When you think of summer destinations for your family, what do you think about? What activities are there for my kids? What is there for me to do? Are there good food options? What is the cost? How far is the drive?
Let me help you answer these questions by introducing you to Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho!
Schweitzer Mountain Resort?? You mean the ski resort? I go there in the winter all the time!
Did you find yourself just saying that? Well, my friends, its time to bring your hiking boots and mountain bikes and visit Schweitzer in the summer!
Schweitzer recently offered my husband and I a weekend at the resort and as avid outdoorsy folk, we jumped on the chance. As California natives who spent almost a decade on the east coast and have now been in the Pacific Northwest for five years, we are still exploring this beautiful part of the country and now I am excited to share my Schweitzer experience with you all!
My husband and I live south of the Seattle area and one early Friday morning, we dropped the dogs off at a boarding facility and drove east!! Whenever we drive east, we always have to make a stop at Owen’s Meats in Cle Elum (that’s a whole other article for another time, I LOVE that place so much) before we keep on trekking. It took us a good 7 hours to get to Schweitzer Mountain Resort, and that was with a few more pit stops along the way. The journey is worth it.
On our way up the mountain for the final leg before you get to the resort, a mama bear and two cubs were crossing the road. We were both so stunned that we couldn’t even grab our cameras before they headed down a hill and out of sight. Its times like that you know you are in wildlife territory and to proceed with caution!
We made our way up the winding up and finally the resort and the insane views of Lake Pend Oreille (which I found out the hard way is pronounced Lake Pond-err-ay) welcomed us. Our room was in the Selkirk Lodge and we were greeted by incredibly friendly staff who helped answer all of our questions. We parked in the underground parking area and made our way up to our room! The room we had was cozy with a gorgeous view of the heated pool and three Jacuzzis and that mountain backdrop. I was very glad I brought my swimsuit as we spent quite a bit of time in the pool and Jacuzzis both nights we were at the resort! I could also tell we were definitely at a resort that gets a lot of business in the winter because there are places to hang your snow covered, wet clothes all over the room and bathroom. In this case, they worked well for hanging our swimsuits and robes (yes, they have big, comfy, plush robes you can wear to the pool!).
After getting settled in, we went outside to explore the resort by foot and see what the evening would bring us. If you have kids, the amount of activities are almost endless. Air jumper, climbing wall, frisbee golf, playground, zip line, horseback riding, sluicing, mountain bike riding, hiking – it’s all right there, it’s all accessible.
The first night, we ate dinner at Chimney Rock Grill. Our bartender, Brian, was very easy to talk to and kept us laughing the whole night. I tried two brews including the Sockeye Woolybugger Wheat (Boise, ID) and the Twelve String Brewing Company Don’t Fret Porter (Spokane, WA). We also ate salad with salmon and crab cakes and left full and very happy. It was also during this time that we learned Schweitzer Mountain Resort is all on private land, and if you order alcohol from anywhere at the resort, you can carry it around! Brian gave us to-go cups for our final beers and we walked back to our hotel room with them!
The next morning, we met up with Dig Chrismer, the resort’s Marketing Manager at Mojo Coyote Cafe, the only cafe open 365 days a year at the resort. Dig is incredibly bubbly, knowledgeable and friendly and is definitely someone you would want to hang out with all day! She had just gotten back from vacation with her kids and it was really awesome seeing her interact with the resort staff. You can tell the employees of Schweitzer are truly a family and they all loved their jobs, which spills onto the guests who visit – I cannot emphasize enough how friendly and helpful everyone was that we encountered. Its very clear that the family who owns Schweitzer treats their employees well.
Dig gave us a tour of the resort and talked about how the village is compact enough where parents can bring the family, grab some wine and relax while the kids play. Each of the units at the resort are privately owned and the area is an affordable option if you are looking to purchase a second home. Dig mentioned how everything at the resort pretty much opens at 11 a.m. and closes around 5 p.m. They tried opening earlier in the past but found that guests enjoyed chilling out in the morning and didn’t really get around to starting their days until 11, so Schweitzer catered to that. The resort also offers a $35 Ultimate Fun Pass or a $149 Ultimate Fun Season Pass that includes unlimited chairlift rides, jumps on the air jumper, climbs on the climbing wall, trips down the zipline! With the ultimate fun pass, kids get one sack of jewels for the Cranky Jennings Sluice Box as well!
Dig took us up the chairlift to the top to check out the views and the Sky House. Words and photographs cannot even describe the beauty the lays before you at the top of that mountain. You can see Lake Pend Oreille, Canada, Montana, Idaho and Washington from the top of the mountain. I’ll let the photos do the talking.
Dig took us to the Sky House, which opened in December 2016 and introduced us to CIA-trained, Executive Chef, Pete. The Sky House, with the architect and designer both from Sandpoint, is divided into two sections, the Red Hawk Cafe, which is open on weekends with a smaller snack and drink menu. The Nest is a cozy dining experience in an intimate setting inside or outside on the deck with a selection of small plate options and drinks. The views are truly spectacular and Chef Pete told us all about the current menu, leaving my mouth watering.
The menu includes your choice of three different salads, a soup of the day, three sandwiches, three house specials, three quick bites and four desserts. I did order some food, but more on that later!
After our tour at the top, we rode the chairlift back down and went back to our room at the lodge. My husband brought his mountain bike with us and I brought my hiking shoes. Before we left, I made sure he serviced his bike and he noticed he needed to do a few upgrades before he could use the bike. He didn’t have a good way of carrying out the upgrades so he looked at this Sauserwind’s article and got a stand he could upgrade his bike on. I felt better knowing he had a totally safe bike. Feeling safe enough, we parted ways and he hit the bike trails and I started a solo hike up to the top of the mountain, two and a half miles up! Yes, we had seen bears, yes there are moose all over the area, but as long as you practice smart hiking, you will be fine. That being said, this was my first time ever hiking by myself. I was slightly apprehensive but also really excited.
My hike was nothing short of gorgeous. The trail got pretty steep at times and while for the most part, clearly marked, there were a few moments that I had to stop and figure out which path was the trail. I carried two rocks in my hand and clacked them together before I hit turns where I couldn’t see what was ahead of me (just in case…go away mama bear and cub, go away moose, I’m on the trail!). I did not see a single person as I made my way up the mountain and it felt so freeing to just be with nature. I cherished every step on that trail, stopped to take a lot of pictures (and maybe to catch my breath), and earned the lunch that was coming my way at the Sky House.
It took me about an hour and a half or so to finish the hike up and I rewarded myself with a hot pastrami sandwich with MickDuff’s beer mustard on pretzel bread. It was so incredibly delicious. Then I ordered dessert, a ginger ice cream sandwich – and if there is such thing as dessert heaven, this was it.
After eating and enjoying the views, meeting up with my husband for a bit as he ate lunch and chatting a little more with Chef Pete, I decided to walk back down the trail, which would be much faster than going up of course, but as someone quickly approaching her 40’s, my knees were none too happy with me.
My husband estimates he road on a good 20 miles of bike trails, all over the mountain. From the ridge line and down and back up again, he said it was exhilarating. While I didn’t see any wildlife minus some birds and ground squirrels, he found himself 100 yards away from two juvenile cougars!!! Stopping his bike immediately and keeping a safe distance, he stayed very still as one of the cougars immediately ran away, while the other crouched at him like a domestic cat would, before it also took off running. That was nature’s friendly reminder that we are in their territory!
After our mountain adventures and spending some much needed time in the pool, my husband and I showered up and decided to head down the mountain for dinner. Remember our bartender from Chimney Rock, Brian? Well, he also works at the Bottle Bay Resort & Marina Restaurant on Lake Pend Oreille and recommended we check it out for dinner if we had time during our trip. It took about 45 minutes to get down the mountain and around the lake to get to Bottle Bay, but it was worth it for the food and the views! The restaurant sits right on the lake and we soaked in the views while the sun was setting. I ordered the zucchini tacos, which were excellent, and apparently one of the more popular items on the menu. Brian was working and we chatted with him before heading back up the mountain for some much needed sleep.
We happened to be at Schweitzer the weekend of 7B Sunday. 7B Sunday is the Grand Opening weekend for Schweitzer Mountain Resort and the unofficial kickoff to summer for Sandpoint and Bonner County! To celebrate, the resort invites Bonner County businesses and non-profit organizations up to Schweitzer so guests can sample the best that the county has to offer all in one place. Local restaurants, retail stores, beer and wine producers, artists and musicians all at Schweitzer for the day! In addition, guests receive unlimited and FREE rides on the chairlift!
The resort filled up quickly that morning and the chairlift line was filled with mountain bikers and families eager to check out the views from the top. We walked around the booths and chatted with a few of the businesses, ordered some pizza, and listened to one of the bands play before it was time to start driving west!
All in all, we had an incredible summer weekend at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. The summer activities in on the mountain and in Bonner County are really endless. As Dig told us, the whole area is a trifecta for summer destinations. Lake Pend Oreille for boating, the Idaho Club for golfing and Schweitzer for mountain biking and hiking. We hope to come back again in the summer to check out the rest of the area and spend some time on the lake.
Click here for a full list of summer events and activities!
Schweitzer Mountain Resort
10,000 Schweitzer Mountain Road
Sandpoint, ID 83864
Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a comped room and chairlift ride for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.
Lesley is the founder and editor of What’s Up NW. Prior to creating WhatsUpNW.com, she was the Seattle city editor for AskMissA.com. For both publications, Lesley has covered fashion shows, openings, and local charity events. She has written numerous articles shining the light on local businesses, encouraging readers to always shop local.