Amid Growth, Schweitzer Eyes Expansion

The Cedar Park Express, constructed last year by Leitner-Poma of America, is one of six new lifts built at Schweitzer since 2000.

With four major lift replacements completed over the last 15 years, North Idaho’s Schweitzer Mountain Resort is looking beyond its boundary for the next phase of on-mountain development.  Completed just last summer, phase one of the resort’s 2018 master plan included two key lifts in the North Bowl replacing an outdated double.  The mountain also recently completed a gorgeous summit lodge called Sky House and two more chairlifts above its village.  Looking ahead, Schweitzer’s two longest lifts to date are planned for opposite ends of the resort.

MasterPlanMap1 (1)

Privately-held Schweitzer will proceed carefully as growth makes sense.  The resort does not participate in a multi-resort pass product but skier visits have grown almost 35 percent over the last 15 years.  Current development focuses on the village, including a $35 million boutique hotel under construction.  “We have a pretty conservative approach,” notes President and CEO Tom Chasse. “Our business is growing but we want to make sure that we are financially sound and don’t get ahead of ourselves.  We also want to maintain a razor sharp focus on improving the overall customer experience with everything that we do.”


Phase three will see the launch of a dedicated day use and ski school portal away from the overnight village.  “Growth has been huge the last few years and we need to find solutions for our parking issues and ease the burden on our existing village,” notes Mountain Operations Director Rob Batchelder.  “I’m very excited about solving those problems with this third phase of development in the Mid-Mountain area.  Physically, we need room to grow and Mid-Mountain does that for us.”  The $50 million project will include a day lodge, three dedicated beginner lifts and 6,400 foot detachable chairlift.  The latter will include a half mid-station with access to six new intermediate trails.  Riders staying on board will gain access to North Bowl without the need to transit the village or ride the busy Great Escape quad.

The two lifts in the center of North Bowl were new this winter and service fantastic tree skiing.

The last two pieces of the Schweitzer lift puzzle are replacements for Sunnyside and the Idyle Our T-Bar.  Sunnyside is a rarely-spun Riblet double which will be realigned to service existing trails near the new base area.  The T-Bar is the oldest part of a four lift system in North Bowl.  A new 6,200 foot Little Blue lift will start near the bottom of the Cedar Park Express and service intermediate and advanced glades which are currently underutilized.  “Our skiers and riders enjoy skiing the far northern boundary of the resort and a lift serving that location will make access so much easier,” explains Chasse.

The area to the north of the new Cedar Park Express is huge but currently requires riding three different lifts per run.  The new Little Blue lift will provide 1,850 vertical feet with one ride.

Schweitzer has the advantage of owning 7,000 acres of land with no Forest Service or state property needed to expand.  Although the current global economic picture is bleak, the resort will have great flexibility to implement projects at its own pace as the economy recovers.  “The goal is to make Schweitzer a true destination ski resort with some national recognition,” says Tom Chasse.  “We think this master plan will help us achieve our goal to provide the best skiing and snowboarding experience around.”


29 thoughts on “Amid Growth, Schweitzer Eyes Expansion

  1. Doug April 24, 2020 / 10:42 am

    At one time, Schweitzer talked about developing the backside where the cat skiing runs. If I remember correctly, it would have created a new portal from Priest Lake. The terrain looks appealing back there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Morris November 28, 2021 / 8:16 pm

      That sounds incredible, do you have any additional information on that?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brian April 24, 2020 / 11:44 am

    “Growth has been huge the last few years and we need to find solutions for our parking issues and ease the burden on our existing village,”

    Why not look at a gondola down to hwy2 / hwy95 with parking and less driving on that nightmare of an access road? A lot of potential terrain below and to the east of Stella / Sunnyside, not sure what kind of snow those lower elevations receive, but a gondola (heavenly style) would be interesting, guess that might depend on who owns that property.


    • Doug April 24, 2020 / 12:42 pm

      I agree that the road can be poor at times. Google Maps shows a linear distance of ~4.4 miles from the existing village to the parking lot near highway 95. As points of comparison, Silver Mountain’s gondola is ~3.1 miles and Banff Sunshine is ~2.8 miles. The new base area would be accessed by turning at the traffic circle below the existing village. That would cut a noticeable amount of distance off the access road.


    • Ron April 24, 2020 / 1:02 pm

      A year ago this would have been a great idea, but I wonder how acceptable gondolas will be in the next couple of seasons? It’s likely that they will be running with reduced capacity or even shut down completely until the pandemic is completely over. If I was looking at new lifts I would NOT be looking at gondolas or any type of enclosed carrier because who knows what the future will bring…

      I shudder to think about what Jackson and Snowbird are going to be up against next season with those key Trams not usable.


      • Ryan Murphy April 24, 2020 / 6:49 pm

        They’ll both be ok, as far as skiing goes, it’s the summer that will really hurt.

        P-Dog and Gadzoom->LC work really well as Tram alternates. I never used to buy tram passes. As far as Jackson goes, that one hurts more, but nearly all the terrain can be accessed by Sublette.


        • Somebody April 24, 2020 / 7:58 pm

          Suddenly East Ridge chairlift/Rendezvous platter look a lot more appealing for Jackson…


      • Rare Conservative Skier April 25, 2020 / 9:49 am

        Subways never stoppedl running in NYC. Buses are still running, even in left leaning cities. Planes will be flying.
        Herd immunity builds every day. Testing will increase.
        Less than 1/3 of 1% have tested positive. 99.7% of people do not have Covid.
        50% of the cases are from the NorthEast which is 12% of USA Population. NY,NJ,CT,MA.
        So 88% of the population is at much reduced risk.
        Virtually ALL the deaths are people with preexisting conditions (obesity) and elderly. By definition these are not the people skiing.
        There is 6 months to find a solution. Perhaps resorts take customers temperature in the morning that will go in the RF database to allow access to the tram line.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Mr Incredible April 25, 2020 / 4:32 pm

          I believe there a lot of health care professionals in park city, crested butte, sun valley and ischgl in Austria who would disagree with your analysis. And “left leaning” biology is the same as “conservative” biology


        • awconrad November 29, 2021 / 10:28 am

          Wow did this comment age well or what


      • Ryan Gardner April 26, 2020 / 11:19 am

        Thankfully there are still enough people out there who don’t live in fear and will be living life as normal as they can. Believe me when I say ski resorts are going to be just fine.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Mike B April 27, 2020 / 12:05 pm

          Yeah – I don’t believe you. Ski resorts are known transmission vectors. Just look at the research on how the resorts of Northern Italy were a massive transmission driver in late February. Look at where the early hot spots were in the US – Sun Valley and Aspen. Coincidence? I think not.

          Until testing is scaled out, who is going to feel comfortable eating inside a stuffy on-mountain lodge with hundreds of people in close proximity? I’m sure SOME will, but a substantial proportion, and likely the majority of destination skiers, will stay home. The existing model of most ski resorts is predicated on a certain level of skier volume to support all the capital that mountains invest in the modern skiing experience- high speed lifts, grooming, snowmaking, lodges, etc… That model doesn’t work when a substantial portion of the customer base shies away from destination travel.


        • skitheeast April 27, 2020 / 3:52 pm

          Ski resorts are definitely potential hot spots, but overall restrictions are already starting to lift, signalling the general public’s change in attitude towards the virus. Whether or not this shift back to normalcy is happening too soon from a scientific perspective is irrelevant, as the public majority will shape policy and accept the consequences. Additionally, ski resorts specifically did not close due to a lack of demand, as the number of visitors was actually increasing as the country become more well informed on the virus and shut down. Rather, government regulations coupled with internal safety concerns resulted in the closures, signalling that that even when the country was in a more panicked state, there were plenty of people wanting to ski. Not everyone will be comfortable visiting resorts, but enough will for them to be fine, especially by next winter.


    • Addison C McNamara July 9, 2021 / 12:16 am

      I’ve obsessed over this idea, Schweitzer owns all their property including the area you’re talking about, that particular section goes all the way down to the valley floor. So they could easily put a gondola from their new base area down to a parking garage and transit center at the valley floor. This even borders the BNSF railroad and with regional efforts they could have a ski train from Spokane Airport straight to the gondola base, making Schweitzer one of the most accessible Resorts. The snow rarely is reliable below about 4000 feet (the base of Stella) but you could have lift serviced top to bottom mountain biking with an amazing 4200 vertical drop.


  3. Snow Boys April 24, 2020 / 2:53 pm

    Will the little blue lift be detachable?


    • Joe Blake April 24, 2020 / 9:52 pm

      Hopefully a refurbished SLI double. No safety bar.


      • Myles Svec February 20, 2021 / 2:35 pm

        I’m guessing a HSQ because that would be too long for a fixed grip as that is over 6,000 ft

        Liked by 2 people

    • Donald Reif February 20, 2021 / 4:41 pm

      It and the expansion lift on the other side of the ridge from Stella almost certainly will be high speed quads.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Snow Flake April 25, 2020 / 3:25 pm

    Wow. Silver Mountain Resort really needs to get their priorities in order if they want to compete with this. Management has done nothing but drive that shithole into the ground over the past 20 years.


    • Peter Landsman April 25, 2020 / 5:11 pm

      Not just Schweitzer- Lookout, Mt. Spokane and Red are upping their game too. 49 North and Silver both could use some serious capital infusions. Only so many people in the inland northwest want to ride 6,000 foot double chairs.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sean Baxoliga April 26, 2020 / 6:30 pm

        Yea like upgrading the double chairs at 49 and building Klondike express.


        • Ben Eminger February 20, 2021 / 9:29 pm

          Which one year later, is happening at 49N


    • Troy McCutcheon April 27, 2020 / 9:33 pm

      I enjoy Silver because it isn’t trying to be something huge. Skiing is snow and terrain, full stop. If you don’t enjoy skiing because the lifts are slow, stay home or get an Epic pass.


      • Thomas Jett April 28, 2020 / 1:10 am

        I don’t know; I kinda like being able to take close to twice as many runs in a day.


  5. PumpedLogyBear April 27, 2020 / 11:38 am

    Things are looking great for this resort, hopefully they keep up the great work!


  6. Wayne Kern April 29, 2020 / 3:25 pm

    Having skied the last 4 seasons at Schweitzer, I feel there needs to be another way out of The Outback. How about extending the Little Blue lift for access from The Outback?


  7. Doug November 29, 2021 / 10:34 am

    At one time, Schweitzer talked about expanding down its backside towards Priest Lake, where the Selkirk Poweder Company currently operates. No idea if it owns the land or still considers this to be a good idea. A second access portal would be great.


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