I love skiing at Schweitzer. I moved to Sandpoint and Schweitzer about 10 years ago. Prior to that I traveled to many ski areas known for adventurous terrain. When I first came to Schweitzer I spent a lot of time riding Snow Ghost (Chair 6) and thinking about how its positioning on the mountain could be improved. I came to the conclusion that it was in just about best location it could be, fed from runs spanning almost 180 degrees of terrain from Glade-Iator to Recess. Over the years I have come to consider Snow Ghost as an iconic chair amongst snow sports resorts, given the range and diversity of terrain it serves.
I believe I understand Schweitzer’s motivations in the proposed replacements for the Snow Ghost chair. I am a strong supporter of providing all Schweitzer skiers access to the terrain of their choosing. I also understand the current Snow Ghost chair is not maintainable and needs to be replaced. Thus, the first part of the replacement, a chair from Cedar Park to the current Snow Ghost mid-station location seems to me like a very good choice and one that will enhance skier access to intermediate terrain in the Outback Bowl. However, the placement of the second replacement chair base near Vagabond and Will’s Runout does not allow people skiing the entire north half of Outback Bowl to access the top again without skiing down to Cedar Park and riding 2 chairs to the top (while requiring a run down Blue Grass and Will’s Runout to the second chair). This alignment substantially takes away from the iconic nature of the current Snow Ghost chair and the skiing experience of many advanced Schweitzer skiers. It also strongly promotes continuous lap skiing in the south side of Outback Bowl (especially the Lakeside area) and will undoubtedly change the rate at which this area gets “skied out.”
There is a relatively simple solution to maintain the advantages of current the Snow Ghost chair. Locate the base of the second proposed replacement chair near the current base of Snow Ghost off of the Git Back trail. Yes, this pretty much means replacing the existing Snow Ghost lift (without a mid-station). However, it would only mean an incremental extension of the length of the currently proposed second replacement chair and have the advantage of possibly using some of the current Snow Ghost infrastructure (Power? Cleared lift line?).
From hiking at Schweitzer this summer I realize that power lines are already being brought to the new proposed chair base off of Vagabond. So I suspect that this opinion piece is too late. Nevertheless I hope that Schweitzer can see that with an incremental investment it could preserve the broad range of terrain served by Snow Ghost and it’s iconic nature. As a skier who loves Schweitzer I want to look forward to chair lift replacements but in this case I see a replacement that will likely degrade my skiing experience not enhance it. Perhaps, I am wrong but my experience with skiing “split chair” access to the top in the front bowl and my current experience in the Outback Bowl tells me that this change will not be a welcome one for me.