Canadians Discover Sandpoint

This past summer in Sandpoint seemed busier than it has been in several years. It seemed like every time I went downtown or to City Beach there were always a lot of people out enjoying the great summer weather, and my sense is that many of them were visitors from elsewhere. Sandpoint’s population is always boosted in the summer by the many lakefront and vacation home owners that claim this area as their “home away from home”, and tourism has been steadily increasing in response to all the good press the area has been getting.

Sandpoint Evening

Sandpoint Evening (Canadian Selkirk Mountains in Far Right Background)

Recent examples in a long list of “best of” awards are Sandpoint’s designation as the “Most beautiful small town in America” and Schweitzer Mountain Resort’s selection as Ski Magazine editor’s pick as the “Best Kept Secret”. Sandpoint’s charm has not gone unnoticed, especially among our neighbors to the North. The number of Canadian license plates in town has increased significantly in the last few years, and this trend has been a big benefit to local business owners. Canadians have brought a welcome surge in commerce that has helped many businesses stay afloat in tough economic times.

The Pend Oreille River from Sandpoint's Long Bridge

The Pend Oreille River from Sandpoint’s Long Bridge

Apparently some Canadians have recognized that there is a lot of value in the local real estate market. North Idaho has experienced a surge in vacation home and investment property purchases by Canadian citizens, with some choosing North Idaho as a place to retire. It’s no secret that property values are low almost everywhere in the U.S., and there are great deals out there for anyone with a bit of liquidity and a positive vision of the future. In Sandpoint, we are lucky to be less than an hour from the Canadian border and a short days drive from Calgary and other population centers in Southern Alberta. Oil and gas exploration has really taken off in Southern Alberta, and the economy there is much better off than in most areas of the United States.

Sunrise over Lake Pend Oreille

Sunrise over Lake Pend Oreille (from an Owner’s Lot on Garfield Bay)

Canadians visiting the US also benefit from lower prices on goods and services here, most notably gasoline and building materials. Currency exchange rates are also favorable for Canadians, though they are down a bit from a historic high in March of 2009. I remember only about 10 years ago the situation was opposite, and shopping trips or vacations to Canada were a great way to get a lot for the American dollar. Southern B.C., Alberta, and the National Parks of the Canadian Rockies are still very popular vacation spots for North Idaho residents, and most vacations I hear about involve outdoor enthusiasts enjoying Canada’s natural treasures and great skiing.

In Sandpoint, everyone I know is glad to see that our neighbors to the north are frequenting North Idaho and discovering how much this area has to offer. We are finding that they make great neighbors, clients, and friends. When I visit Canada, I never really feel like I am in a different country, and I suspect Canadians feel the same here. To acknowledge our kinship with Canada, Schweitzer Mountain has adopted Whitewater resort near Nelson, B.C. as its Canadian sister, and is offering Whitewater pass holders free skiing if they stay in any of the resort owned accommodations.

Anyone visiting Sandpoint, Canadian or otherwise, is welcome to stop in and see our portfolio of beautiful mountain homes. We speak fluent Canadian, and would love to talk to you about designing your new mountain home.

Hendricks Architecture specializes in the design of timber mountain style homes and cabins.  Most of the homes we’ve completed are in mountain resort areas throughout the West.  If you are interested in a mountain home, or you have any other inquiries, please contact us.

Tom Russell, Architect LEED AP

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Schweitzer Opens Early

Inland Northwest skiers & snowboarders got an early treat this year when Schweitzer Mountain Resort opened the weekend before Thanksgiving. It is considered to be a good year if they are able to open on Thanksgiving weekend, and that happens roughly 50% of the time. This season was looking kind of weak for early season snow, though it was cold enough that the conditions were good for making snow. Everyone had their fingers crossed, and mother nature delivered some mid November storms that made for excellent early season conditions.

Schweitzer Bowl

Schweitzer Bowl – The front of the mountain

Opening day at Schweitzer was November 19th, and even though the terrain was limited the conditions were great. There was even some fresh snow to get everyone excited! Schweitzer closed again during the week, with a promise to reopen the day after Thanksgiving. The big surprise came a few days before Thanksgiving – a two day storm event that dumped several feet of heavy, wet snow and provided excellent coverage on the entire mountain. A few days later temperatures cooled down, 8” of light snow fell, and the day after Thanksgiving looked like a mid-winter powder day. A lot of the front side was open, conditions were excellent, and everyone was smiling!

From what I have seen on other ski area websites, we have about the best conditions in the country right now. The Lake Tahoe region (Kirkwood, Squaw Valley and Heavenly Valley) has very little snow, Alta and Telluride are reporting less than a 30” base, and the central Colorado areas of Vail, Aspen, and Summit County are all hurting for snow. Even further north in Sun Valley and Big Sky, snow depths are thin and the ski resorts are barely open.

Closer to Sandpoint, Whitefish Mountain Resort had to cancel plans to open the first week in December due to lack of snow. 49 Degrees North is open and has almost as much snow as Schweitzer. North of the border, Fernie has a decent amount of snow, as do Red Mountain and Schweitzer’s Canadian sister resort of Whitewater. However, only Fernie is open this early in the season and the terrain is limited.

I have been seeing a lot of Canadian license plates in the parking lot at the ski resort, and also in town. The Canadians I have talked to are coming here from Calgary and other cities in Alberta, as well as from Southern British Columbia. It seems that word is getting out up there that Sandpoint in Northern Idaho is a wonderful place and that the skiing is pretty darn good. It probably doesn’t hurt that property is less expensive here, our taxes are lower, and the exchange rate is favorable too, eh. Whatever the reason, we welcome our visitors from Canada and are glad to be close to Southern B.C. so we can visit there as well.

If you’re looking for some great early season skiing, come to Sandpoint and check out Schweitzer Mountain Resort. The entire front side (see trail maps – Schweitzer Bowl) is open now, including some excellent tree skiing for which Schweitzer is famous. You’ll find out why Schweitzer was the Ski Magazine editors pick for the best kept secret, but you have to promise not to tell anybody! Hope to see you there, and while you’re in Sandpoint stop by and see our portfolio of beautiful Mountain Homes.

This post was written by an author at Hendricks Architecture who wishes to remain anonymous.  We are mountain architects located in Sandpoint, Idaho.  Click to Subscribe to Hendricks Architecture’s Blog.

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Mountain Biking Around Sandpoint

Mountain Biking in and around Sandpoint, Idaho, as described by Tom Russell, project architect at Hendricks Architecture.

I love summers in Sandpoint. The weather is great, the lakes are warm, and the local events calendar is jam packed with enough festivities to keep everybody busy and active. One of my favorite activities in the summer is mountain biking, and I feel lucky to live in a place that has so much great riding. There is a great variety of mountain bike trails here, and a healthy population of mountain bike enthusiasts to enjoy them. A local cycling club/ advocacy group called the Pend Oreille Pedalers is actively building new trails, so the opportunities for great riding keep expanding. There are lots of trail guides and they are always looking for new members or people to help with trail building.

Lake Pend Oreille with Mineral Point in middle of photo

Lake Pend Oreille from the Monarchs, with Mineral Point in center background

When I go out riding I am always surprised at how uncrowded and well maintained the trails are. If you have ever ridden in places like Moab or Colorado’s front range, you’ll appreciate the quality conditions and solitude that can be found here, even on the most popular rides. I was in Bend , Oregon a few weeks ago and did a ride that was loose, dusty and rutted from overuse. It was a great trail, but I kept thinking how much more enjoyable it would have been if it was in North Idaho.

From the town of Sandpoint, there are several great rides you can do without ever getting in your car. There is a network of high quality single track trails just west of town in the hills between Pine Street and the town of Dover. Known as Syringa Ridge or Sherwood Forest, the trails there are not well documented, and it is a bit of a local’s secret. Efforts are being made to map it, but I haven’t seen anything public yet. When I first moved here , I enjoyed the adventure of finding my way around there without a map and checking out trails I had never been on. I won’t deprive anyone of the same opportunity by giving away too much about it. If you do go exploring in that area, be aware that there is a lot of private land and access is an issue, so please read the signs and obey parking restrictions.

Gold Hill Trail #3

Gold Hill Trail #3

Gold Hill trail #3 is my favorite. It is a thrilling ride with a sustained 3 mile climb, spectacular views, and a smooth, fast descent on the return trip. There is an expanding complex of trails above the gravel quarry on Bottle Bay Road (another local’s secret area) that connects to the Gold Hill trail #3 and offers a variety of alternatives to explore.

Mineral point has some great trails not unlike Gold Hill in quality and scenery, but noticeably easier on the legs and lungs. My favorite ride there is a 10 mile loop that starts and ends at the fabulous Green Bay beach.

One of the views from Mineral Point

One of the views from Mineral Point

Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort also has some great biking, both lift served and self-serve. Ambitious pedalers can get to the resort trails by climbing the 9 +/- miles to the ski area on a fun single track trail that is accessed from several of the even numbered switchbacks on the Schweitzer road. My favorite rides at Schweitzer are cross country ski trails in the winter. For those who like to compete, Schweitzer has a mountain bike race series every Wednesday evening in August.

New Schweitzer Mountain Resort Trail

New Schweitzer Mountain Resort Trail

Priest Lake is about an hour from Sandpoint, and has some great trials on both the upper and lower lake. Spectacular views, lots of berries, and nice beaches with crystal clear water are all highlights of mountain biking around Priest Lake and Upper Priest Lake.

Upper Priest Lake

Upper Priest Lake

Faragut State Park between Sandpoint and Coeur d’Alene has a lot of mostly moderate mountain bike trails, and it is also a nice place to camp on the lake. It is a good spot for a family outing, especially if cycling is not the only activity you have in mind. One ambitious ride here worth checking out is Bernard Peak. I think you will agree – the views are well worth the effort. All About Adventures hosts a mountain bike race series at Faragut every Wednesday in July.

Partial View of the Southern End of Lake Pend Oreille

Partial View of the Southern End of Lake Pend Oreille

There a many more great rides in the Sandpoint area, including some big, epic rides in the Cabinet and Selkirk Mountain Ranges. Information on many of these can be found with a quick internet search. There is currently a Falcon guide to mountain biking in the Spokane Coeur d’Alene area that covers some of the Sandpoint area rides. While there is no formal guide to Sandpoint yet, rumor has it a comprehensive guide is in the works.

Tom Russell, LEED AP, Project Architect

Hendricks Architecture, mountain architects located in Sandpoint, Idaho.

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Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort

Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho, as described by Tom Russell, an architect at Hendricks Architecture.

The first weekend in April this year was a real treat for Schweitzer Mountain skiers. It was the last weekend of the season, the sky was a cloudless deep blue, and there was new snow on the ground. By the end of the day Sunday, it was 50+ degrees. I stood on top of the Mountain on Sunday afternoon taking in the views of Lake Pend Oreille and Montana to the east . “This is why I live here” I thought. I find myself thinking or saying this an awful lot, and I probably wasn’t the only one at Schweitzer that day who felt lucky to have chosen Sandpoint, Idaho as my home.

The Great Escape Quad at Schweitzer

The Great Escape Quad at Schweitzer Mountain

It was a busy day at Schweitzer, maybe the busiest of the season, and there were people everywhere enjoying lunch, drinks , live music, the goofy games of “Spring Daze” or the great skiing . Despite the record crowds, I hadn’t stood in a lift line all day, and the slopes never seemed crowded. Schweitzer boasts 2900 acres of terrain, and it takes an awful lot of people to make that feel crowded. The only thing I would have changed that day was to have my family there to enjoy it with me – they were out of town for spring break. Schweitzer is a great family mountain, and we see most of our friends there every weekend.

Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho

Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho

Prior to living in Sandpoint, I lived in Colorado and Utah for 20 years. I tolerated big crowds, gridlock traffic, and expensive lift tickets to indulge my skiing habit. I knew Sandpoint had Schweitzer Mountain, and we had been there several times in the summer, but I had no idea how great it was until I skied there. I have been skiing for as long as I can remember, and I have been almost everywhere in the US and Canada. In all honesty, Schweitzer is near the top of my favorites list. I continue to be amazed at how un-crowded, affordable, and accessible it is. For quality of ski terrain, I would compare it to Crested Butte in Colorado, Snow Basin in Utah, and Bridger Bowl in Montana.

Schweitzer Village is only about 10 miles from Sandpoint, Idaho, up a steep mountain road. Its relationship to Sandpoint reminds me of Teton Village near Jackson and the Mountain Village at Telluride. Schweitzer has its own village center, with shops, restaurants, realtor offices, and lodging. It has everything you need, and there is still plenty of growing room for more businesses and accommodations. In the summer they have music festivals, mountain biking, mountain biking races, Frisbee golf, hiking, and lift service to the top of the mountain. Many people live there year round, though most residents are part time and seasonal.

Mountain biking is a popular summer activity at Schweitzer.

Mountain biking is a popular summer activity at Schweitzer.

One of my favorite aspects of the village is there is still room to move – it isn’t densely developed with homes and condos on every postage stamp sized lot. Schweitzer Land and Timber is planning to build new LEED certified ski in/out timeshare condos in a new open neighborhood right near the base of the new Basin Express Quad. A few new quality developments with sizable lots, ski in access, and incredible views have been created in the last few years. If you are interested in ski area property, check out The Spires & The Ridge at Schweitzer.

When I was a youngster learning to ski on the icy little hills of the Northeast (my Vermont friends might take issue with the little part), I dreamed of heading west to the “real mountains”. I seem to have ended up just where I hoped I would – a place a lot like the little Adirondack town where I came from but on a larger scale. I love Sandpoint, and Schweitzer is one of the biggest reasons why. If you are looking for a place to hang your boards and call home, give Schweitzer a try.

Schweitzer Bluegrass Festival

Schweitzer Bluegrass Festival

We design mountain homes of all sizes. If you find yourself falling victim to the charm of Sandpoint and Schweitzer, give us a call. We would love to help you create your mountain home.

Tom Russell, LEED AP

Hendricks Architecture, Mountain Architects in Sandpoint, Idaho

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