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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.
Click photo to enlarge

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.

Alpine Motors

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.

Schweitzer Mountain Aerial Photograph - Photo by: Eric Skinner
Schweitzer Mountain Aerial Photograph by Eric Skinner
Click to enlarge photo

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.

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

:: History Articles & Stories ::

History home page

Old Sandpoint
To experience the charm of a town one must live there. Bob Selle is an old-timer in the Sandpoint area. Here, in his own words, he gives us a peek at a young person's Sandpoint of yesteryear...

Clark Fork Ferry
In 1916 when the drive for a bridge over the Clark Fork river was nearing an end a reporter wrote "The Clarkfork river basin affording an easy grade will in the end be the through road for the northern part of the state. It is the only feasible pass for the north..."

City Hall
The old building stood across the creek near the railroad station. There were signs advertising chewing tobacco and Bull Durham nailed to its walls...

Early Sandpoint "Hang Town"
Today Sandpoint, Idaho is known for its beautiful lake and majestic mountains. It is known as a good place to find serenity and a sense of peace.
But the Sandpoint of old had a different reputation. As early as 1884 Sandpoint had garnered quite a reputation...

Ferry Boat Accidents
In our day and time the crossing of a river is an easy thing to do. There are bridges at every desirable location and they are crossed without a thought. It has not been too long ago that most of the rivers in Bonner County were crossed by the use of ferries...

Chinese in Hope
The Chinese that were located in Hope, Idaho came there on contract to help build the Northern Pacific Railroad...

McFarland House
The old building is called the McFarland House by practically everyone that lives in the Sandpoint, Idaho area. It is located on the corner of Highway 95 and 1st Avenue and has become a landmark. The history of the home indicates that it was not originally the McFarland home...

The Long Bridge
On 26 May 1908 the first pilings for the first bridge connecting Sagle, Idaho with Sandpoint, Idaho were driven. When completed the bridge was supported by 1,540 pilings and covered a distance of almost two miles...

Remember the Indians
Bob Green was born and lived in Bonner County most of his life and now lives in Washington State. He remembers well, as a young person, seeing the Indians gather on the flats of Lake Pend Oreille. Here, in his own words is his story...

The Fish House
The whistle of the strange looking craft broke the silence as it pulled away from the City Docks of Sandpoint...

Teddy Roosevelt
I asked Dale Selle of Sandpoint to tell me a story and here, in his own words, is the story he told me. I am sure you will find it interesting and humorous...

Ice Man
Anyone fortunate enough to be born before the days of modern refrigeration remembers the sound of the horse and wagon or truck nearing the house with its load of huge blocks of ice...

Street Cars
In the early days of Sandpoint, Idaho there was quite a transportation problem. For most people there were two ways of getting around-walk or ride a horse. The kids in Kootenai had to walk three miles to school in Sandpoint...

Schweitzer Mountain
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...

The Powerhouse
The Power House of the Northern Idaho & Montana Power Company was completed in 1910. It cost nearly $200,000 and, as the Pend Oreille Review stated, "The new plant in every detail is modern and up-to-date and one of the most substantial in the northwest..."

USO Club
The community Hall in Sandpoint, Idaho took on a national function in 1942. The YMCA leased the hall from the city for $1 a year to be used as a USO club for the sailors stationed at the Naval Training Station in Farragut, Idaho...

Court House
The bill forming Bonner County was passed in 1907 and there was dis-order in the court. The city of Sandpoint had a jail and courthouse but the new county government had offices that were scattered all over town. The treasurer and commissioners were renting some space from Ignatz Weil for $15 a month...

1st Sandpoint Hospital
Prior to the year 1902, in Sandpoint, Idaho, you did not have to ask a physician if he or she made house calls. If you did see a doctor it usually was in your home or the home of the physician. In that time you would never hear "I want you to go to the hospital..."

2nd Sandpoint Hospital
It was on May 23, 1903 that the Northern Idaho News heralded the opening of Sandpoint's second hospital by stating, " Dr. Ones F. Page established a hospital in the residence of Alex and Rosa Piatt at 719 North 3rd Avenue..."

Bonner General Hospital History
Not only were the people of Sandpoint, Idaho, to have their own modern hospital, but for the first time they were offered affordable health care. A local paper, The Republican, announced that "tickets will be sold at $12 each...

Hope Hotel
Hotel Hope was in its prime when Hope, Idaho, grew into prominence after becoming a center of commerce and a division point on the Northern Pacific Railroad...

First School
In the early years of the pioneer town called Sandpoint, it was a struggle for parents to educate their children. Funds had to be subscribed to hire the teachers and school terms were irregular and usually short...

Glacial Lake
The pale sun rolled back the mist like a scroll and the surface of the monstrous lake slowly became visible in the morning light. The swirling water and ice covered much of the land except for some of the higher mountains...

Above the Call of Duty
Wilma Allen remembers Sandpoint when it was much different than it is today. She recollects how an old-time doctor responded to some of the needs he saw while he was making his rounds...

Along the Wild Horse Trail
Long before the white man came there was a trail.
The Indians for time immemorial had used it. The old trail started on the Spokane River and ran through the Rathdrum prairie to the shores of the Pend Oreille River. There a crossing was found called Sineacateen that was located across the river from present day Laclede...

Youth in the 30's
Elizabeth Montaque Whatley came to the Sandpoint area in 1933. She, in her own words, shares what it was like to be a young person at that time. The picture she paints shows another place another time...

A Place of Remembering
When the little village, that was to be Sandpoint, was very young the people who had gathered along the Northern Pacific Railroad tracks had to have a place in which to bury their dead...

Bonner County Poor Farm
Pat Gooby has lived in Sandpoint all his life and as a child did chores at the old County Poor Farm. I asked Pat to tell me a story about the farm and here is his story. Due to lack of space some editing was necessary...

Clark Fork Campus
The beautiful University of Idaho Clark Fork Field Campus offers a magnificent setting for academic courses and workshops, conferences and retreats, school field trips and overnights...

Colburn, Idaho
"Busy Village of Colburn" was how the North Idaho News saw the Colburn area in 1905...

Coming Home
We sat on the lawn in front of the house that had meant so much to her.
She, and her three children, had come from Seattle for a time of remembering. Word that the old home place was soon to torn down had reached her and one more visit was in order...

Depression Days
Barbara Blood came to the Sandpoint, Idaho area in 1939. The worst of the Great Depression was over but its consequences could still be felt across the United States...

Dover Church
Nestled among the houses, while waiting for a ride on the barge to Dover from Laclede, was an eight-room rustic building. It had been built on the banks of the river and was to become the summer cottage of the A. C. White family...

Hope, Idaho
The first white man to come to the area was the famed David Thompson, map maker and fur dealer. He had traveled from Canada and built Kulyspell House on the peninsula of Lake Pend Oreille...

Early Sandpoint Remembered
Elizabeth Montague Whatley shares, in her own words, some of the things she remembers about her family in early Sandpoint...

Bonner County Ferries
Apparently the only evidence in existence that indicates there was a ferry crossing operated by a man named Smith is the survey of 1892-96. This survey places the ferry in Township 57 North, Range 3 West, Section 34. The ferry very likely just provided access to the north shore at a point where the river was very narrow...

The Campfield Ferry
The Idaho Territorial Legislature granted a license to operate a ferry to Charles H. Campfield and Associates. That was on December 22, 1864. The authorized location was to be "12 miles above the point where the military or Boundary Commission roads crosses said river...

Thama Ferry part1
The demise of Carey's ferry created some real problems for the farmers and ranchers south of the river, especially since there was almost no road to Priest River. They really needed to get the ferry running again...

Thama Ferry part2
After the war the County changed their system for hiring ferrymen by doing away with the bidding process. They also increased the pay. Charley Shoopman started at $145.00 per month. In 1948 the salary was increased to $160.00...

Sandpoint had no Ferry
On April 18, 1891, C.R.Martin and A.T.Dickinson received a license for $36.00 after posting a $1,000.00 bond, authorizing them to operate a ferry at Sandpoint. The approved schedule of fares was: "1 man and 1 horse, $1.00; 1 horse and ...

Fire Line
Bob Selle is a long time resident of Bonner County, Idaho. He shares his experience, in his own words, of fighting fire when he was very young...

Here and There in Sandpoint 1
Indian tribes from Montana and Washington used to come to Sandpoint by the thousands to pick Huckleberries. The women and children picked the berries while the men raced horses and played games...

Here and There in Sandpoint 2
At one time Priest Lake was the scene of a movie camp owned by Nell Shipman. She was an old time movie star and produced movies at Lionhead Lodge located on Mosquito Bay. Nell produced, directed, was the screenwriter, and starred ...

This group of Native Americans lived in the northern most part of the Great Basin. From Idaho they spread into Canada, Montana, and Washington. The Kutenai were migratory and in the summer would move to the plains of Montana to hunt bison...

Kullyspell House
(David Thompson, one of North America's most famous explorers, came to the shores of Lake Pend Oreille and built what he called "Kullyspel House..."

Library in the Early Years
The roots of the present library system in Bonner County, Idaho, started in 1905 when a few individuals opened a "free reading room". Hope was expressed that "this most commendable enterprise" would eventually lead to the county having a public library...

Library Maturing
In September 1966, the people of Sandpoint, Idaho, gathered in the city hall council chambers to witness the signing ceremony that would transfer the post office building to the city for use as a public library...

There she Comes
The old lady has been sitting by the tracks doing the same job for 83 years. One can see some changes have transpired but she still presents a picture of dignity and beauty...

Logging in Bonner County
Bob Selle has lived in this area since 1923. He was seven years of age when his family came to the Sandpoint area. His first experience in logging came when he was 13 and I asked him to share some of his memories and experiences...

The Museum
The Bonner County, Idaho, Museum is a special place that is dedicated to finding and preserving, for future generations, the history and heritage of the people of Bonner County...

The beginning of the newspaper business in this area had its roots in Rathdrum, Idaho. There the Kootenai County Republican first appeared on Friday, May 19, 1899...

The Sundance Fire
The Selkirk Mountains still show scars from the devastating effects of the Sundance fire. The fire started on August 23, 1967 with a lightning strike on Sundance Mountain near the Sundance lookout tower in Bonner County...

Northern Mercantile Company
On April 18, 1891, C.R.Martin and A.T.Dickinson received a license for $36.00 after posting a $1,000.00 bond, authorizing them to operate a ferry at Sandpoint. The approved schedule of fares was: "1 man and 1 horse, $1.00; 1 horse and wagon ...

Old P-51 Attacks Sandpoint
Don Johnson, a Sandpoint native, was a member of the class that took an aviation course back in 1946. He remembers well the plane and the men that were involved and I asked him to tell me, in his own words, about the plane that buzzed Sandpoint...

Pend Oreille Lodge
The two old chimneys still stand like two fingers pointing to the heavens. They are all that remain of what once was a show place along the banks of Pend Oreille Lake. They keep their vigil, year after year, to mark the place where once stood the beautiful Pend Oreille Lodge...

The Pioneer Citizens
On April 29, from 1-4 pm, there was a reception for all who have lived in Bonner County for 50 years or more...

Radio Stations
Throughout Sandpoint and Bonner County, Idaho, the event had been awaited with much anticipation. People gathered around their receiving sets, tuned between 0 and 10 on the dial, and soon a voice was heard saying...

Sandpoint 1901-1902
When you walk the main streets of today's Sandpoint you will find most of the businesses are geared to meet the need of the tourist that frequent the area. This was not the case when, what was then called Sand Point, was young...

Sandpoint Tidbits
Sandpoint was just a few years old when someone thought a name change was in order. The streets we are familiar with today were not always called by the names we know. In 1909 several of Sandpoint streets were given another name...

Schools of Glengary Peninsula
But there is one that still stands proudly as if waiting for the children of the area to come by foot, wagon, or on horse back to get "book learning" from a tall teacher. He was not the first teacher at the school but all the children...

Smelting Companies
It was in March, 1903, that the Kootenai County Republican announced that "ground will be broken in ten days" for the new smelting company located at Ponderay, Idaho. The plant was to be fully operational by September, 1903...

To Stop a Thief
The method used in the Sandpoint Post Office for protecting their valuables stayed hidden for many years but recently it was discovered, and what a surprise it was...

Street Names
At the time the streets were named many of them were just in the minds of the Farmins and their guests because much of the land was dense forest.It was in the late 1890s that L.D. and Ella Farmin homesteaded 160 acres of land that eventually...

Men invent things for two reasons: There seems to be in every person a desire to find a better way of doing things and the second reason for invention is to make money. The latter reason has become more pronounced since corporate mentality...

That's the Law
Take a look at any old town's codes and ordinances and you will find many laws that seem to make no sense at all. Sandpoint, Idaho had their own set of laws that look absolutely crazy today. Here are a few for you to peruse...

The Wagon Bridge
Word had come to the doctor in Sandpoint that his help was needed on the South side of the river. It was 1907 and the doctor must make a decision on how he was to reach his patient. He had two options open to him...

Train Technology
Sandpoint, Idaho, came into being because of the railroad and timber. The advances in technology in these two areas are mind boggling. Follow the railroad growth by reading the full story...

Old High School
Thousands have walked through the doors and glanced up at the crest above their head. It read "Sandpoint High School" and marked the entrance to the building on Euclid and Pine that was to be their academic home during their high school days...

The War Years
Many people were uprooted and had to move around the country as a result of World War II. The people who came to Sandpoint and Bonner County have become part of the history of the area. Beth May, who now lives in Spokane with her husband...

The War Years 2
Many people came to Sandpoint during the war years. Two of them were Beth Knight and Price May. Her story, in her own words, continues and she tells about their marriage and how a town made them feel welcome...

The War Years 3
Many people came to Sandpoint during the war years. Two of them were Beth Knight and Price May. Her story, in her own words, continues and she shares some of her memories of Farragut Naval Station, the Sandpoint USO and the welcome...

Timber Industry
Sandpoint, Idaho, has always been a timber town. The advancement in the timber industry is no less dramatic than the advances in railroading. The old steam mill has practically gone out of existence. Read the full story to follow this colorful history...

Trestle from Sunnyside to trestle Creek
The picture is of the old trestle that used to go from Sunnyside to Trestle Creek just a few miles from Sandpoint, Idaho. In the picture there is seen a horse that seemed to be heading toward disaster...

What's in a Name
There are some places located in Bonner County, Idaho that have had name changes. Often the changes reflect a bit of history of the area. Here are a few of those places...

The Whitaker House
This is a story of a house located at 410 Railroad Avenue in Sandpoint, Idaho. It proudly stood overlooking Lake Pend d'Oreille when Sandpoint was just a village on the railroad side of Sand Creek...
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