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Get Ready to Hit the Slopes

All you need to know for the Schweitzer ski season

By Abigail Thorpe

Photo Courtesy of Schweitzer Mountain

Snow flurries and icy temperatures have most of us in Sandpoint thinking about one thing: ski season at Schweitzer. Fall is over, the holidays are upon us, and we’re all getting our skis and boards adjusted for the coming season. After all, winter in Sandpoint is just as fun as summer—it’s the town for all seasons.

Earlier this year, when the slopes closed down a bit early due to the pandemic, we were forced to store our gear after a shorter than expected season, but this season promises to make up for it. Snow started flying as early as October, paving the way for a great mountain season.

“The long range forecast is calling for La Niña this winter, which means lots of snow and cold weather—perfect in our book! The last major La Niña for us was in 2010/11; we finished that season with 171 inches of snow still on the summit! Let’s hope that’s the case this year so we can just enjoy the mountain and our favorite winter pastimes in the best conditions possible,” says Dig Chrismer, marketing manager for Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

Things may be a bit different this year thanks to COVID-19, but the slopes are open and lifts are running, and for many of us in Sandpoint, that’s the most you can ask for during the winter months. As you’re prepping to hit the slopes, there are a few changes this year to keep in mind.

Schweitzer wants to provide a safe and healthy season for everyone heading up the mountain, and to that end, they’re following federal, state and local regulations and guidelines, including limiting the number of people on the mountain each day. Season pass holders are set to go, as of the time of print Schweitzer expects to be able to accommodate pass holders each day and has carefully crunched the numbers to determine how many to reasonably expect each day.

But limited mountain capacity means you won’t just be able to walk up and buy a day pass on the mountain this year, or purchase a multi-ticket lift pack you can use at any time during the season. The key to making this a successful ski season is to plan in advance. If you don’t have a season pass, purchase your tickets ahead of time online. You’ll be able to see what dates are available, and even if it’s a last-minute decision, you won’t head up the mountain only to find out you can’t hit the slopes.

Even if you’re renting gear, you’ll need to purchase a ticket ahead of time online, as you won’t be able to purchase a lift ticket with your rentals. If you plan to stay on the mountain, book directly with Schweitzer at one of the hotel-style accommodations or condos, and you’ll have guaranteed access to lift tickets during your stay.

“We had a very busy summer, and we believe that will be the case again for the winter season,” explains Chrismer. “People just want to get outside and enjoy themselves. We’ve all been living through very unusual times with lots or anxiety and stress. Getting back to our ‘normal’ winter activities is good for our mental and physical health, and we welcome that as long as we all keep in mind to be flexible and work together to keep skiing and riding.”

In addition to limiting capacity on the mountain, Schweitzer has other protocols in place. Face coverings are required in all indoor spaces, there will be limited capacity in all of the restaurants, and guests are asked to maintain social distancing.

If you’ve gotten in the habit of leaving your bags or things inside the lodge while you head up the mountain, plan a different approach this year. If you have a dedicated locker, limit your time inside. This goes for restrooms as well. The name of the game is to get in and get out so other people can have space to do what they need as well. After all, the entire point is to get up on the mountain.

“We are trying to be as creative as we can be this year and to help with overcrowding in the day lodge, even having food trucks serving lunch options from the Gateway parking lot,” adds Chrismer. “Should be a fun way for people to ski-in/ski-out to their meal!” The mountain also plans to have some fun outdoor festivities when weather permits, like barbecues, fire pits, a snow bar and live music.

Indoors, there are more grab-n-go items at the Lakeview Lodge, and contactless service whenever possible. Taps has removed its age restriction, so there is more room for people dining or drinking in to spread out and maintain good distancing.

For anyone who’s been at Schweitzer, you know parking can be a bit of an issue, even in a normal year. SPOT will still be offering shuttle services from the Red Barn, and they have protocols in place to help protect riders. Those planning to overnight in the parking lot with an RV will need to head to the fire station lots in order to maximize space in the Gateway Lot.

The SnowSports School, KinderKamp Day Care and lessons are operating under a four-stage approach. Green means operations are normal; yellow there are limited lessons and group sizes; orange you can expect private lessons only; and red means no lessons, and day care only with limited numbers.

When it comes to getting up the mountain, there will be social distancing measures in place at the lifts as well. Remember to maintain a six-foot distance, and if you’re with your family or a group, you can load together, otherwise, only two people will be allowed per lift chair.

Despite the changes, Schweitzer expects a fun, busy and snowy year, full of downhill adventure and excitement. The biggest thing to remember is to be patient and respect others as you head up to experience the mountain. Things may take longer, but everyone’s working together to make sure this year can continue despite the pandemic.

“Be flexible. Things are changing constantly with COVID, so we ask that everyone really does their part to help mitigate the spread so we can all keep skiing and riding this winter. Be kind. Be compassionate. Have patience,” reminds Chrismer.

Tickets are currently on sale, so head online and grab yours in advance for those days you know you want to hit the slopes. And like Chrismer says, protocols are constantly changing with the unexpected nature of the pandemic. Don’t forget to check ahead before you head up, come up with a plan to keep out of the indoor spaces as much as possible (like putting your gear and boots on ahead of time, and leaving your extra clothing and shoes in the car), and look out for those around you. After all, we’re all in this together.

Cheers to another Schweitzer ski season. May it be one to remember!

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