End of season report:

Schweitzer wraps up winter activities for 2021

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

All good things must come to an end, and what a glorious end it was at Schweitzer on Sunday, April 11. The sun was shining, there was a fresh inch of wet powder to play around with and skiers were out in droves to celebrate a great year of skiing.

The season began under slightly different ticketing parameters than years past, with day passes limited due to COVID-19.

“Heading into the winter season, I’ll admit that I was skeptical that we would make it through the full length of our projected ski season,” CEO Tom Chasse wrote in an end-of-year report. “The pandemic certainly challenged all of us as we were forced to adapt our business protocol with little notice.”

Chasse said a conversation with a father from Spokane helped remind him of the mental health benefits associated with skiing.

Skiers gathered at the Outback Inn on Schweitzer for closing day to listen to the Miah Kohal Band play live music. Photo by Ben Olson.

“With all the challenges his family was facing — from virtual schooling, the mask mandate, no sports or the option to even go out to dinner — their time at Schweitzer was the only activity that brought them any sort of normalcy this past year,” Chasse wrote. “I’ve often said over the years that the skiing and snowboarding experience we provide at Schweitzer exists as an escape from the challenges in our everyday lives and this season proved, more than ever, how important that escape is.”

The season got off to a straitened start after a mask mandate was ordered by the Panhandle Health District in November 2020. Because early-season operations only accounted for the front side of the mountain, Chasse sent out a notice claiming that Schweitzer was “willing to shut down the entire operation” until additional lifts and terrain were opened if guests did not wear masks.

According to Chasse, the result was that the following weekend after his release, “90% of our guests were masked up when I was in the lift line — a huge improvement from opening weekend.”

Schweitzer announced progress on its new Humbird Hotel in the village, which broke ground in spring 2019 and is slated to open for the 2021-’22 ski season. The 31-unit hotel complex will be a ski-in, ski-out property located directly in the village along the upper parking lot. The complex will also feature a 50-seat restaurant and bar.

In April, Schweitzer announced it was debuting a new logo and dropping “Mountain Resort” from its name. 

“When we examined our logo, which is intended to visually communicate Schweitzer’s unique identity, we realized it wasn’t adequately reflecting who we are today, nor symbolizing the future we aspire to create,” the resort wrote in a statement.

The new logo — a green S in a Bavarian-style font — met with a deluge of online criticism. Some commenters on social media likened the new logo as too similar to Seattle’s new hockey team, or that they thought it looked “too corporate.” 

Chasse was quick to respond that the logo had generated quite a stir, but that was nothing unusual.

“Every decision Schweitzer makes — a new lift location, glading cut, hotel built and obviously a new logo — generates a ton of opinions, feedback and ways we could have done better,” Chasse wrote. “Fifteen years ago when I started at Schweitzer, the snowflake logo with ‘mountain resort’ was just launched and people hated it! They called it ‘starfish,’ ‘cat butt’ and a whole bunch of other things.”

Chasse acknowledged that change was “hard to accept, but it is also an inevitable part of life.”

In other words: haters gonna hate.

The past two seasons have seen increased brush cutting and glading on some of the slopes, most notably the backside of the mountain around the old chair 6 line. Marketing Manager Dig Chrismer said more clearing is in the cards for the 2021-’22 season.

“Having a true, go-to spot for intermediate tree skiing off Cedar Park is a fabulous addition and so many people were blown away by the experience,” Chrismer told the Reader. “This summer, we hope to work on roughly 350-400 acres in bounds and out of bounds from the Outback to the T-Bar. Our intention this summer is to be more selective, thinning rather than full logging on areas between Detention, Recess, Study Hall and Colburn.”

Snowfall this season was a bit below average, with Schweitzer finishing the season with 204 inches of snowfall in the village, which is down from an average of around 300 inches.

“That being said, the snow we did get was consistent and good, providing great coverage all season long and a few spectacular powder days in January and February,” Chrismer said. 

Chrismer said it may have seemed like Schweitzer was logging record numbers of visitors this year, but the appearances were a bit deceiving due to a change in how people accessed the mountain.

“[T]he growth we did see was all midweek, where we have plenty of capacity,” Chrismer said. “COVID really changed the way people accessed the mountain this past winter — not using SPOT, not carpooling, etc. — causing congestion in the parking areas, so that had a huge impact on the perception of how busy we were. Once you got out on the slopes, though, Schweitzer skied like Schweitzer: uncrowded with minimal lift lines all season.”

Changes for next year include an increase in season pass prices, with an adult unlimited pass going for $799 and the adult Sunday-Friday pass selling for $649 — both early bird pricing if purchased by May 31. Regular prices are $949 and $799 if purchased by Oct. 31, respectively.

“We try hard to keep our pass pricing reasonable and haven’t had any major increases in the last few years,” Chrismer said. “As any business does, we do need to take into account changes due to inflation or cost of goods so small increases happen. Overall, we believe we offer a great product at a reasonable price and locals know to take advantage of the early bird pass pricing to get the best deal.”

“Our mantra for the winter has been, ‘Be Kind. Be Compassionate. Have Patience.’ Thank you for taking that to heart,” Chasse wrote. “Your support has been overwhelmingly positive and I’m as proud as you are to be part of this amazing Schweitzer family.”

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