So long and thanks for all the turns

By Ben Olson
Reader Staff

The end of the ski season at Schweitzer is always a little bittersweet. Everyone down in the valley is rejoicing at the first warm days of spring, leaving only the locals and diehards to remain in the mountains to wring out every bit of winter stoke they can until the closing bell.

This year, closing day falls on Sunday, April 9, giving us just over a week to say goodbye to this winter tradition that keeps many of us sane and healthy. I shudder to think of the state of my mental health if I was unable to escape to go screaming and howling down the mountain once a week throughout the winter.

Cadie Archer gets style points as she rides Ben Olson the human snowboard down the hill. Photo by Marty Andrews.

While I spend the majority of the ski season chasing untracked stashes of powder across the mountain, the end of the season brings a whole different vibe at Schweitzer. Gone are the thousands of tourists and lengthy lift lines, the scramble for parking spots and careful navigation around groms and newbies on narrow runs.

Instead, there’s a sense of calm that washes across the entire mountain. It’s a quiet majesty that remains an important transition time for locals because we feel a closer connection to our ski hill than during the hectic midseason. It’s the same way you feel when houseguests who have stayed for months finally take off and leave you with a quiet living room again. It’s not that you dislike the houseguests — you’re just ready for them to be on their way. 

That’s one thing I’ve always appreciated about North Idahoans; we’re respectful of those who share our spaces, but we’re so damn glad to see them go.

Spring ski days are warm and familiar, like going to a party where you know everyone. It’s a time to ski with a couple of beers in your jacket pockets, ready to whip one out at once when you find a cool perch on a Chair 4 run, where you can sit and overlook the lake and town.

It’s also a time to act a little goofy, like when Cadie and I showed up to the Rowdy Grouse yurt to find them cleaning up after a rail slide competition. Everyone was drinking beer in the sun as the day came to a close. We shared a tallboy with our good friend Gary Quinn, with whom we sailed across the Atlantic about five years ago. Some kids were sliding down the jump on their butts, so I said, “Hold my beer,” and told Cadie to ride me down the jump like I was a snowboard. Our friend Marty Andrews snapped a photo on his phone and we laughed about it the whole drive down the hill.

As I look up at the two-dozen hash marks on my wall for the 2022-’23 ski season, I can say with some degree of certainty that 90% of them were excellent days, when I couldn’t think of any place I’d rather be than Schweitzer.

After April 9, we’ll box up our winter gear, take the ski rack down from the truck, stash the snowboards in a closet and close the book on yet another season of winter fun in North Idaho. And, while the end-of-season melancholy feels the same today as it did 20-plus years ago when I was still in high school, I take pleasure in knowing that, at the end of the year, we’ll be back up there again — standing over an untouched run of powder, smiles on our faces as wide as Bottle Bay.

Until then, I’ll say, “So long, and thanks for all the turns.”

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