There’s something so satisfying about a snow report sliding under your hotel room door before dawn alongside the morning paper. When that report heralds the presence of fresh powder on the mountain, as so often happens during the winter months, it’s even better. I found this daily morning joy at Selkirk Lodge, one of two lodging options (along with White Pine Lodge) at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho.
This slopeside hideaway, named for the mountain range it calls home, incorporates 82 guest rooms whose pine-accented cabin vibe is enhanced by touches of European ski chalet-style comfort. The closets house pairs of fuzzy white bathrobes, while guest beds are appointed with big cozy quilts and memory foam mattress toppers. Resist the urge to stay in bed all day; instead, start your morning out on your balcony (most rooms have them) with a mug of piping-hot coffee or cocoa from the kitchenette and an incredible view of the snowy peaks that surround you. Standard and high-speed chairs await to whisk you up to the tops of ski runs woven like stitchwork across the front and back sides of these peaks as soon as you’ve enjoyed the daily hot breakfast buffet (complimentary) downstairs at Chimney Rock Grill.
But wait – isn’t Sandpoint prohibitively far away from (fill in your hometown here)? Nope – common misconception. Driving from Seattle or Portland, for instance, arriving in Sandpoint is just a matter of overshooting Spokane by about an hour – not bad at all. You’ll wind your way up the mountain overlooking shimmery Lake Pend d’Oreille before reaching an altitude that ensconces all the snowy, sleepy charm of an Alpine ski village. The entire town’s culture is ski-centric, but without any trace of snobbery that can sometimes permeate more touristy resorts: locals and staff alike are invariably warm and welcoming toward visitors, often striking up conversations in the lift lines or by the fireplaces generously scattered throughout the resort’s lounges, common areas and eateries.
Among those eateries are resort cafés Mojo Coyote and Cabinet Mountain Coffee, which sling local roaster Evans Brothers’ blends and single-origin coffees; Taps Lounge, the primary après-ski hangout, featuring a full bar, American fare, imaginative pizzas, pool tables and a dance floor that gets lively when music acts come through the resort; and Pucci’s, which offers adventurous pub fare (think “locally raised” yak burgers – who knew?) accompanied by about a dozen local brews on tap (though a word to the wise: if you order a bottled beer, you’ll have the option of taking it to go). Chimney Rock Grill, on Selkirk’s main floor, tends toward the classier side, though not to the point of stuffiness; dinner entrees go for $29 for ribeye with mashed potatoes and huckleberry butter, or $17 for a rich risotto with roasted winter vegetables.
Of particular appeal to the beverage enthusiast is Gourmandie, Schweitzer’s wine-shop-cum-artisan-delicatessen. Here, you’ll find wall upon wall of Northwest wines and farther-flung vintages, plus gourmet cheeses, crackers, charcuterie, and more. If you’re inclined to take a full or partial day’s break from the usual snow sports, pick up a pair of snowshoes ($20 for the day at the ski rental shop), pack a gourmet sampler lunch and a bottle of red, white or rosé, and head out into the snowscape for a truly picturesque winter picnic.
At the foot of the mountain in Sandpoint, the number of good things to drink is worth at least a half-day trip. Downtown, Pend d’Oreille Winery boasts a wide range of award-winning blends and single-varietal bottlings (Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc, as well as the Reserve Chardonnay, were standouts) that pair beautifully with a seasonally inspired menu from in-house restaurant The Bistro Rouge (go for the absolutely divine “Martian Heads” – more frequently known as Brussels sprouts – and the rich Italian Job 2.0 meatball dish). Small House Winery, on the outskirts of town, is younger and features a smaller selection, but crafts tasty vintages made with grapes sourced from the best growing regions across the Northwest. For the beer-inclined, Idaho Pour Authority is a bottle shop dream come true, where towering shelves are lined with brews from across the region and around the world. And five minutes away in little Ponderay, the next town over, you’ll find favorite Idaho brewery Laughing Dog, where the pups are invariably adorable and beer samplers are served on a dog biscuit-shaped wood tray.
End your days (all of them, if possible) with a visit to Selkirk’s heated outdoor pool and trio of hot tubs, which all sit clustered together in the shadow of the snow-capped mountains. As you relax, you’ll let your eyes climb to the top of the mountain above you and then up to the starry sky above, allowing worries and cares to melt away like end-of-season snow.
Selkirk Lodge | 10000 Schweitzer Mountain Road, Sandpoint, Ida. | schweitzer.com