A nod to history, family and North Idaho geography By Abigail Thorpe | Photo by Schweitzer Mountain Resort
This winter, Schweitzer is opening the doors to its newest lodging experience, the Humbird. For those of us who have been tracking its progress, it’s with bated breath that we await the opening of a project that’s unfolded over the course of more than a year, as we’ve enjoyed the powder of winter and sunshine-filled days of summer up on the mountain. The modern new design is unlike anything Schweitzer’s done before, and with its sleek lines, sustainable concept and wide-open views, it delivers a brand-new boutique hotel experience to the mountain—one you can start booking now.
Designed by SkyLab architecture out of Portland, the concept of the hotel is centered around the natural environment and history of the area, with a simple, unique design that prioritizes the scenic views and natural surroundings, while harkening back to Sandpoint’s history as a mill town.
Timber and glass define the design concept of the Humbird, aptly named after the historic lumber mill that helped build Sandpoint in the early 1900s—at one point growing to become the largest sawmill in the region and owning over 200,000 acres of forestland.
“In doing research for the name, there were a lot of different avenues,” explains Dig Chrismer, marketing manager at Schweitzer Mountain Resort. “A lot of the areas on Schweitzer are named for geographic areas of Idaho; there’s some ties into the natural geography and history of the place.” The team landed upon Humbird, as it seemed the most natural fit for the spirit and vision of Schweitzer.
“The Humbird Mill was really such a cornerstone of the community and turned Sandpoint into this small logging town, a community for families, and that really struck a chord. It really was fitting to model that.”
The hotel imbues a modern, Nordic design with cross-laminated timber throughout the building. Exposed structural elements and lots of natural wood and finishes highlight the structure and lend a sense of warmth to the space, while also seamlessly connecting it with the beauty outdoors through large, expansive windows that line the exterior walls of the building.
The placement of the Humbird directly at the parking lot and entrance to the Schweitzer Village at first seems unusual, but as you come into the hotel and look through the windows framing the village, mountains and Lake Pend Oreille below in such a stunning and different way, it seems the perfect location, anchoring the Humbird at the forefront of the village.
The attention to detail within the hotel is incredible. A large bar and huge fireplace anchor the farm-to-table restaurant inside the Humbird: Crow’s Bench. The restaurant and bar is open to the public; you don’t have to stay at the Humbird to enjoy the beautiful space, large outdoor deck and epic views overlooking the village. The menu from new food and beverage director John Calderon is Bavarian inspired, offering a unique twist on classic Bavarian fare.
While the design is simple and modern, each detail has been carefully thought out, down to the lighting fixtures, which incorporate the phrase “Pray for Snow” in Morse code.
As more and more visitors have come to stay and play at Schweitzer, the mountain saw an increased need for more accommodations, particularly as private home stay options have declined as more second homeowners have opted to head to the mountain with remote work options ever more available in the face of the pandemic.
Humbird helps fill the gap by providing 31 units for Schweitzer’s destination guests, a huge gain for the mountain in the midst of even more Schweitzer-goers all season long, including new Ikon Pass holders now that Schweitzer is a partner of the Ikon Pass community. The Humbird provides a new and unique level of experience at Schweitzer: a high-end boutique, ski-in, ski-out stay that prioritizes comfort, luxury and the ultimate Schweitzer getaway. “There are a lot of guests who want that, and we’ll be able to provide that,” explains Chrismer.
But along with this boutique experience, the Humbird and Crow’s Bench will offer an open, friendly atmosphere where all are welcome, and this is made obvious by the open, expansive restaurant space and outdoor deck that conveys a warm sense of community, epic experiences and shared thrills. “In keeping with Schweitzer’s character, everything we have here is for everybody,” she adds. “We’re trying to make sure that there’s a variety of experiences for all the different types of riders and [visitors].” In addition to its 31 rooms and 50-seat restaurant, the Humbird offers guests a workout space, gathering area and an underground parking lot—a big addition to the Schweitzer village, as parking has proven difficult with the rapid growth of the mountain.
The end result will be worth the wait, as the Humbird approaches its final months of construction. The process hasn’t been easy. It’s challenging to build up at the mountain—conditions aren’t necessarily welcoming, and the building season is short, with snow falling as early as October and lasting well into spring. Jackson Construction has helped bring the project to completion. Being based in the intermountain west, they understand what it takes to undertake a project of this size in unique conditions and have filled a major role in the completion of a Schweitzer vision that promises to live up to its original hopes and dreams. “They came into the project, and they were able to work with what had already been done and established,” says Chrismer. “If you work with great people, you’re going to have great results.”
After years of planning, working with the architects at SkyLab to come up with a vision, and then carrying it out with help from the Board at Schweitzer, the community and Jackson Construction, seeing it all come together has been an incredible experience, adds Chrismer. And the end result is finally within reach. Humbird is expected to open within the next month or two, depending on the weather, and is currently taking reservations from January 14 onward.
As many restaurants and hospitality services throughout Sandpoint have experienced, the industry was hit hard by COVID, and it hasn’t been easy to find and retain staff for the growing amount of business and tourism Sandpoint has seen. Opening a new hotel and restaurant in the midst of this, Schweitzer has been cognizant of the issues facing hospitality workers and has made efforts to offer outstanding opportunities for their employees, with increased wages across the board. The mountain is also working on projects for employee housing—a major need in light of the current housing market in the area. In addition, the perks on the mountain are fantastic for ski and snowboard lovers, particularly families.
“Schweitzer’s always prided itself on our staff and our service, and it’s a culture,” explains Chrismer. “People don't come back for a building. If they don't run into wonderful people, we’ve missed the mark.”
With the holiday season in full swing and the excitement for winter pow days ahead, get ready to head up to the mountain and check out Schweitzer’s newest addition to the village family. Sandpoint and Schweitzer have grown incredibly over the past several years, but with the change comes exciting new experiences, and Humbird is bound to be one of the great ones—with all of the same warmth and open arms that have come to define our local mountain, much the same as they defined our growing town and the Humbird Mill all those years ago. Welcome to winter season at Schweitzer!