Summer in Idaho: Schweitzer Mountain Resort with kids

In the panhandle of Idaho, high above Lake Pend Oreille and the picturesque town of Sandpoint sits Schweitzer Mountain Resort. While many people know Schweitzer as a ski destination, summer on the mountain has much to offer the active outdoor family from late June until early September. Find miles of trails to explore, ripe huckleberries to pick, free lawn games to play, sprawling vistas to gaze upon, Village attractions to thrill you, blooming wildflowers to photograph, and a chairlift ride to amaze (and somewhat scare) you.

Schweitzer caters to those who love the outdoors.  The main attraction is undeniably the over twenty miles of trails and its connection to the massive Selkirk Recreation District trail system. However, we found that Schweitzer in the summer offers many summer activities aimed at entertaining the whole family from hiking to a playground, pool and thrill attractions. And if you time it right and visit in late July or early August the wildflowers will be in bloom and the huckleberries delicious. 

Tip: Once you’ve explored the mountain, don’t forget to spend a day at City Beach in Sandpoint enjoying the sun, volleyball, sailing, beachside playground or swimming before heading a few blocks over to experience an “auto bridge” that is now enclosed and home to one of the most unique shopping experiences in the country.

Lodging accommodations

Schweitzer offers two on-site lodges, the Selkirk and White Pine, with a variety of room types to address different family needs.  The lodges offer rooms from the standard double queen to three bedroom condos that can sleep up to ten people. The Selkirk Family Suite met the needs of our family of five. It included a queen bed and a twin bed over a second queen, a small kitchenette and table for in-room dining. The room was spacious enough not to be overcrowded when all five of us were present and quiet and relaxing when our youngest went down for her afternoon nap. 

While the lodge included typical hotel amenities like an exercise room and small business center, it was the more unique features and Northwest flare that won over our family. The lodge includes a theater room (first family there picks the movie for the night!) as well as an outdoor heated pool with views of the mountain. It is difficult to describe how or why the pool won us over so completely, but unlike other experiences where the pool area is heavily regulated, Schweitzer takes a more relaxed approach. Do you want to take your food and beverages (even the adult type) out to the pool and eat dinner as the sun sets over the mountains and your children splash around in the shallow end or warm up in the hot tubs?  Of course you do.  And at Schweitzer they let you. 

Note: don’t leave your Pucci’s Pub nachos (they are delicious) unattended as the adorable marmots will move in on them quickly!

The Selkirk Lodge also shares space with the Chimney Rock Grill and Mojo Coyote’s Coffee Shop.  You don’t have to leave the building and both are excellent.  While it was nice to be just a flight of stairs away from our morning lattes, we especially enjoyed the ample portions of the kids’ meals at Chimney Rock. The food came with attentive and quick service that thoughtfully seated us on the shaded patio keeping us out of the more congested areas and provided us with another opportunity to admire the views. 

The Selkirk Lodge is centrally located in the Village and faces the common area on one side and the mountain on the other. From just outside our room we were able to play a game of giant checkers, spend time stargazing with our telescope, and watch the kids enjoy an impromptu dance party. A playground is adjacent, as is a massive colony of marmots, and deer and moose to spot. For reservations and rates go to Schweitzer.com.

The Schweitzer Ultimate Fun Pass

To help facilitate summertime fun in the Village, Schweitzer offers the Ultimate Fun Pass (UFP), which gives all-day (11am – 5pm) access to the chairlift and other paid attractions. The UFP attractions include unlimited chairlift rides, trips down the zip line (for those eight years old and 60 lbs), climbs up the climbing wall, and jumps on the trampoline jumper. Every UFP also includes one bag of dirt and jewels to be sluiced at Cranky Jennings Sluice Box which was a crowd favorite in our family.

Our 10-year-old took advantage of the unlimited rides on the 700’ foot long dual zip lines (and yes, mom did join her).  This was an exhilarating adventure for both child and parent to enjoy together while offering us a unique view of Lake Pend Orielle down the valley. The modest length and height, as well as the extremely accommodating and friendly staff at both ends of the zip line, made for a perfect introduction to the sport for our traditionally tentative and risk-averting daughter.  In fact, mom was more anxious than she was, especially the second time down the line. 

Since our three and six-year-olds did not meet the minimum age or weight requirements, the rest of us moved the short distance in the Village to the trampoline jumper and climbing wall while older sister and mom enjoyed the zip line. A single parent was able to simultaneously supervise the two younger kids on the trampoline jumper and the 25-foot tall rock wall. This was made possible by the attentive and helpful staff who supervise both locations. 

From all of the activities enjoyed with the UFP, surprisingly the sluice box was best received and enjoyed by all ages. Everyone who purchases the day pass receives a bag of dirt that contains hidden gems and stones. Using screens and a running channel of water you can wash away the dirt leaving just the treasures behind. From the magical discovery of a hidden gem to the trading of valuable items and even the imagining of enchanted powers related to different types of stones, the sluice box kept our kids entertained for an afternoon and their imaginations active for days. While we found one bag per kid to be an appropriate level of fun and amount of stones to haul around with us, for those wanting additional fun, individual bags are available for purchase in the Activity Center.

The most anticipated UFP activity for many is the chairlift ride to the summit. It was our three-year-old’s first open-air chairlift ride and we were a bit nervous starting out. Soon we were rewarded for our bravery with spectacular views of the valley below and a pleasant meal at the top of the mountain. Even for kids raised on the marvels of the computer-generated worlds of Star Wars, there is a jaw-dropping, ‘wow’-inducing moment, when you get to the top and turn around and look at the resort, tiny and insignificant by comparison, hovering above the valley and lake below.

The Nest at Sky House opened in 2016 and offers a relaxed but finer type of dining than we expected. If your family is looking for a kale Caesar, scallops, or steak sandwich, at 6000 plus elevation, you can’t go wrong. Kids under age 12 can pick from a cheese quesadilla, cheese pizza or bowl of noodles. The food was well prepared and our server was pleasant and attentive. The homemade raspberry lemonade was perfect for a hot summer day and fueled us up for another walk around the mountain’s summit. The Sky House Bar, also open 11am – 5pm, offers adults beverages as well. Staff will even provide to-go beverage cups as alcohol is permitted on all resort property. 

Tip: for the budget-conscious families or ones with picky eaters, you may want to consider packing a picnic and taking it with you to the summit. Plenty of picnic tables are available, all with a view.

After lunch, our kids took advantage of the opportunity to wrestle around in front of a ‘Danger: Cliff’ sign (increasing parent anxiety) while others could enjoy a round of disc golf, a hike, or mountain bike ride down the mountain.

If you fear heights or have particularly squirmy kids (thankfully our three-year-old sat still except for the last 25 feet), the ride down the lift can be a white-knuckle experience. Rather than looking into and up the hill, you look out over the drop. While most families won’t be fazed by it, some will be hugging the little ones and tightly clinching the safety bar.

There are some practical considerations before purchasing the Ultimate Fun Pass:

  • Weight: Between 30 and 240 lbs for most activities. (60 lbs for the zip line)
  • Age: At least 8 years old for the zip line.
  • Shoes: You must have shoes that are closed over your toes and heel. 

Note: Schweitzer may take a more relaxed approach around the pool; however, they do not mess around with age and weight limits on the Village attractions and mountain bike rentals.  Be warned, you will be weighed on site, on an actual scale. Attractions can be purchased a la carte as well, at the Activity Center, if you don’t think your little ones will make full use of the pass.

Up next, additional summer activities…click on the button below to continue!

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About the author

Pit Stops for Kids AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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