Things to Do in Sandpoint & Schweitzer Mountain

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Wow! What a run we have had here in the North Idaho Panhandle. Schweitzer has spent millions on improvements and finally made Skiing Mag's Top 25. Spring 2008 had naming Sandpoint and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort one of the nation's Top 10 Resort Towns. There's always something going one. Winter events like Holly Eve, Winter Carnival, and Mardi Gras added to some great downhill runs. Spring brought Lost in the 50s, Spring Festivals, and marathons, and the fun continued through summer, with art and festivals, fishing derbys, Summer Sampler, 4th of July, the Wooden Boat Festival, the Festival at Sandpoint two week concert series, and great lake fun. Now coming up is Lakedance Film Fest and the turning of the leaves. Can't wait for Oktoberfest!

We have seen some cool new restaurants, the Bonner Mall getting a makeover, and more things to do in our Calendar of Events than we have ever had before. Sports and doing things outdoors here ain't so bad either. From the CdA Ironman, to the NORBA Nationals, to the Long Bridge Swim, we have the national events. But with dozens of bike trails at every level, hiking, and boating, you can find what you like to do. Choose one of the activities on either side, or surf the rest of the website. You are surely going to find something cool to do in Sandpoint and North Idaho.

As for Sandpoint, you might have seen the sign, and yes, Sandpoint is a walking town. That is one of the most popular things to do in Sandpoint and up on Schweitzer Mountain in the village when coming to visit. In a half day, we can walk either village, seeing cool shops, visiting galleries, and dining in good restaurants. But there is much more to do in the outlying areas.

Here are a couple other things to consider.

First, Lake Pend Oreille is the second largest freshwater lake and the deepest in the West with 111 miles of shoreline. Watersports, sailing, and racing are common and several boat cruises are offered. Next is Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, a top winter destination rated in the Top 25 in Skiing Magazine and Top 10 in Sunset Magazine, with the finest skiing and snowboarding with unbelievable panoramic views overlooking Lake Pend Oreille. With over 2,900 acres, 2,400 feet of vertical, 67 named runs and seven chairlifts, Schweitzer Mountain is a dream for downhill enthusiasts. There's also 32k of cross country trails, beautiful snowshoe trails, and a brand-new tubing center plus shopping galore. Winter Sports feature snowmobiling and ice skating, and during the summer we host the NORBA Nationals and biking of every sort. We are home to Coldwater Creek with their HQ and biggest store. There are three golf courses, among them award-winning Hidden Lakes, now the Jack Nicklaus Idaho Club. Just a few miles away is Silverwood Theme Park, the Northwest's largest theme park.

Sandpoint is a great, historic railroading town, with fantastic scenery on short or long trips within the Pacific Northwest. The Burlington Northern, Montana Rail Link, and Spokane International rail systems all converge to create "The Funnel," an amazingly active rail crossroads with more than 40 trains a day traveling through. Rail buffs come from around the world to see the many trains traveling through. We are home to the award-winning Pend d'Oreille Winery, and North Idaho and Eastern Washington have many wineries, and Coeur d'Alene and Sandpoint have no fewer than twelve wine bars. The area is filled with world-famous artists, galleries, antique stores, and shopping. We have great restaurants, including Sushi, Tapas, and eclectic as well as traditional fare that satisfies every taste.  As the saying goes, "Where do you find the best restaurants in Spokane? Sandpoint!" There are several wildlife refuges, national parks, nature preserves, and state parks within short driving distance. We also have some of the finest hunting and fishing in the nation. There are dams, horseback riding, sleigh rides, camping and hiking. We have the International Selkirk Loop, a 280-mile driving loop through two countries (U.S. and Canada) and two states (Idaho and Washington) considered to be one of the best drives in the country. Finally there are so many events that they are too many to mention. The historic Panida Theater has many of them, but others are city or county-wide such as our Madcap Mardi Gras during our Winter Carnival celebration and two Oktoberfests. To see a full Calendar of Events, click the link on the left. In short, North Idaho is a jewel, with Sandpoint and Coeur d'Alene sparkling bright. Come visit us and see why so many that do never leave.

Here is a little more about what the Sandpoint Area Offers

One of America's truly unique places,  sheltered by the Selkirk and Cabinet Mountains, the climate is further tempered by prodigious Lake Pend Oreille, offering amenities normally found only in much larger and so-called more sophisticated towns.

The sheltering didn't end there. First the artists and hippies came, such as Ed Kienholz, and the few knew the beauty and outstanding lifestyle, they kept the secret close to the vest. However, Sandpoint's charms have recently been discovered by the outside world. Outside Magazine recently named Sandpoint one of America's Top Dream Towns, calling us  "The cool northwest's hot property", while Sunset Magazine calls it "The Best Small Town in the West". Read on and learn grasshoppers. Oh, did I mention we have awful big grasshoppers?

Having Fun on the Water


You don't have to be here long to get the picture. We are in lake country. Not surprisingly, many blogs and writings of winter skiers attribute to the area the misnomer that we are primarily a summer resort destination. After all, when skiing down the slopes of Schweitzer Mountain, the overwhelming view is Lake Pend Oreille. Oh so wrong, my research-lacking ones. Our main tourist season and draw is winter sports. Still, summers ain't bad.

Lake Pend Oreille is the 2nd largest freshwater lake in the west with 111 miles of coastline, and Lake Coeur d'Alene is only a bit smaller, but we have many other beautiful Alpine and mountain lakes. Boating on Hayden Lake, Spirit Lake, Lake Cocolalla, or Twin Lakes is a daily activity for much of the year. We have fantastic white water kayaking, and skiing on the Pend Oreille River is a fav. So hit the water. See the North Idaho Lakes Guide and the North Idaho Rivers Guide and here is a bit about What to do on the Water. Want some more mellow fun, go swimmin' under a Waterfall.

Skiing and Winter Sports

While many resort towns have great summers, or fantastic ski seasons, we have a true four-season climate, and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort is minutes from downtown. So it is small wonder Sandpoint is a fantastic place for the winter sports enthusiast. But the spring and fall brings mountain biking, hiking, hunting, and festivals. The summer has boaters, fishing, sailing, waterskiing, jet boating, etc., etc., etc. There are too many things to mention without losing your attention, so if you would like to learn more about what's happening here, check out our Calendar of Events.

Food and Drink

Where can you find a town of this size with two wine bars, two Starbucks, and a Sushi Restaurant? We have several health food stores and cafes, and many, many good restaurants. In fact, according to the article in Outside Magazine, a standing joke in Spokane - a city of almost 200,000 about 75 miles to the southwest - goes something like this: "Where's the best place to eat in Spokane? In Sandpoint". While this might have started as a marketing ad we put out some twenty years ago, it may well be true. To learn more about our restaurants and eateries, click this link for RESTAURANTS. As the host of the radio show - Gourmet to Go, and a former local restaurant owner, I have a little insight on the subject. I worked with Emeril Legasse at Commander's Palace in New Orleans for three years, and I guarantee that we have some good fixin's here.

The Festival at Sandpoint

Harking back to a more relaxed era, the Festival at Sandpoint has been providing an unequaled out door concert experience since 1983. The individual acts are quite varied, so there's something for any taste, and the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed. Seating is "on-the-grass" and concert goers are welcome to bring their own picnic baskets, blankets, and chairs. For out-of-town visitors for whom preparing a gourmet picnic might be difficult, local restaurants provide a fantastic array of food, beer, and wine.

The Arts

This is one area where we truly excel. We now have almost five hundred artists in our midst. Over the years, the Sandpoint area's tranquil beauty has attracted these hundreds of artists. Beginning with the now-iconic regional photographer Ross Hall in the 1930's, the tradition continues with the Pend Oreille Arts Council and the Artist's Studio Tour, as well as a healthy number of Art Galleries. To learn more go to the Art Movement in North Idaho.


The Sandpoint area has no fewer than six golf courses. The Elks Club Golf Course is right on the outskirts of town, while the famous Hidden Lakes course, which was one of the best courses in the Pacific Northwest, is just a few scenic miles to the east. It has now been bought by Jack Nicklaus and renamed The Idaho Club, and while their company has dozens of courses, Jack himself has designed only a handful. This is one of 'em. In nearby Priest River, a new golf course community is being developed called Settlement Golf Course. Plus, though probably still far off, plans are rumored for a course at the base of Schweitzer Mountain. Of course, rumors continue that the Ruen property will be bought by Arnold Palmer, but don't hold your breath. Still, golfin' is good in the neighborhood.

Fishing & Hunting

Lake Pend Oreille is the nation's fifth deepest lake (1,158 feet at its deepest), and boasts over 100 miles of scenic shoreline. Its also a world class fishery, with the world record for a rainbow trout, a 37 pound giant caught by Wes Hamlet in 1947. For a real treat, try a fishing charter on the lake where 25# rainbow trout are a regular occurrence. Of course, on a lake this fantastic, there has to be more than one good charter service!

While most of the country and much of Idaho call our region "the Panhandle," we typically think of ourselves as simply North Idaho. As you can tell from our Lakes and Rivers page, we have almost 140 lakes, plus over 2,000 miles of rivers and streams. The largest lake, Lake Pend Oreille, has 111 miles of coastline and over 86,000 acres, and many other lakes - Hayden, Coeur d'Alene, Twin Lakes, Priest Lake, and Lake Cocolalla - are very large. We also have dozens of much smaller lakes - 1-2 acres  -  and everything in between. Many people associate Minnesota as the land of lakes for the U. S., but our Idaho Panhandle has the greatest concentration of lakes in all the western states, giving us the water sports and fishing haven we all enjoy.

While the state of Idaho has more wilderness acreage than any other state, the Idaho Panhandle has more game, and better hunting than any other region of Idaho. With so many acres in the wild, no other state in the lower 48 has as much big game hunting variety and quality as Idaho. Idaho is sparsely populated with huge areas of forests, canyons, and mountain wildernesses. Idaho seasons generally run from 20-65 days. Hunter congestion remains rare. An amazing amount of land remains in the hands of the federal and state governments: 21,621,000 acres of the state's total acreage remains forested. The Federal Government holds 65.2% of all land, with estimates of 78 percent of all of Idaho belonging either to state or federal forests, etc. See Hunting Guide or Fishing Guide.

The Literary Scene

Sandpoint has been the home of a diverse collection of writers over the years - ranging from Marilynne Robinson, who recently won the Pulitzer Prize for her book Gilead, and Sandy Compton, who writes local color stories, to Peter Fenton, who writes about subjects such as Tibetan Medicine. A recent addition to the scene is the "Open Mic" at one of Sandpoint's newer restaurants, The Downtown Crossing. If literature is your thing, you'll definitely be interested in this article from Sandpoint Magazine.

Click here to learn more about the Skinny on Sandpoint

If you have any questions, please feel free to call me at any time.

Gary Lirette
Realtor, Tomlinson Sandpoint Sotheby's International Realty
Host of North Idaho Business & North Idaho Arts & Adventure on KSPT and KBFI

To learn more about North Idaho, Sandpoint, and Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort, visit the community websites:


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Business & Investing in the Inland Northwest
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