Sandpoint and Surrounding Communities History

The History of Schweitzer Mountain

by Bob Gunter

The dream that started long ago is being realized. The growth of the Schweitzer basin, twelve miles from Sandpoint, Idaho, is a present-day reality.

It stands just 12 miles from Sandpoint, Idaho. It is situated in an area of matchless beauty and from its lofty heights a magnificent view of the Cabinets, the Bitterroots and the Selkirks dazzle the eye. Below there is the awe-inspiring expanse and beauty of Lake Pend Oreille. Add to this an unlimited variety of slope and a basin large enough to accommodate large numbers of skiers and you have Schweitzer. Old photo of Shweitzer Mountain and the old lodge Schweitzer Mountain.

The first white man to visit the area was David Thompson in 1809. French Canadian trappers who braved the snowy heights in search of fur followed him. The mountain did not get its name from any of the men who braved its snow-covered peaks but from a man of mystery. Schweitzer Mountain was named after an old Swiss hermit who lived at the bottom of the basin. He had been in the Swiss military but beyond that little is known about the man who gave the mountain its name.

People began skiing at Schweitzer as early as 1933 but it was Jim Brown who first became aware of Schweitzer's potential as a ski area. Jim had been skiing since he was 16 years old and when he traversed the Schweitzer and Colburn bowls in the early 1930's he knew the slopes would make an excellent place for skiing.

Two other men joined Jim Brown in the early development of the basin. Jack Fowler, a dentist, and Grant Groesbech, an architect, saw the area when they were returning from a ski vacation at Big Mountain, Montana. These two men, both from Spokane, became the leading advocates for the development of Schweitzer for skiing. They generated the real punch that awakened Sandpoint residents to the possibilities of the basin.

In the early 1960's Brown, Fowler and Groesbeck formed a partnership and the development of Schweitzer was off and running. The group secured loans, invested their own money and raised additional funds from the people of Sandpoint. Construction on the mountain began in the summer of 1963 but before the construction began Sam Wormington was named as manager of the Schweitzer basin. He had built and managed the North Star ski area in Kimberly, British Columbia. It was through the knowledge and tireless efforts of Wormington that the foundation was laid for the Schweitzer of today. On November 30, 1963 the resort proudly opened with a day lodge and a mile long double chair lift. The area made no money, except for one year. It was supposed to be operated as a weekend resort but was open for seven days a week.

It was years later that Jim Brown bought out all the other stockholders and Schweitzer became a family run business. Over time more lifts were added and in 1971 the Colburn basin was developed.

The summer of 1985 saw Schweitzer hosting the Festival at Sandpoint's concert series and in 1986 summer chairlift rides were started. Two years later the resort was offering hiking trains and mountain bike rentals.

Jim Brown died in 1989 but not before he had spent three years training his daughter, Bobbie Huguenin, to take over the family business. Under her leadership many additions and improvements were accomplished at the resort. She removed the old lodge and replaced it with a new three story Headquarters Day Lodge. The Great Escape detachable quad chair and lights were installed for night skiing. Huguenin also saw the construction of the 82 room Green Gables Lodge.

On December 31, 1998 Harbor Properties purchased Schweitzer Resort from U.S. Bank for the sum of $18 million. The new Seattle based company made immediate improvements by providing equipment for slope management. New improvements abound on "The Hill," new rental and repair shops, larger parking space with a shuttle system, new retail shops, to name a few.

Harbor also spent $5 million to transform the Green Gables Lodge, now called the Selkirk Lodge, into rental condominiums.

The dream that started long ago is being realized and the growth of the Schweitzer basin is a present-day reality. With the present changes and the plans for additional improvements to come it is no wonder that the skiers at Schweitzer will feel they are just one hill over from heaven.

 

To see more great old photos of Sandpoint and the surrounding areas :: Click Here ::

 

All photographs have been used with permission of the Bonner County Museum.

 
Schweitzer First Lodge
Schweitzer First Lodge.
 
Schweitzer Mountain Aerial Photograph by Eric Skinner
Schweitzer Mountain Today!
 

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