Just got back from Schweitzer. Definitely something to think about if you are planning on coming out west next season. This another one of those "below the radar" spots. I assume most people coming from the east, with Idaho on their minds, would go to Sun Valley. Schweitzer is a little more rough around the edges, but well worth the trip.
It was a fantastic deal. $99 for a pass that is good until the end of the season. Tons of snow, and no crowds. We rode for 6 days, and without a doubt, the mountain exceeded our expectations.
The lodging & food options are limited (and way over priced) at the mountain. We stayed at the Selkirk lodge. It's slope side, but still not worth the money. Your best bet is to base yourself in Sandpoint, and take the shuttle from town up to the base (about a 20 minute ride). Sandpoint has loads of lodging and food options. The majority of them are budget freindly. In terms of flight, I'm not exactly sure of the easiest way, but there must be connections from a few PNW cities. While we were there, we talked with folks from TN, OH, DE and NC.
We lucked out with the weather. 5 of 6 days with fresh snow. 4 to 8 inches (+/-) daily depending on where you were on the mountain. Ocassionally the wind kicked up on the ridge tops, but all lifts ran uninterupted the entire time. Visiblity was challenging at times. The sun didn't show until Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the week, the snow was a bit drier. There was a bit of rain below 5K ft on Thursaday night, so Friday was a little heavy. It certainly wasn't Champagne, but it wasn't Cement either. There were some windloaded faces that were nothing short of spectacular. The terrain is really spread out; therefore untracked stashes could be found well into the afternoon.
It's 2600 acres inbounds. Without a doubt, there is something for everyone. Chutes, trees (sparse & tight), cruisers and everything in between. The area consists of two bowls. The more family oriented side is the Schweitzer Bowl. There are some chutes off the Lake Side chair, but the majority of this terrain in cruiser oriented. The Outback bowl was loaded with a diverse array of challenges. The unique contours on this side made it feel like you never took the same run twice. My favorite was anything off of the Snow Ghost chair. This is an old center pole double that rises up about 2K ft. The only complaint here was the 13 minute ride. The majority of the other lifts are HS, and the average ride was about 5 minutes with about 1500 ft gain. The grooming was top notch, and the staff was nothing but friendly. The vibe was very laid back. Selkirk Powder Cats is based at the mountain. If you wanted a "cat assisted" backcountry experience, it can be easily arranged.
Other below the radar spots we have been to in the past 8 weeks (all in BC): Big White, Apex, and Red Mtn. All "big mountain" experiences with a low key vibe.
Here a some pics from Schweitzer:
Lake Ponderay from Schweitzer Bowl
Outback Bowl: Old growth cedar trees
Schweitzer Bowl: Looking up the Great Escape HSQ
Outback Bowl: Riding the Snow Ghost chair
Outback Bowl: Getting ready to drop in to a Lake Side chute