BACK ON THE ROAD: McCALL TO SANDPOINT
24th February 2018 | James Cove, Idaho
Last modified on January 12th, 2021
The PlanetSKI Idaho road trip heads north to Schweitzer Mountain Resort. Check out the journey & our live blog from the largest resort in Idaho. UPDATED
PlanetSKI’s Road Trip in Idaho:
THE ROAD THROUGH NORTHERN IDAHO
It’s often said with travelling that the journey itself is better than the arrival.
On reflection I’d rather be on my skis in deep powder or smashing the groomers than in a car for hour after hour after hour deep in northern Idaho, but it’s a closer call than you may think.
We had some adventures on the first leg as I had a walk-on part in a Hollywood film as we drove from Boise to McCall.
Now it’s McCall to Sandpoint.
It’s a 6-hour drive covering 320 miles or so taking me right up close to the Canadian border.
The town of Ferdinand (population 159) looked like many of the one horse towns we passed through.
Crumbling buildings flying the Stars & Stripes .
This is deep red-neck territory.
God is a given and America is about to be great again.
Walking into the single bar in Ferdinand for a coffee my heart quickened as one never quite knows what, and who, one’s going to find inside these ramshakle bars.
“Where’re you from?,” a bearded 18-stone man with a wide cowboy hat asked as I ordered a coffee. He didn’t smile at me.
“London,” I replied.
“Where you come from?” was his next probing question.
“McCall and before that Boise. Last week I was in Banff in Canada.”
“I lived in Banff for a while and other places in Alberta. Been all over the world, love travelling and meeting people.”
Had I heard correctly?
I am in deepest Idaho where I expected to hear some fairly blinkered views from people that barely knew another world existed outside of USA.
His friend joined in.
“I was in Chad in Africa for a while and I currently take in Chinese students who are studying at college. It’s great to help them start their journey through life. Do you know the history of round here?”
He then proceeded to tell me all about wheat, barley and crops they grow on the endless plains of northern Idaho.
Of the railway bridges built over gorges that I would soon see to take the grain to the inland port of Lewiston where it would then go through a series of locks to the larger ports on the Pacific coast and on to the rest of the world.
It was fascinating stuff.
Lesson learnt – looks can be deceiving.
And here are the grain silos of Idaho.
And the wooden railway bridges.
And the bleak monochrome scenery that is the plains of Idaho as it stretches for countless miles in every direction.
We saw further stunning scenery as the journey unfolded.
It felt like a road trip, a proper US ski road trip.
My next road trip encounter was altogether more predictable than the one in Ferdinand.
“My daughter and son-in-law are both teachers and are heading out to Hong Kong for two years. One teaches economics & physical geography, while the other teaches 5th grade students,” the man under the baseball cap said.
“Well, at least they won’t have to carry concealed guns as they educate children,” I pointed out.
He stared me straight back in the eye.
“You know I was in the US Navy for 22 years and my father was in the US Airforce before me. I think we need to take positive action,” he replied.
He told me how he helped fight Communists and then Muslims.
I change the subject to the possible snow conditions in the mountains.
Another man of 70-years old told me how he comes over to Idaho from West Virginia each winter to ski.
“I bring my guns with me. You need them when filing up with gas in St Louis. I like people here to know there’s an old-timer in the cabin who is armed and ready to go,” he enthused.
It would be hard to have any form of intelligent debate with such views.
I am in Trump country here in deepest Idaho and it is probably best to keep my opinions to myself if I want to reach my next ski destination.
I cast my thoughts back to the road.
I’m arriving in Sandpoint shortly.
It’s the town that serves the ski resort of Schweitzer Mountain – the largest resort in Idaho.
Check back later as I addd more tails from the road and then it’s the skiing – what I have driven all this way for. Well, mostly.
Life on the road. I love it.
SCHWEITZER MOUNTAIN RESORT
And so it comes towards an end.
The final resort of the Idaho leg of this part of my North America trip, Schweitzer Mountain.
I started in Banff Canada earlier in the month – Back in Banff
Then headed to the city of Boise in Idaho to ski Bogus Basin – Back on the road
Next up was the town of McCall for Brundage Mountain and Tamarack – The PlanetSKI Idaho ski road trip moves on.
Tomorrow I’m flying to Denver to ski Winter Park and Steamboat in Colorado.
Maybe some others too.
So, is it worth spending just 24-hours in a ski resort?
I’ll be updating this blog through the day so check back and find out.
At time of writing I haven’t a clue what the day holds……
But this is the size of the resort.
Looks like there’s more than enough for a day.
Once again the weather has closed in.
Schweitzer Mountain resort is the largest ski area in Idaho and to tell us about it is Dig Chrismer.
And here are the snow ghosts mentioned in the video:
Eat your heart out Sun Peaks, Canada!
Do check back later for the latest from Schweitzer Mountain we’re going into the Outback Bowl…
So, what of the skiing?
It certainly has some of the best skiing in Idaho.
Huge terrain…. deep snow….
Once again the weather closed in and it is cold.
Down to about -12c.
That means powder and crispy, light snow.
And some stunning views.
Both aspects of the weather meant more snow and of the light powder variety.
Now as a rule I don’t tend to write about food.
This is PlanetSKi after all not PlanetLUNCH.
But here in Schweitzer I make an exception.
“Skiers don’t want huge great burgers and such that sit in their stomach and drain all their energy. They want to pop in have good quality food full of nutrients that tastes delicious and then head back out to ski hard,” said Peter Tobin who came up with the concept of the Sky House at the top of the resort.
I have never heard a more sensible view of mountain food.
I opted for the Vietnamese Spring Roll at $12 – it tasted as good as it looked.
The baked Spaghetti comes recommended – also $12.
And most other dishes on the menu looked just as good.
And after lunch we put Peter’s theory to the test, (see below for his lunch theory – don’t eat heaps of filing food if you want to ski hard and fast in the afternoon – eat smaller amounts of tasty and nutritional food) .
The weather had closed in, but we had the energy and determination to hit the steeps.
Much was wind blown on the front side so we hit the backside bowl.
Plenty of snow seemed to have been blown into it and it was sheltered.
Later we’re planning on night skiing under floodlights.
Will we still have the energy?
If you are unfamiliar with resorts in North America many close early – 3.30pm or so.
Not Schweitzer Mountain.
Today it goes on till 7pm with the help of floodlights.
We were some of the last off the mountain.
My last turns of the Idaho ski road trip went spent lapping The Basin Express lift until the lights went out.
It is also said that North American resorts don’t really do après ski.
We headed out to see if it was correct in Schweitzer Mountain.
Pucci’s Pub bar was lively and then we stumbled into Taps Bar.
A band was palying with a fancy dress party in full swing.
I told the man on the door I had come as a skiing stuntman.
It did the trick.
Any guesses of the theme?
Lets just say spending an evening with Pussy Galore on my final night in Idaho came as something of a surprise.
It is said resorts in North America aren’t very big, lunch up the mountain rarely exists and if it does it is somewhat tasteless, that the skiing stops early and the apres ski is non-existent.
Er, not in Schweitzer Mountain in Northern Idaho.
Idaho – I have been bowled over by your state and your ski towns & resorts.
Not much is certain in life but one thing is: I shall be back.
And hopefully for more than 24-hours in Schweitzer.
I can feel another road trip coming on in this neck of the woods.
How about a few more resorts in Idaho and then popping into Montana and maybe Wyoming?
The Canadian border is just a few hours away and my favouriete resorts of Red and Whitewater.
I’m looking forward to 2018/19 already.
But in the meantime it’s next stop Colorado.
And in idea has just popped into my head….I’m flying back with Iceland Air.
How about a slight change of plan: a stop-over for a few days Reykjavic and ski Iceland.
Now there’s an idea….
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