By – Karlin Andersen
Click. Click. The sound the metal piece in the toe of each boot make as skiers no bigger than three feet pink marshmallows to full grown adults confidently stepped into their skis. Around the main village at Schweitzer Mountain a chorus of bindings chirp as they click into place. Out on the runs the harsh metal sound of clicks turn to graceful whooshes of skis gliding on the surface of white powder.
A first time visitor to Schweitzer makes clicks and loudly pounds around in their ski boots while season pass holders with years of memories gracefully ski down the mountain and into a cafe with silence. Newbies often spend more time in than above the snow. The technicians and rental staff at Schweitzer aim to help skiers make the transition from first timer to season returner.
Cross-country skiing can be a less intimidating way to experience some elements of downhill skiing without having to immediately conquer the steep downhill sections. The cost difference is also considerable. An adult lift ticket at Schweitzer is $73 plus tax and any rental equipment needed. Cross-country, or Nordic trail passes, are $15 plus tax. Renting skis, boots and poles will cost $25 plus tax, according to the Schweitzer resort website.
A lesson on the Nordic trail will cost around $60, but the technicians in the rental shop offer free advice on the best equipment to use and the most enjoyable route to take depending on skill level.
Unlike downhill skiing in which the bottom of the mountain ends a run, cross-country trails can be extensive. The longest trail at Schweitzer is just over four miles. Picking the distance of trip is important to retain enough energy on the return part of the trip. Schweitzer offers shorter trails that circle back, including the Grr trail. Overland dips into one of the lowest points on the trail then rises back in elevation and can have lower quality snow, according to the Sandpoint Nordic Club. A scenic but more challenging course can be found in Coyote Canyon.
“My first time cross-country skiing at Schweitzer was great,” Pauline Harris, a skier from Sandpoint, Idaho, said. “The people there were very helpful and the trails were beautiful and easy to follow.”
As a first time skier I bumbled out of the rental area with nervous excitement. I had done my research on the drive to Schweitzer, the cost of skiing and the best trials to ski but still had no clue how to ski.
Outside I clicked my toes into the skis and clomped towards the Nordic trail. Schweitzer village opens into a cul de sac of ski lifts, tubing runways, the end of ski runs and areas for ski lessons. Children half my size glided past me with ease as I encountered my first hill and decided sitting was the proper way to stop instead of using people a few yards ahead of me as human bowling pins.
The trails are well groomed with deep tracks for going downhill. These moments can give some of the thrill of downhill skiing without requiring steering. Poles can be dug into the snow and dragged behind the skier while in tracks to slow momentum. This technique can be helpful in the few dangerous moments when the trails of snowboards, downhill skiers and cross-country skiers merge into one.
Away from the hoards of people the Nordic trail becomes a series of small hills and looping twists slowly leads higher and deeper up Schweitzer. Peacefully I shuffled through the snow. Snow showered the trail when the branches of evergreens released their weight. A few parties glided past, offering greetings, but as the distance between the lodge and me grew, only the whooshing of skis on snow could be heard.
A full map of the Nordic trails at Schweitzer can be found here.