SlopeLab’s Review of Schweitzer Mountain Resort

SlopeLab Ratings


Detailed Scores:

Beginner Terrain
Intermediate Terrain
Advanced Terrain
Expert Terrain
Tree Skiing
Bowl Skiing
Snow Rating
Ski Town

Schweitzer Mountain Stats

Photo Gallery

Schweitzer Overview

When it comes to destination skiing in the United States, northern Idaho isn’t the first region that populates most traveler’s trip planning.

Which means that Schweitzer Mountain, the largest of the region’s surprisingly numerous ski areas, still remains an often overlooked destination.

There’s maybe a few more reasons for Schweitzer’s sleeper status. It carries a very real reputation for foggy weather. And the modest trail map, at first glance, might not excite a skier’s daydreams quite like the spiderwebs of lifts and runs found at the Whistler / Park City / Aspen-sized behemoth resorts.

But for anyone who makes the trek to northern Idaho, they might be surprised to find one of the more interesting and underrated mountains in the United States.

Schweitzer Trail Maps

Schweitzer Trail Map - Schweitzer Bowl
Schweitzer trail map (click for full size)
Schweitzer Trail Map - Outback Bowl
Schweitzer Outback Bowl trail map (click for full size)

Schweitzer Lift Info

Lift High Speed? Vertical Rise (ft.)
Basin Express
Cedar Park Express
Colburn Triple
Great Escape Quad
Idyle Our T-Bar
Lakeview Triple
Musical Carpet
Musical Chairs

Schweitzer Terrain Overview

As previously mentioned, Schweitzer’s trail map looks pretty small. It features just a few front side chairlifts and a large back bowl area.

But looks can be deceiving. With 2,900 acers of skiable terrain, you might be surprised to find that Schweitzer is equal in size to such big-name destinations as Jackson Hole, Breckenridge, Steamboat, and even Snowbird.

And in reality, this large area of terrain means Schweitzer caters to most types of skiers quite well, with intermediate and advanced skiers likely to find the most variety.

Schweitzer for Beginners

Beginner terrain at Schweitzer is admittedly limited.

The only green runs on the entire mountain are relegated to the Musical Chairs lift, which sits below the main base village. And Schweitzer is just barely allowed to use the plural term “runs” here. (In reality, there’s just three total greens on the mountain!)

However, the limited beginner terrain is offset by some other important truths:

  1. The three runs are actually good training grounds. They head straight down with consistent, gentle slopes that are perfect for learning. And in between the two basic groomers, there’s an interesting little tree section that both kids and adults will love.
  2. While beginners won’t get the big summit views, it doesn’t matter too much at Schweitzer. On a clear day, even the views below the main village are magnificent.
  3. Schweitzer has a great, affordable ski school, which makes it a good choice for the budget conscious beginner.

Schweitzer for Intermediates

Schweitzer has plenty of interesting terrain to keep the intermediates entertained.

On the frontside, blue skiers can zoom down several lengthy groomers that run along ridges, across bowls, and down into the base area.

But the best intermediate terrain sits in the Outback bowl. The Stella chairlift and Cedar Park Express both service a network of quick groomers that are perfect for lapping, and adventurous intermediates will even find nice spaced gladed trees, without even having to look very hard.

Advanced Terrain at Schweitzer

For advanced skiers, Schweitzer really starts to open up its 2,900 acres and reveal itself as a playground far larger than its trail map would lead on.

Black diamonds run all over the mountain, in all shapes and sizes. From perfect glades to wide open bowls to steep groomers, you can find a fantastic version of whatever type of skiing you’re looking for.

On the front side, Stiles, White Lightning, and Pend Oreille are steep enough that they have to be winch cat groomed. And when they are, they’re perfect steep rippers.

For black diamond bowl skiing, the Lakeview Triple services a half dozen excellent options, and the lift lives up to its name with a fantastic high-alpine view of the valley below. (When you can actually see… remember Schweitzer’s legendary fog?)

And on the back side, Kaniksu  might be the best overall run at Schweitzer. Then again, Gladiator, No Joke, and several other black diamonds might have something to say about that!

Expert Terrain at Schweitzer

Schweitzer has lots of double black diamonds on the trail map, including plenty of chutes, steep trees, and more.

While many are plenty steep, they aren’t super long, and not many of them are the huge, death defying stuff you might find at other mountains.

How is the snow at Schweitzer?

Average Inches of Annual Snowfall

On an average year, Schweitzer gets a respectable 280 inches of snowfall. This puts it in line with most other destination resorts; however, the snow quality tends to be a little wetter – more similar to the Pacific Northwest than the ultra-dry Southern Rockies powder found in Colorado and Utah. However, these facts are offset by Schweitzer’s lower skier volume and copious trees, which hold stashes for days.

The end result? Powder here comes at a respectable rate, and for those willing to do a little searching, it usually lasts much longer than many other resorts.

Where is Schweitzer

Schweitzer is located in northern Idaho, in that odd little panhandle part of the state that feels less like stereotypical Idaho potatoes and more like a hybrid lovechild between Montana, Canada, and Washington state.

Getting to Schweitzer

To get to Schweitzer, your best bet is to fly into Spokane, Washington and then make the beautiful 1.5 hour drive past Couer d’ Alene.

That’s an overly simplified explanation, but luckily, I’ve got a complete guide with everything you ever wanted to know about how to get to Schweitzer

Schweitzer as a Ski town

Schweitzer sits less than 20 minutes from the town of Sandpoint, Idaho. And to be fair, Sandpoint is far more “charming, historical small town” than it is “ski town.”

This is a place with old railroad roots and a real heart and soul. Of the two major tourist seasons, winter is actually the slower month; Sandpoint really comes alive in the summer. That’s when, true to its name, visitors flock to Sandpoint’s sandy beach shores of Lake Pend Oreille, one of the biggest lakes in the United States. (And also the body of water that helps gives Schweitzer the views it’s so famous for!)

But even during winter, the town comes alive with its checkerboard grid of quaint downtown blocks, each one loaded with local restaurants, bars, pubs, breweries, and coffee shops.

Of course, the alternative option is to stay on the mountain. This is a humble lodging option where the party stops early in the evening (if it ever gets started). Depending on your perspective and goals for a ski trip, this is either welcome news or a big disappoint. If you’re in the latter camp, the locals would happily recommend you visit a number of other, more commercially developed mountains that may be more your style.

Don’t miss SlopeLab’s detailed guide for where to stay at Schweitzer.

When is the best time to visit Schweitzer?

January - February

Schweitzer gets the most snow in January and February, which also coincides nicely with the mountain’s coverage needs and lower elevation.

Before January, the mountain may not have the coverage required for a perfect trip. By March, the lower elevation means that the snow can get slushier than elsewhere.

How are the crowds at Schweitzer?

While the locals will tell you that Schweitzer has been overrun with crowds in recent years, anyone used to skiing anywhere except for northern Idaho will probably be blown away by the mountain’s laid back vibe, minimal lift lines, and wide open runs.

Further reading