By Cameron Rasmusson
Next winter season at Schweitzer, skiers and boarders using the bus to head up to the slopes are being put on the SPOT.
The Selkirks-Pend Oreille Transit bus service, better known as SPOT, is taking over the Schweitzer’s bus service following an announcement this week by organization and resort officials. A partnership long in the making, the transportation arrangement will allow both entities to maximize services for their client bases.
“Reliable bus service from town to Schweitzer has been a goal of ours for years,” said Schweitzer CEO Tom Chasse in a press release. “Parking is challenging at the resort, and having this service in place will make it easier for our guests to access the mountain and reduce the environmental impact at the same time.”
The new service brings several improvements for winter sports enthusiasts accustomed to Schweitzer’s previous in-house shuttle from the Red Barn. For one thing, rides will now be free. The new system will also integrate directly into SPOT’s Mountain Route service, meaning that a rider can hop aboard a bus at any route stop in town to reach Schweitzer Village.
“We are really excited about this partnership,” said SPOT Board Member and Treasurer Clif Warren. “SPOT will be providing the same service that Schweitzer has provided. The ‘Mountain Route’ service will follow the 2017-2018 season schedule with the identical departure times from the Red Barn and the village. One difference will be will be new and bigger SPOT buses similar to the buses currently in use.”
As long as those new buses arrive in time, the SPOT service will debut at the beginning of the 2018-19 ski season. SPOT and Schweitzer officials will then watch service performance to evaluate the potential addition of new runs and service directly from town. It’s all possible thanks to a grant from Schweitzer which makes the resort the largest SPOT contributor among the services many partners. Other key SPOT funders include the cities of Sandpoint, Ponderay, Dover and Kootenai.
“With Schweitzer’s contribution and grant money, the cost of this endeavor is covered for the next two seasons,” said Warren. “Schweitzer’s infusion of cash will make the resort the biggest contributor to SPOT. Schweitzer’s funding goes toward the purchase of the new buses and operations.”
According to Warren, the transportation partnership is the result of many discussions with Schweitzer over a long period of time. It’s one of many ways service officials are looking to enhance current offerings. For instance, last year SPOT launched the gold route connecting Bonner and Boundary counties.