By Vicki Andersen, photos by Dino Vournas
Celebrated for deep, dry snow pervading from the north, Schweitzer and Whitewater did not disappoint members attending NASJA’s 28th Western Winter Summit. Ensconced slopeside at the Selkirk Lodge, fresh snow blanketed the groomers, bowls and gladed runs of Idaho’s largest ski resort (2,900 skiable acres). A low ceiling delivering non-stop snow obscured the 360-degree view from their new Sky House day lodge perched at the summit, but the food made up for it. Seven lifts including Stella, Idaho’s only high-speed six-pack, and two surface conveyances access 2,400 feet of vertical at this 55-year-old resort.
Evening in Sandpoint included a tour of Art Alley and MickDuff’s Brewing Company, sampling numerous flavors and learning Idaho is the country’s #1 beer barley producer, and #2 in hops. Dinner at The Back Door @ Baxters on Cedar capped exploration of a town nestled on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille (ponderay), largest (143 square miles) in Idaho and fifth deepest (1,150’) in the U.S.
Phil Johnson discovered the enchantment of “quiet snow”, leaving Bob Goligoski apologizing to the rental shop for his broken pole. Larry Turner overcame challenging visibility by shooting images of ghost trees, powder-dusted skiers, snow-covered vehicles, icicle-fringed windows… Dino Vournas’ solution to visibility issues: carry two pair of goggles to always have an unfogged pair, but Vicki Andersen preferred a hot stone massage at Solstice Spa.
The two-hour shuttle to Nelson, Sandpoint’s Canadian sister city, ran 4.5 hours thanks to ongoing dumps of white fluff. Left unsupervised in Curtis Fong’s Cayenne, Hula-Gan programmed the GPS to take Fong and Dan Giesin on a ferry ride across Kootaney Lake enroute to Prestige Lakeside Resort. Arriving just in time for dinner at the Resort’s West Coast Grill, where Risa Wyatt officiated as our sommelier, their excursion added to John Naye thinking next time he might shuttle rather than drive.
Dave Sartwell donned his lucky shirt and another 22cm greeted us at Whitewater, whose steeps, bowls, glades and 2,044-foot-vertical is a celebrated stop along Canada’s legendary Powder Highway. Rated 55% “Advanced”, even Blue runs can put a burn in conditioned legs. We learned firsthand about Nelson’s “Powder Day” rule where 20cm or more of freshies on the mountain finds many businesses expecting employees to call in sick, coming to work only after a couple of hours satiating themselves on the slopes. And by early afternoon most folks headed off for a late work day leaving us alone in powder heaven.
Conditions were so epic, Bob Cox, Martin Griff and Tina Lassen blew off lunch at Coal Oil Johnny’s for more turns, even leaving their Ski-Host-jacket-clad guide inbounds while they took some locals up on an invite to duck the ropes to explore a secret stash. Peter Schroeder blew a co-starring role in Whitewater’s video after he headed into the woods out of camera range. The evening included a dine-around in Nelson, starting with sampling the product at Torchlight Brewery, one of the town’s four micro-breweries, then breaking into dine-around groups to experience appetizers and entrees at Louie’s Steakhouse and Mike’s Pub, New Seasons Café and Cantina Del Centro, or Sage Tapas & Wine Bar and Yum Som. We regrouped in The Vault at West Coast Grill for dessert, only to discover Ed Kane had kept his missing goggle bag safely ensconced in his shoe all evening. Lee Juillerat, as usual, didn’t say much but the twinkle in his eyes spoke volumes about the day.
Awakening to another 24cm of new, some folks were road-tripping and had more adventures ahead of them, while the rest of us boarded our shuttle for the “approximate 4-hour trip” back to Spokane. Bad roads, two totaled vehicles, and an overturned log truck made it a six-hour journey, but everyone made their flights including our earliest departure, Phil Johnson, who called it the perfect ending to a trip spent discovering the enchantment of “quiet snow”. A person who hates hanging around airports, Johnson made it to his gate just as it was boarding.
A big shout-out to Dig Chrismer, Schweitzer’s Marketing Manager and Matt Hofmann, Senior Sales Manager, and Rebeckah Hornung, Whitewater’s Sales & Marketing Manager and Dianna Ducs, Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism Executive Director, who made it all possible.