From the Winter 2023 Issue
New area will transform guest arrival experience (Included from Schweitzer Magazine)
From Spokane to Sandpoint, the Inland Northwest continues to expe-rience significant population increases with people moving here from all over for a variety of reasons. Here at Schweitzer, we are also seeing a growing demand for access to year-round outdoor recreation, and as we continue to evolve to meet those demands, the guest experience remains top of mind. With nearly 3,000 acres of skiable terrain and a network of high-speed lifts, the on-mountain experience is best in-class for the area. One area we are looking to improve is parking.
Last summer, we embarked on a multi-year project that reimagines the guest arrival experience at Schweitzer while increasing parking and access to the mountain. This new Base Camp project, phase three of our Master Plan, is considered more substantial than any other plan put forward for the resort.
“To keep up with demand and continue providing an exceptional guest arrival experience, we prioritized looking for solutions that directly affected parking and mountain access.,” explained Mountain Operations Director Rob Batchelder. “I’m very excited about this third phase of Master Plan development and believe Base Camp is a unique solution intended to get people on the mountain efficiently.”
The vision for Base Camp is to become a dedicated area for our day-guests, perfect for beginner and inter-mediate skiers and riders, with ample parking and additional rental and SnowSports school facilities.
“On the mountain we are looking to expand our beginner and inter-mediate terrain offering,” continued Batchelder. “When fully realized, the development of Base Camp will create approximately eight new runs, 3 new lifts and an additional carpet catering to beginner and intermediate skiers and riders.”
Physically, Schweitzer needs room to grow, and Base Camp will fulfill that need.
In order to bring Base Camp to life, there are four main arteries that will be created to easily connect guests to the mountain:
- A pedestrian/skier bridge across Schweitzer Creek
- The replacement of the Musical Chairs double chairlift
- A new 1,400-space parking lot
- A road connecting the parking lot to the roundabout
Schweitzer Creek is one of the main drainages for water coming off the mountain and flows year-round under the Great Escape Quad, down past the Hermit’s Hollow Tubing Hill and below the Musical Chairs lift and Fall Line parking lot. In order to connect Base Camp to the existing net-work of trails, we will install a pedestrian bridge just below the existing Musical Chairs loading terminal. The bridge will be wide enough for skiers and riders to cross, as well as grooming equipment.
Design, engineering and permit-ting for the bridge is underway with plans for construction to begin in the spring of 2023.
The final piece to connect every-thing together is the long-awaited replacement of the Musical Chairs double. In the spring of 2022, a down payment was made with Leitner-Poma for the purchase of a new high-speed detachable quad lift, similar to the Cedar Park Express. Alignment for the new Musical Chairs lift will shift to connect Base Camp to the main village, spanning over Schweitzer Creek and terminating near the Snowsports School meeting area in the village.
“The installation of a high-speed detachable quad will be a major enhancement for all of our guests.,” said Batchelder. “Not only will it be easier for beginner skiers and riders to load and unload, the new lift will increase capacity to 2,400 guests per hour (two to three times the existing capacity) allowing guests to upload and down-load safer and more efficiently. It will also provide the opportunity to transport “foot passengers” without skis or snowboards to and from the village, even in summer.”
Next summer, construction will begin on at least one new connector trail for guests to access Base Camp from other areas of the mountain. The new run will likely originate from Lower Loophole or the Cat Track to the Village.
The goal is to have the new Musical Chairs lift operational for the 2023-24 winter season with access via the Fall Line parking lot, the Village and Happy Trails run and the new run yet to be named.
The Parking Lot
The new parking lot is designed to park roughly 1,400 vehicles – near-ly four times the capacity of the Fall Line Lot. This should provide plenty of room for our current guests to park and access the mountain as well as create space for future growth.
Construction of the new parking area began in the spring of 2022. Trees were cleared and dirt was moved – a lot of dirt was moved. One of the key differentiators for this arrival zone is that the lift and the parking are on similar elevations, meaning when guests arrive to Base Camp, they will not have to walk up a hill to access the lift. For our existing guests that are used to hiking up from the Gateway Lot to the main village, this will be a vast improvement.
Ever since the construction of the roundabout nearly 15 years ago, there has been a sign stating “future road”. Now, the “future road” is almost here. In the summer of 2022, the focus was to modify the old road alignment and develop the new road by grading, leveling and widening the road corridor. Crews worked all summer moving thousands of yards of dirt. Next summer, road work will continue with final grading and alignment, installation of utilities and paving. The goal is to have guests driving on the new road and parking in the new lot in the fall of 2024.
“When you think about the amount of dirt and rock we’ll move, the magnitude of this project is massive,” says Mountain Utility Company Director Tom Trulock. “This will be the largest road and utility project in Schweitzer’s history. Most people don’t realize, it’s more than just a road and a parking lot – we have to think about our future sewer, water and power needs for the next 20 years and beyond.”
The new Base Camp arrival area will continue to evolve in the coming years with the addition of expanded beginner terrain, new lifts, snowmaking as well as skier/rider services like rentals, SnowSports School and a day lodge. There are also future plans to expand summer operations from Base Camp with new experiences, trails, RV park and more.
Batchelder points out that one of the proposed lifts from Base Camp will connect to the saddle area between Down the Hatch and the top terminal of the Stella lift, making it possible to access the backside of the mountain without needing to pass through the main village or ride the Great Escape quad.
Across the country, ski resorts have continuously faced challenges associated with growth and increased demand. The new Base Camp project is not only a big deal for our growing community, it’s a big deal for the industry, and as of the last independently owned resorts, Schweitzer’s future is very bright.