Ski resorts like airports have their own personalities. Just like people, they’re not all created alike and shouldn’t be!
First, let’s start with the airports. During a recent nine-day trip, the Denver, Nashville and Spokane airports were the places where I took flight and landed. What I like about these three is that they all have features connecting travelers to something local beyond the usual items stamped with the town’s name and information booths.
In Denver, my starting and ending point of the trip, I stayed at The Westin Denver International Airport, the year-old, architecturally curvy property connected to the airport by a shared, 80,000-square-foot outdoor plaza and sporting a 37,500-square-foot conference center. Sleeping only steps away from the terminal provided the easiest day of departure I’ve ever experienced, and dining at DIA isn’t just a necessity it is a treat with Colorado businesses like Root Down, Modern Market, Elway’s and New Belgium Brewery having locations at the airport.
In Nashville, there is an outpost of the well-known Tootsies Orchid Lounge complete with the signature orchid purple front and live music, and I noticed that there is a medical clinic and nail salon at the airport, which I haven’t seen elsewhere before. Spokane is a bit smaller but didn’t disappoint as instead of just the normal food court fare, Vintage Washington is a wine bar and restaurant offering the chance to have a glass of wine from the area.
Northwest Idaho Skiing Bliss
Which brings me to ski areas, as the purpose of my flight into Spokane was to visit Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint and Silver Mountain Resort in Kellogg, both an easy 1.5- or 2-hour drive from the airport. Speaking of wine, Schweitzer has smartly plugged into people who prefer wrapping up a day on the slopes or bike trails with a wine glass in hand. During a late Saturday afternoon wine tasting at Gourmandie, charcuterie boards were flying by and the level of conversation bubbling over in a packed house, demonstrating that this concept works at a ski area base. With every seat taken at Schweitzer’s brand new Sky House summit lodge, it confirms that part of the ski set and groups also are willing to pay more for a higher-end lunch especially in a beautiful structure that manages to be both industrial and mountain and has an abundance of windows. In the summer, Sky House will transform into group space for meetings, dinners and weddings. I can’t wait to see the photos!
With 2,900 acres of skiable terrain, there is plenty of slopes to play on as well as more than 32 kilometers of cross-country skiing accessible from the same area you catch the base area chairlifts. That’s unique! In fact, rentals for alpine and Nordic gear and snowboards all happen in the same rental center. The cross-country trails are among some of the prettiest I’ve ever skied with stunning views of the forest, Sandpoint and Lake Pend Oreille but beginners will need to be savvy in handling the hills. A compact base area means Selkirk Lodge and White Pine Lodge and any meeting and event space is just steps from activities.
At Silver, there are two bases: one where you stay and catch the gondola (known as Gondola Village) and the other where you get off the gondola 15 or 20 minutes later to rent equipment and catch the chairlifts. This mountain is smaller than Schweitzer with 1,600 acres of skiing and boarding but packs plenty of fun into one day, especially when there are several inches of fresh powder to cruise through. Purchased only six months ago by a private buyer, expect to see some upgrades at Silver, which I hope includes some unfinished space that would be perfect for meetings and events in the village.
Morning Star Lodge is right by the gondola and has four separate buildings with nice accommodations and an indoor water park that is a real bonus for groups bringing families or looking for an inside luau in the thick of winter. At the upper base, I like the feel of Moguls, the second-floor restaurant that is regularly used by groups and has a cozy private room off to the side.
Silver and Schweitzer, both privately held and owned by individuals based in Seattle, report that tubing continues to be a favorite thing to do for families and groups, and I love that Schweitzer issues a “walk up” pass so that someone can take the chairlift up to Sky House for lunch and ride it back down without skiing. Activities like this are great ways to include members of the group who don’t ski or prefer to mix up activity experiences during their stay.
A couple benefits that are hard to ignore are the very reasonable price for lift tickets and the fairly low elevation of both resorts. Plus, they have a whole host of summer and fall options for groups. So, if you are looking for a new place for small or medium gatherings, consider northwest Idaho and check out what’s new and different in airports along the way!