This Idaho Ski Resort May be One of America's Last Hidden Mountain Gems

And it comes with a fantastic view, too.

<p>Courtesy of Schweitzer</p>

Courtesy of Schweitzer

"Let's move here," my husband says, sliding to a stop halfway down our first run of the day.

The statement is laughable, considering we arrived last night and it's 9:30 a.m. — but I don't disagree. I've only skied a handful of turns, and I already know one thing to be true: Schweitzer is a special place.

The ski area, the largest resort in Idaho and Washington, is perched in the Selkirk Mountains above the lake community of Sandpoint. Schweitzer is known for both its tree skiing and its grooming. But, like many guests here, I can't get over the landscape. Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho's largest lake, stretches out from the foot of the mountains, and on a clear day, you can peer into Canada (which is only an hour north by car).

And then there's the fact that you can ski above the clouds.

From the top of the lift, the sky is clear, and the clouds sit at our feet. After a few turns, we enter into the foggy, fuzzy world before popping out on the other end. The tree skiing lives up to the hype, with untouched powder from a storm two days prior. And that, right there, is the difference between Schweitzer and most mountains: it isn't overrun, and there's enough terrain to give everyone a little elbow room.

"The amount of terrain we have compared to the skier visits we have — it's still underrated," says Sean Mirus, Schweitzer's marketing and special events director, and our ski buddy for the day. "I can ski more laps here in a half day than I could in a lot of places in a full day."

That low-key, underrated vibe is felt throughout. Schweitzer feels like a place for regular folks to get in some laps, not a bougie destination for people who'd rather shop than ski. It helps that the ski area has been independently owned since it first opened in 1963 and sits on private land. I even got the chance to talk with one of the founder's sons, Brandon Moon, a local ski coach.

"I've gotten to ski some pretty amazing spots, and when this place is good, it's as good as anywhere in the world," says Moon, whose dad is the namesake of Bud's Chute in Schweitzer Bowl. "When you can see that view of the lake … it's like wow."

Moon, who arguably knows the mountain better than anyone else, says it's all about the wind, which will load snow in certain parts of the mountain. And Mirus, who's in his 17th year in the area, promises that there's something for everyone. "You know it's not a super gnarly mountain, but it's got a great mix. There's plenty of stuff that's steep enough for expert skiers, but there's a wide enough variety."

<p>Courtesy of Schweitzer</p>

Courtesy of Schweitzer

How to Ride

If you buy online and in advance, a full-day adult lift ticket will run you $110. If you don’t need to ski the full day, pick up an afternoon half-day ticket for $45. There’s night skiing every Friday and Saturday, and certain holidays, from 3 to 7 p.m. for $20 if you pre-purchase online.

With the Ikon Pass you can get in seven days at Schweitzer.

<p>Courtesy of Schweitzer</p>

Courtesy of Schweitzer

Where to Stay

There are a few lodging options right at the base of the ski area, but it’s hard to beat the Humbird, a brand-new 31-room boutique hotel that’s mere steps from all the action. The rooms all face southeast, offering views of over Lake Pend Oreille, and are clean, modern, and simple. For even more views, head to the rooftop hot tub and patio or the Glass Room, a communal hangout space with picture windows on three sides, a fireplace, games, and a retractable projection screen.

Across the way, you’ll find the Selkirk Lodge, a classic lodge-style hotel with a lived-in feel — think leather couches and wood-heavy accents.

Those looking for a full kitchen and multiple bedrooms will want to book at White Pine Lodge, a condo-style property with one, two, and three-bedroom units with all the comforts of home — full kitchens ready to be stocked and gas fireplaces.

Where to Eat

Up on the mountain, there’s no better spot than the Sky House. From your perch, you can enjoy 360-degree views, including glimpses into Washington, Montana, and Canada on a clear day. There’s a full-service bar and restaurant on one side and a grab-and-go cafe on the other.

The Sky House may have the views, but The Outback has the vibes. The casual grab-and-go spot on the backside of Schweitzer is lined with retro skis and boards and has both indoor and outdoor seating. (Plus, the smoked brisket is supposedly out of this world.)

Below in Sandpoint, head to The Fat Pig (known for their rotating tap list) or Trinity at City Beach for a more upscale, waterfront meal.

When I ask Moon, a lifelong local, for his recommendation, he doesn’t hesitate, “Breakfast or lunch at Joel’s,” a Mexican restaurant downtown that he says “is the real deal.”

<p>Courtesy of Schweitzer</p>

Courtesy of Schweitzer

Where to Après

If you’re in the market for a fancy cocktail, head to the Crow’s Bench inside the Humbird hotel. You can cozy up by the fireplace, grab a bar chair, or sit outside and enjoy the views.

If you want the full Schweitzer experience, follow the locals, who end their day with a beer (and potentially some cheesy tater tots) at Pucci’s Pub or a slice at Powder Hound Pizza.

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