Schweitzer Mountain, one of the largest ski and snowboard mountain in the Northwest, has been bought by Alterra Mountain Corp., and Ikon Pass holders will get unlimited time on the North Idaho mountain.
In addition, by joining the Ikon Pass family, Schweitzer will undoubtedly benefit from Denver-based Alterra's propensity to put cash into mountain and infrastructure improvements shortly following a purchase.
Alterra, which owns and distributes the multi-mountain Ikon Pass, will assume ownership of the mountain and its operations. As in the past, the company will have Schweitzer managers continue to be operate, but it will likely have Schweitzer's existing plans for an expanded base village become a reality.
The purchase of Schweitzer adds the 17th North American ski and snowboard resort in the Alterra portfolio, joining Crystal Mountain as the second mountain in the Northwest to honor the full-on Ikon Pass. Alterra Since 2021, Schweitzer has been an Ikon "partner," accepting the pass for a limited number of days each season.
Those who already have a Schweitzer season pass for the coming season will get a discount upon purchase of an Ikon Pass for 2023-2024. Inclusion of discounts for Ikon's sub-products, like its Base Pass and Session Pass, have yet to be determined. The Ikon Pass is also good at more than 30 resorts around the world.
Schweitzer, located above the town of Sandpoint and two hours' drive from nearest airport in Spokane, has 2,900 acres inside its ropes. The trail map sprawls across Schweitzer Bowl on the front side, and dips in Outback Bowl on the backside. Some 92 named trails and bowls pitch off the 6,000-foot-high top ridge into 2,400 vertical drop, and they are served by 10 lifts, including four high-speed chairs.
Terrain ratings lean toward the advanced skiers and riders, with just 10% rated for beginners. Upper mountain features steeps of open bowl and gladed terrain, while beginners get their own slopes under the Musical Chairs lift.
If warm-weather vacation includes a rugged mountain biking experience, then Idaho's spiny Northern Rockies -- and its half-dozen ski and snowboard resorts -- are a likely destination.
Schweitzer sits on a pair of steep bowls of rocky terrain. The MTB trail system doesn't have terrain features nor green-rated runs -- just straight-on downhill all the way.
All the choices offered on the ridge-to-ridge layout rate intermediate or above. Lift-served downhill runs cover the mountain's 2,900 acres with 14 designated routes. The Grand Escape Quad drops bikers off at the 6,400-foot summit, with 2,400 feet of vertical below. Reviewers call Schweitzer "old school" because of its true-to-terrain character. A host of X-C trails sit contiguous to resort boundaries.
Silver Mountain, another rough-and-tumble North Idaho MTB track, also caters to the hardcore, no-frills crowd. The longest gondola in North America takes riders daily out of town to mid-mountain, where casual riders get Chair 4 and a modest 800-foot vertical.
But it's the 3,400 feet of drop below that that marks Silver's reputation. Black diamond technicals stand out: Among others, Snakepit and Frankenbeens get reviewers' raves. Ride time range from 15 to 45 minutes.
To the south, Brundage's Bluebird Express spins Wednesdays to Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., bringing bikers to 7,640 feet elevation. From there, 12 technical trails head down 1,800 vertical feet, with half of them rated green. Most notable is Elk Trail, a 6-mile meander.
Unadulterated blue runs wander around the frontside, with only two expert pitches and only a half-dozen TTFs. So Brundage, like all these Idaho MTB parks, tends to be au naturel.
Farther south, Tamarack continues to undergo a renaissance. Right now, the central Idaho resort lists 25 miles downhill trails that spray off the 6,900-foot summit -- divided up 7 green, 7 expert, and 4 intermediate, and without technical terrain features.
The upper trails feature steep, raw routes on rocky terrain. The midsection is where to mellow green runs converge for the run to the bottom. Ownership has started on a full-on bike park to supplement these natural downhill runs with enhancing features.
An 8-minute ride up Tamarack Express gets bikers to the top where some 1,800 feet of vertical drop for all abilities await. The high-speed quad spins 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
Located above the North Idaho town of Sandpoint, Schweitzer has been an Ikon partner-resort since 2021, accepting the mega-mountain pass for seven days on its 2,900-acre layout. When announcing the pending purchase, Alterra Mountain Company said seven-day partner access on the Ikon Pass will be in place for 2023-2024 season. That may change as 15 of the 17 resorts that the Denver-based firm owns now take the Ikon for unlimited visits.
Schweitzer's trail map covers three distinct aspects out of a central village at 4,000 feet elevation, and a total of 2,400 vertical feet. It has an evenly rated trail system with 50% expert or advanced, 40% intermediate, and 10% beginner runs. Its lift network includes five high-speed chairs, three of the fixed-grip variety, one T-bar and a beginner moving carpet.
The purchase of Schweitzer adds a fifth mountain to the Ikon portfolio in the Northwest -- and the second along with Crystal Mountain to be fully owned by Alterra. All five will continue with limited seven-day access under the Ikon Pass -- for the time being.
With either unlimited or limited access, the multi-mountain Ikon Pass is now taken by nine resorts in Colorado; six resorts in California and Utah; two in Washington and Idaho; and one each in Oregon, New Mexico and Wyoming.
Alterra has a reputation of pouring money into its new purchases, while allowing existing management to stay in place. To the company's benefit is that all of Schweitzer sits on private land, meaning no lengthy U.S. Forest Service permit process will be necessary to start construction.
A 2018 master plan calls for a trio of new chairlifts, expansion of the backside Outback section, a second base area, and more beginner terrain. On-mountain upgrades already in place include terrain expansion, five new chairlifts, and the mountain-top Sky House.
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Between the crest of the Cascades and western front of the Northern Rockies, a half-dozen ski and snowboard resorts stay open -- in varying degrees -- during the summer months for all to cool out a bit.
Summer activity menus ranges from the full-on "adventure park" concept to mountain biking and scenic lift rides to mellow hiking and meditating upon Nature.
Up near the Canadian border, Schweitzer Mountain looms above Lake Pend Oreille and Sandpoint, Idaho. A chairlift ride gets you to mountaintop restaurant Sky House for views, brews and food amidst the Kanitzu National Forest. There's a summit disc golf course, too, and more than 40 miles of MTB trails head down to the resort base -- home to dual ziplines, climbing wall, trampoline and more.
Jump across into Washington and check out 49 Degrees North, one of the northernmost resorts in U.S. It's old-school summer on Chewelah Peak: No lifts, no "attractions" other than a half-dozen MTB and hiking trails along service roads. Mid-summer mean huckleberry picking season all over the resort's three basins.
Still in Washington is Mt. Spokane outside the state's largest city east of the Cascades. The non-profit day hill is open for hiking and biking (no lifts), and Saturdays' Brews and Views at the summit's Vista House.
Back into Idaho, Silver Mountain above Kellogg boasts Idaho's largest indoor water park -- perfect for cooling down in a hot summer. Park has a dozen stations, including flow rider for surfing, lazy downriver tubing, Minor's Island for kids, and a overhead rope course. On the mountain, the nation's longest gondola runs carries lookie-loos, hikers and mountain bikers for fresh air at the summit.
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