Schweitzer Looks Back on 50 Years
By Paige Browning
A historic photo of Schweitzer Mountain, framed for Bobbie Huguenin on Founders Day. Credit Paige Browning.
The winter solstice marks shorter and colder days, and the official first day of winter. This particular winter, it’s time for celebration at Schweitzer Mountain Resort, which just turned 50 years old.Bobbie Huguenin: “Our Dad hiked in here in about 1937 with his ski coach from Mt. Spokane… so he had that in the back of his head.”
Bobbie Huguenin's father Jim Brown scouted out the mountain about 25 years before Schweitzer became a reality. Fast forward to 1963, when four guys created Schweitzer Basin. Current president Tom Chasse gave a nod to those men at a Founders Day celebration this month.
Chasse: “Jack Fowler, he was the visionary. His friend Grant Groesbeck, he was an architect, a friend. Jim Brown was the landowner, financier, and he was the primary investor. And then we have Sam Wormington, the first manager.”
He also shared some of the ski area’s notable landmarks. A $100M expansion in 1990, building Idaho’s first six-person chairlift, and utilizing snowmakers for the first time.
Photo: Bobbie Huguenin (r) cuts the cake at Schweitzer's 50th Anniversary Founders Day. Credit Paige Browning.
Behind the scenes over the years was Jim Brown’s family, notably his daughter Bobbi Huguenin, who took over when he passed away. As president, she traveled the US exploring ski resorts.
Huguenin: “They can’t have our lake, except for Tahoe and Lake Placid. And that’s still not Pend Oreille. And they don’t have this lower altitude… a lot of skiers come from the coastal cities, and they get altitude sickness when they’re at like Snowbird and places like that.”
Some of her favorite times were when things was simpler. She remembers long winding lines of people at the chairlift.
Huguenin: “Things didn’t move at the pace they do, and I like it. You had time to, well, smoke a cigarette on the way up. You got to meet all these interesting people.”
Pucci: “Same old cliché, but its one big happy family for the most part.”
One person who knows good times on the mountain along with the bad is John Pucci. He served on Schweitzer’s ski patrol for 45 years, and now has a ski run and a pub named after him. Many of his memories include a red cross fanny pack and setting off avalanches for safety reasons. At least once, the snow buried his crew.
Pucci: “I remember I couldn’t breathe, and I thought ‘oh God this is my time’. Well I ended up with my head out of the snow, so he came and dug me out. The other guy, his head was barely out of the snow. The third guy was completely buried. A lift operator was riding over on a lift up above us, and he saw his tip of his finger sticking out of the snow. And he was blue when we got him out.”
Pucci says mountain staff have to work together. He also says patrol members kind of have to have a screw loose. Pucci retired in 2012, but he’s still not completely done.
Pucci: “I’ve just had a wonderful life up here, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. In fact, I’m writing a book.”
Those stories are to come. Also to come are upgrades to the Schweitzer Mountain Resort. President Tom Chasse has a few plans.
Chasse: “Our vision is to have a nice restaurant up on top, run people up the Quad at night time. Fine dining, the whole bit.”
A Sandpoint News-Bulletin from the resort's first year. Credit: Paige Browning.
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