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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Skiing Outlook 2020: Big-mountain experience, Schweitzer expands terrain

For a big-mountain ski experience, Schweitzer Mountain Resort near Sandpoint is the place.

It has everything: excellent terrain spread across 2,900 acres in two vast bowls, with top-notch on-mountain dining, luxury accommodations and high-speed lifts.

Schweitzer got even better last season with the addition of two new lifts serving the resort’s Colburn Side – or known by nearly everyone as “the back side.” The new Colburn Triple and the high-speed Cedar Park Express quad replaced a creaky and slow double chairlift, improving access to some of the resort’s best terrain.

The resort also logged and gladed a lot of the terrain off the Cedar Park lift, opening up enticing new territory to explore.

“When we opened those two new lifts in conjunction with all the logging and glading we had done, it was mind-blowing,” said Dig Chrismer, marketing manager for Schweitzer. “It’s just a game-changer for us.”

After the success of those improvements, this season Schweitzer has done additional logging and glading on the terrain off the Stella Express six-person chairlift on the back side, opening up an additional 200 acres of terrain for skiers and snowboarders to ride.

The rest of the mountain remains unchanged – and that’s good. Schweitzer offers the region’s best variety of skiing from ridgelines that offer jaw-dropping views of Lake Pend Oreille on sunny days.

One thing that has changed is how you access the mountain in the age of COVID-19. Daily ticket sales are moving online this year.

The resort is having its season-pass sale, which ends on Oct. 31. Once that sale is closed, the resort will determine how many day passes it can offer over the course of the season.

“We will open our e-commerce site for date-specific ticket sales on Nov. 9 with the potential of a total sellout within a few days,” Tom Chasse, CEO of Schweitzer Mountain Resort, said in a statement.

To make the most of a visit to Schweitzer, Chrismer’s advice is to come up on a weekday.

“Look at midweek, nonholiday,” she said. “We’re so quiet midweek. It’s going to be a lot different here on a Tuesday than on a Saturday.”

If you know you’re going to ski several days at Schweitzer this winter, consider buying the season pass ($899 adult unlimited), which pays for itself in seven visits. The advantage: Season pass-holders don’t have to worry about scheduling a ticket-buy to take advantage of an overnight La Niña-driven powder dump.

Like other resorts, Schweitzer is struggling with how to offer food service during the pandemic. Its three on-mountain lodges – the village Lakeview Lodge, top-of-the-mountain Sky House and back-side Outback Inn – will be operating at 50% seating capacity. Face masks are required indoors and when you aren’t able to social-distance beyond 6 feet.

The resort will adjust as needed during the season, Chrismer said.

“We’re kind of going at this from a worst-case scenario perspective,” she said.

“If things get really tight with COVID, then we have a confirmed plan. If things get better, then things may change.”