Idaho Panhandle: Three Days, Three Ski Resorts

December 6, 2016

Exploring Idaho’s Panhandle — and Mining History

By Amy Whitley

Photo at right: Riding Chair Two at Silver Mountain Resort, Tobias Whitley, age 10, smiles in anticipation for the deep powder he’s about to ski. Photo by Amy Whitley


The Rocky Mountains, the Wasatch Range, Lake Tahoe, and…the Idaho Panhandle?

While not as well-known for varied ski terrain or a landslide of winter recreation as the ski resort meccas of Colorado, Utah and California, Idaho’s Panhandle offers winter enthusiasts a trio of uncrowded ski resorts with affordable lift tickets, challenging terrain and a friendly vibe.

Get Pampered in Coeur d’Alene

If you like luxury and indulgence, booking your stay at the four-star Coeur d’Alene Resort might be your ticket to happiness. If you love pampering, the Resort is close enough to all three northern Idaho mountains that it could be used as your weekend basecamp.

The Resort, which overlooks the cobalt blue Lake Coeur d’Alene, is within walking distance of the historic downtown and its charming restaurants and boutique shops.

Quench your thirst with a craft brew from Crafted Tap House, or savor some of the Northwest’s best seasonal food at The Cellar and delight your taste buds from their extensive award-winning wine list.

Schweitzer Mountain

On your first day on the slopes, head 90 minutes north from Coeur d’Alene on Highway 95 to Schweitzer Mountain, tucked above the scenic mountain town of Sandpoint.

One of the larger ski resorts in the Pacific Northwest with nine lifts and 92 runs, Schweitzer rewards visitors with a bustling village, plenty of dining and shopping options, and some of the most varied snowy terrain in Idaho.

At the end of your day, return to Sandpoint for dinner at Trinity at City Beach. If you time it just right, you’ll be enjoying your first post-slope cocktail while viewing the sunset’s after-glow over Lake Pend Oreille.

Not up for a drive back to the Coeur d’Alene area after your ski day? Schweitzer has a wide variety of luxury accommodations at their on-site mountain lodge, as well as vacation rental cabins for groups.

Silver Mountain Resort

These skiers are eager to drop into Upper Steep and Deep, a black diamond run on Kellogg Peak at Silver Mountain Resort. Photo by Amy Whitley

On Day 2, head out I-90 to the mining town of Kellogg and nearby Silver Mountain Resort.

You can catch a ride on the longest gondola ride in the country (3.1 miles) which leaves from the base of Silver Mountain. Then hit the slopes, you won’t be fighting crowds here.

Take laps all day on Kellogg Peak, known for its abundance of blue and green runs, or head to Wardner Peak for steep and deep black diamonds. Runs are not long here, but the vertical is respectable at 2,200 feet, with a multitude of wide, sunny slopes.

Have kids in tow? A good suggestion would be a stay at Morning Star Lodge at the base of the mountain which offers a variety of condos that can accommodate large and small groups. Best of all, the lodge’s indoor, four-season Silver Rapids Waterpark will keep kids busy when not on the slopes.

Lookout Pass Ski Resort

On Day 3, take I-90 past Kellogg and the former mining town of Wallace to Lookout Pass Ski Resort, less than 30 minutes away and right on the Idaho-Montana border.

The smallest of the three Panhandle resorts, Lookout is a local hangout, with a quaint, historic and welcoming base lodge, plenty of ski school and kids’ racing activity, and hometown skiers and riders who are quick with a smile for out-of-town guests.

Ask a local on the chairlift for recommendations off-piste; Lookout Pass has plenty of powder on its backside, as well as “hidden” trails through the trees.

You can brown-bag your lunch or try out some of the lodge’s tasty soups and chili.

Beyond the Slopes

If time allows at the end of your ski day, drive 15 minutes off I-90 to check out the mining history in Wallace, where every downtown building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Take the Sierra Silver Mine Tour if you’re visiting late in the season, or ride a few miles along the Route of the Hiawatha bike path, as snow is frequently restricted to higher elevations.

Not sure about ski resort-hopping? Any one of the Idaho Panhandle resorts make for a great three-day weekend destination with plenty to keep couples, families and solo skiers occupied. And, you might learn a little bit of Idaho mining history along the way.

Panhandle mining history dates to 1860

Gold was first discovered in Idaho about 100 miles southeast of Coeur d’Alene in 1860. This discovery set off one of the largest exoduses in American history with prospectors from all over the world staking 1,600 claims within six months.


Coeur d’Alene Resort:
Silver Rapids Waterpark:
Silver Mountain Resort:
Schweitzer Mountain:
Lookout Pass Ski Resort:
Sierra Silver Mine Tour:
Route of the Hiawatha:

Amy Whitley is an outdoor travel writer and family travel blogger at Pit Stops for Kids. She makes her home in Southern Oregon, where she skis, hikes and backpacks with her husband and three boys.