In The Beginning
The history of Schweitzer Mountain Resort dates back over a century ago when, as legend has it, a Swiss hermit took shelter at the bottom of the basin in the foothills of the Selkirk Mountains overlooking Lake Pend Oreille where Schweitzer now sits. Little was known about the man, other than at one time he had served in the Swiss military. The hermit became such a presence in the area that, some years later, locals in the nearby mountain town of Sandpoint would name Schweitzer Mountain after him. The word Schweitzer, in German, means “Swiss man.” Fun-seekers from Sandpoint began recreating on Schweitzer Mountain in the early 1960s. It wasn’t until a few years later that Schweitzer would officially open as a winter ski area.
The Founding Father
Jack Fowler, a Spokane native, founded Schweitzer Mountain Resort. He had the idea one winter day while traveling back to Spokane from a ski vacation in Whitefish, Montana. Fowler looked up and was struck by the beauty of Schweitzer Mountain’s snowy basin mountaintop. At once he knew the area could be developed into a premier ski resort. Fowler, Jim Brown and other key investors combined their resources, sold shares to local residents, and built Schweitzer’s first chairlift. December 4, 1963 was the official opening of the resort.
The Brown Years
A few years after Schweitzer’s modest beginnings, Jim Brown bought out his partners and began to expand the resort. He built the Red Cricket apartment complex and constructed a day lodge at the base of the mountain. Brown greatly increased the attraction of Schweitzer and the surrounding Sandpoint community where, until then, things had been woefully quiet in the winter months. During his ownership, he was credited for starting Schweitzer summer lifts for mountain bikers and other outdoor enthusiasts, and for hosting the first Festival at Sandpoint, an annual music festival showcasing international and local composers and performing artists.
Harbor Takes The Helm
On December 31, 1998, Harbor Resorts purchased Schweitzer Mountain Resort. Owners of Stevens Pass and, at that time, Mission Ridge in the Cascades Mountain Range, the Seattle-based real estate company brought more than a quarter century of experience in ski-resort development and management.
In 1999, Green Gables was renovated and re-named The Selkirk Lodge. The Terrain Park was rebuilt and lit for night operations. Harbor installed two new handle lifts, improved local roads, and expanded the beginner ski area.
One year later, Stella, Idaho’s only high-speed 6-passenger chairlift, opened on the mountain. The lift, housed by a 19th century cable carriage barn complete with steaming boilers and spinning gears, takes visitors back in time as they anticipate their ascent of Schweitzer Mountain. Stella greatly improves guest access to more than 150 acres of family-friendly terrain. More than that, it provides Schweitzer visitors a unique visual and emotional experience. The one-mile ride to the top climbs more than 1,500 feet in just five-and-a-half minutes. Along the way, visitors have plenty of time to take in the striking Idaho scenery.
In May 2001, construction began on White Pine Lodge. The 75,000-square-foot guest lodge, which opened in August 2002, is the premier property on the mountain with its contemporary mountain architecture and luxury accommodations. It features 50 fully furnished condominium units which command spectacular views of lake or mountain, various shops and restaurants at its ground level, and two floors of underground guest parking.
In 2002, The Chimney Rock Grill, a full-service restaurant in the heart of Schweitzer Village, was completely renovated and in 2003, the Schweitzer Activity Center was added, which offers year-round mountain activities.
The resort remains committed to its history and its character. In 2002, Jack Fowler celebrated his 80th birthday at Schweitzer Mountain. As a tribute to Schweitzer’s founding father, a new run, “Jack’s Dream,” was built close to where the first chairlift was built over 40 years ago.
In 2005, a new surface lift called the Idyle Our T-bar was installed, expanding the area’s skiable terrain by 400 acres into the Little Blue area, and making Schweitzer the largest ski resort in Idaho. Hermit’s Hollow Tubing Center, an expanded beginner’s ski area with the addition of the Musical Carpet, and day lodge improvements have been added as well.
In 2006, Tom Chasse joined the management team as President and CEO of Schweitzer Mountain Resort. Two new chairlifts, the Lakeview Triple and the Basin Express Quad were built during the summer of 2007; a cutting edge snowmaking system was installed during the summer of 2008 and completed in 2009; and Schweitzer renewed its dedication to excellent guest service. During the summer of 2012 Gourmandie was expanded, the Mill Building received an architectural update, the Ski and Ride Center was completely remodeled, and upgrades were made to the Great Escape Quad and Musical Chairs lifts.