge, Pucci's Pub is a favorite for Idaho "gnar gnar" Nachos: cheese-covered tater tots with beans, salsa and sour cream ($13.50 or $17.50 with added meat).
Chimney Rock Grill inside the Selkirk Lodge is the mountain's fine dining option. Try steamer clams cooked in fennel and beer ($10), the maple bourbon braised pork with smoked Gouda ($13) or one of many dinner entrées, such as grilled steelhead ($20). With its cozy fireplace and classic lodge décor, it's also a nice spot to relax and have a glass of port and chocolate mousse cake ($7) by the fire.