If you’re traveling to Sandpoint, Idaho, in the winter, odds are you know that you’re in for a small town with a big winter. With an average of 58 inches of snow a year, Sandpoint in winter means you’re going to spend time playing in the snow.
While Sandpoint most famously brings travelers from around the world looking to ski Schweitzer (notably touted as one of the best ski resorts in the West), it also offers a slew of alternative winter pursuits for those who aren’t inclined to ski all day every day.
Sandpoint is my husband’s family home and the place we are unbelievably lucky to call home. We know a thing or two about all the fun Sandpoint winter activities this little town offers.
Here’s our list of 17 fun and adventurous things to do in Sandpoint, Idaho, in the winter.
*Also, if you’re curious about summer in Sandpoint (my favorite time!!), then check out our article about the best things to do in Sandpoint in the warmer months.
INTERESTED IN MORE IDAHO ARTICLES? Read these posts about Idaho:
57 Weird, Interesting, And Fun Facts About Idaho
40 Bucket List Sights In Idaho
The Essential North Idaho Adventure List
10 Romantic Getaways In Idaho
*This post about Winter in Sandpoint may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you! We only recommend products and services we truly think are helpful.
A QUICK GUIDE TO SANDPOINT, IDAHO, IN WINTER
Before you hit the slopes or tour the breweries, here’s a rundown of essential things to know about Sandpoint, Idaho, in winter.
HOW TO GET TO SANDPOINT
The Spokane International Airport (GEG) in Spokane, Washington, is the closest airport to Sandpoint. It’s 78 miles away and typically an hour and a half drive. Currently, GEG offers flights with Southwest, United Airlines, Delta, Alaskan, American Airlines, and Allegiant. If you’re not driving into Sandpoint, this is the most common way to get into Sandpoint.
To look for good flight deals, I use Going (formerly known as Scott’s Cheap Flights) and Skyscanner.
You will need to rent a car in Spokane since there are no services that will shuttle you between the airport and Sandpoint. While Sandpoint does have a fantastic FREE bus system, most likely, you will need a car. While the downtown area is walkable and the town is small, winter weather makes for slippery walking conditions. You can get away with a standard vehicle, but if you can afford it, I would advise you to rent a car equipped for snow, which means four-wheel drive and higher clearance.
While you could rent a car in Sandpoint, I DO NOT recommend it. Prices will be far better in Spokane. Think hundreds of dollars cheaper. When I tried to rent a car in Sandpoint, I was quoted $200 a day!
To look for good car rental deals, I cross reference and use Expedia and Skyscanner.
WHAT TO WEAR IN SANDPOINT, IDAHO, IN WINTER
I have come to learn through hard-earned experience that the difference between enjoying yourself in winter weather and cursing the gods of winter weather is high-quality winter gear. There is a basic formula for keeping yourself warm enough in a Sandpoint winter, and that’s a sweat-wicking base layer made of wool or synthetic material, an insulating layer, and a waterproof or water-resistant outer layer.
I have a whole post that goes into great detail about what to wear in Idaho for all seasons. Check it out for full details and recommendations on good winter gear.
WHERE TO STAY IN SANDPOINT IN WINTER
There are a handful of excellent places to stay in Sandpoint in winter. If your main reason for visiting Sandpoint is to ski every day, you’ll want to look into renting a condo on the mountain through VRBO or staying at the only hotel at the resort, the Humbird Hotel.
I think staying in town is nicer because downtown Sandpoint is fantastic, and the city offers a lot beyond Schweitzer. It will also be more affordable. Hotels in the nearby city, Ponderay, are typically a little cheaper.
Cedar Street Hotel and Suites – A basic hotel with an excellent location in Downtown Sandpoint. Can walk to everything in town from this hotel.
Talus Rock Retreat – An alternative stay on a sprawling property in town with uniquely designed bedrooms and an outdoor hot tub.
VRBO House Rental – Two-bedroom house in town that sleeps six. Bunk beds make it great for families.
VRBO Condo Rental – Upscale one-bedroom condo with a lake view. Sleeps four. Perfect if you want to be in town.
Hotel Ruby Sandpoint – A simple hotel with a more sleek modern design and free breakfast.
Outdoor Inn – A gem of a motel. Affordable with stylish interiors. A great choice for anyone traveling on a budget.
THINGS TO DO IN SANDPOINT, IDAHO, IN WINTER
SKIING AT SCHWEITZER
If you’re visiting Sandpoint in the winter, chances are you want to go skiing on Schweitzer. It is the iconic Sandpoint winter activity.
Schweitzer is the largest ski hill in Idaho and continues to grow yearly. With over 2900 acres of terrain and 300 inches of annual snowfall, Schweitzer is a fantastic place to ski.
Also, it doesn’t hurt that the views from the top of Lake Pend Oreille, Canada, Idaho, and Washington are exceptionally beautiful. The mountain is more geared toward intermediate to advanced skiers, but with their continued expansion plan, beginners will soon have more terrain to learn and play on.
While skiing and snowboarding are the main reasons to visit Schweitzer, there are other things to do for anyone who doesn’t do alpine skiing. I’ll explore other options below.
One of the biggest perks about Schweitzer is the opportunity to go Cat Skiing. Cat skiing is a way to access untouched powder without needing a helicopter. A snowcat will take you to places outside controlled ski areas where you can descend virgin snow. At the bottom, the snowcat takes you back to the top, where you can do it all over again.
Cat Skiing on Schweitzer is operated by Selkirk Powder, a reputable guide service that’s been operating since 2003. Due to the nature of the skiing, the tour is only for those who are advanced intermediate and up. The tour comes at a hefty price, but you’ll get nearly six hours of unparalleled skiing and an experience of a lifetime.
TUBING AT HERMIT’S HOLLOW
For kiddos that don’t know how to ski or for the young at heart that still thinks tubing is THE BEST, you’ll want to book a 90-minute time slot for tubing at Schweitzer. Dubbed Hermit’s Hollow, they have two lanes that span 100 yards. When you’re at the bottom, they’ll hook you onto the tube lift where you can enjoy the leisurely ride back to the top.
All riders must be a minimum of 42 inches tall, and two people can’t ride on one tube down the hill. For kids that might be too scared to go on their own, they have a limited amount of double tubes that you can use. They also do nighttime tubing for those who want to go tubing later in the day.
SIGHTSEEING SNOW CAT TOUR
If you’re not looking to ski, snowboard, or tube but still want to experience the beauty of Schweitzer, then try out a guided snowcat tour with Selkirk Powder. Sit comfy in a heated snowcat while your guide takes you around the backcountry of Schweitzer. The tour, from start to finish, lasts about 2 hours and includes stops to get out and play in the snow or to get your perfect photo op. Perfect for anyone traveling with kids or older adults with less mobility.
A fun winter activity in Sandpoint is snowmobiling. Selkirk Powder offers a two-hour family-friendly tour that starts at the top of Schweitzer and winds through the outfitter’s private trails. Each snowmobile allows for two riders, so you can ride with someone or try your hand at driving the snowmobile. The tour offers ample guidance and will safely take you behind Schweitzer Basin, where you can potentially spot bears, eagles, and moose.
Even if you have no plans to ski, tube, snowshoe, or snowcat on Schweitzer, you can still take in the glorious views by riding the chairlift to the top. At the top, you can dine or grab drinks at The Nest in the Sky House. It’s $20 for a Scenic Foot Passenger Ticket, and sales for the scenic ride ends at 1 PM.
HORSE-DRAWN SLEIGH RIDE
Every winter in Sandpoint, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, offers horse-drawn sleigh rides on their immaculate and sprawling property. The ride is a two-mile loop trail that includes warm hot cocoa. If you’re traveling with kids, the sleigh rides are a must-do! We were dazzled by the sights and the jingling of the bells.
They also offer a sleigh ride with dinner and a concert if you want to make an entire evening of it. The sleigh rides and diner/concert nights sell out, particularly in December, so book early.
One of our favorite ways to get out and enjoy winter in Sandpoint is to strap on some snowshoes and go for a winter hike. It’s a great outdoor activity for someone who wants to be outside but doesn’t want to invest in expensive winter gear or learn a new skill. If you can walk, you can handle snowshoeing.
Snowshoeing is hiking in snowy conditions with the help of snowshoes. Snowshoes have lightweight, oval-like frames that you strap onto your winter boots. Because they have more surface area, you can “float” on the top of the snow rather than sink into it. They are particularly useful in areas with thick, ungroomed snow. We enjoy snowshoeing and think it’s an excellent option for families.
Our favorite place to snowshoe in Sandpoint is Pine Street Woods. We love it because it’s located close to town, it’s free, parking is easy, and you can rent snowshoes from the Sandpoint Nordic Club at the Outdoor Recreation Center near the parking lot.
You can also go snowshoeing at Round Lake State Park, Farragut State Park, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, and Schweitzer. The state parks will have a day fee of $5, and Schweitzer charges a $17 trail fee. Schweitzer also offers guided snowshoeing tours if you want a more structured experience.
Also, don’t forget that snowshoeing is just hiking on snowshoes, so you can always go snowshoeing on a classic hiking trail. Viewski Loop is an easy trail that is popular for snowshoers. It’s located at the roundabout right before getting to Schweitzer. If you want a challenging trail, you can try out Mickinnick Trail, a 7-mile out-and-back hike with stellar lake views. I don’t suggest this trail if you’re a beginner and have never done winter hiking.
TIP: If you’ve never been snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, read about etiquette and maintaining the trails here.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Sandpoint has a fantastic cross-country skiing scene with ample places to get out and glide. Groomed trails can be found at Pine Street Woods, Round Lake State Park, Farragut State Park, Western Pleasure Guest Ranch, and Schweitzer.
Schweitzer is better for cross-country skiers who are intermediate and above since there is a moderate incline to start. Pine Street Woods is great for beginners and up.
If conditions are right, the Pend Oreille River is a sublime place to cross-country ski. You can start at the 3rd Street Pier or the Memorial Field Boat Launch and ski alongside the river down to Dover.
If you don’t know how to cross-country ski, the Sandpoint Nordic Club offers two-hour classes throughout the winter season.
RENTALS: Cross-country skis and snowshoe rentals can be found at Outdoor Experience in downtown Sandpoint or the Outdoor Recreation Center at Pine Street Woods.
RENT A FAT TIRE BIKE
Have you tried biking in the snow? If not, get ready for your newest winter activity. Fat bikes have wider tires than a standard bicycle and lower tire pressure, allowing you to handle unstable terrains like sand, mud, and snow better. Rentals can be found in town at Greasy Fingers or on the mountain at Schweitzer. If renting from Schweitzer, you can buy a day pass to their fantastic Nordic Trail System. If you are renting in town and you don’t have a hitch for bikes, you can bike these easy neighborhood trails: the Sandpoint Trail or the Dover Sandpoint Community Trail. These paved multi-use urban paths are ideal if you’re looking for something simple.
For more adventure, head to Pine Street Woods, where you’ll find about four miles of groomed biking trails. Be sure to check with the local organization Pend Oreille Pedalers for grooming updates. Other options include Western Pleasure Guest Ranch (open to nonguests), Farragut State Park (good for beginners), and Round Lake State Park. Both state parks require a day fee payment at the entrance…even if no one is at the booth!
If you’re looking for something indoors to do while visiting Sandpoint in the winter, then catch a show at the beautiful and historic Panida Theater. Right in the middle of downtown Sandpoint, the Panida Theater has been operating since 1927, when it opened as a vaudeville and movie house. The theater offers everything from classic movies, live music, movie festivals, comedy shows, one-acts, and touring shows. It’s a fantastic little theater that offers a great selection of entertainment.
PEND D’OREILLE WINERY
Another indoor event is to sip wine at the beautiful Pend d’Oreille Winery. Open since 1995, the winery locally produces its own award-winning wines from grapes grown in the northwest. The winery is in a historic brick building with large windows and expansive high ceilings. A fantastic place to sit awhile and enjoy conversation with friends.
You can make your own flight or do a preselected tasting menu. Since huckleberries are the state’s fruit and grow wild on the mountains of Sandpoint, sipping on the Huckleberry Blush is a fun way to try out local flavors. They also offer excellent light dishes, like appetizers and pizza. If you’re a fan of live music, check their website to see what nights they’re hosting events.
WARM BEVERAGE FROM EVANS BROTHERS
Head to the Granary Arts District in Sandpoint and visit the original Evans Brothers for a winter-inspired drink. Evans Brothers is one the best coffee roasters in Idaho and a beloved spot in Sandpoint.
Locally owned and operated, they have standard coffee drinks, but I always love to try out their winter concoctions made with in-house syrups. Fun winter specials include the Sugar Cookie Latte, Apple Cherry Cider, and the Merrymint Juniper Matcha. They also offer a small amount of gluten-free and vegan desserts and small savory bites.
DRINKS AND DINNER
Spend an evening or two or three checking out some of Sandpoint’s most excellent restaurants. For appetizers and drinks, The Bank is a stand-out choice for its beautiful interiors and innovative cocktails. If you’re more into wine, next door from The Bank is Barrel 33, a curated wine bar with a selection of small dishes. For excellent local beer, Mick Duff’s is a top choice for its food and historic building site, as well as Matchwood Brewery for its hip, youthful vibes.
*For a full write-up of where to eat in Sandpoint, check out our article on the best restaurants in Sandpoint.
STROLL DOWNTOWN SANDPOINT
Walk through Sandpoint’s charming downtown to enjoy the various shops, breweries, and restaurants. With shops to satisfy every type of shopper, you can’t go wrong spending a few hours seeing what Sandpoint’s small businesses offer. There’s the quirky Pickled Kitchen that sells an array of pickled items, Whiskey Jack Pottery for its beautiful works of art, Campfire Couture for hip, upscale clothing, and La Chic Boutique for carefully curated clothing and decor. Kids will love stopping into Cedar Street Bridge for the indoor playground at Creations and the many sweet treats available. There are too many to list here, so take a stroll and see what calls you!
Every February, Sandpoint has a winter carnival that seeks to light up the cold dark days North Idaho is known for. It’s a 10-day event with various activities happening around town. Every year, it starts with the Parade of Lights and ends with a K9 keg pull. In between, you can expect fireworks at Schweitzer, live music, pub crawls, shows at the Panida, and more. Check here for the current lineup of events.
BOWLING AT 7B
Who doesn’t love bowling? When no one knows what to do, and the weather is bringing you down, head to 7B lanes for a day of silly fun. With fun music, snacks, and video games, it’s a great family-friendly activity that everyone can enjoy. They don’t have a website, so call them at (208) 255-2695 to double-check their times and to see if they have availability. The address is 120 S Division Ave, Sandpoint, ID 83864.
The perfect way to warm up and treat your body after days of skiing, snowshoeing, and fat biking? A day at the spa. The Wildflower Spa at Seasons is an Aveda Spa and Salon perched high to take in its beautiful waterfront views of Lake Pend Oreille. I’ve been many times and always happy with the service. They also have a small steam room available to use before or after treatment. They often offer new client discounts, so check their website for any new deals.
BONUS: DAY TRIP TO COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO
Once you’ve done all your fun Sandpoint winter activities, head to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to explore our neighboring city. Located 45 minutes from Sandpoint, it’s a great day trip or overnight addition when visiting Sandpoint in the winter. To see what to do there, check out our article on the best things to do in Coeur d’Alene in the winter.
Are you ready for some winter fun in Sandpoint? That’s our list of the best things to do in Sandpoint in winter!
See you on the trails.
PIN IT FOR LATER