Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Escape from the Great Escape

Over Labor Day weekend, we went to Fall Fest at Schweitzer Mountain Resort outside of Sandpoint, Idaho. It was a three day celebration with live music and over sixty "local" beers and ten ciders on tap. There was also wine tasting available.

On the last day of the festival, the music didn't start until noon so we decided to take the chair lift up to the top of Schweitzer mountain to take in the views.

We should have known better when the resort spent twenty minutes getting the lift to finally operate properly. But nooooo. Up we went!

Our Friends - Rich, Joanne and Cody

We made it up safely and spent about a half an hour walking around and seeing the surrounding sights. Many people take the lift up in the summer to go hiking or mountain biking back down to the lodge. The views on a clear day are impressive!

Lake Pend Oreille (Pond O'Ray) and Sandpoint below the snow fence at the top

George, Joanne & Rich
What Ski Run Would You Like to Take?

Soon it was time to head back down to the village in the resort. As we neared the lift, we heard the warning chime going off and on again. Not a good sound to hear.

The Great Escape (or is it?)

We figured it wouldn't take them long to fix things and resume operations. Wrong!

As we sat at the picnic table next to the lift to wait things out, we could smell the brakes and heard cussing and grunting from the mechanical area (where the open window is in the picture above). The situation was not looking promising.

When we first walked over to the lift the nearby digital thermometer was showing 61 degrees. It was a bit breezy but the sun was out and made it bearable. After all, it was 61 degrees!

The grunting and cussing continued along with the warning chimes. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. A strong smell of hot brakes. Things were obviously not going well.

After a while, a mechanic showed up to help work on the lift. Apparently the lift was struck by lightning two nights before and the mechanic had new parts he needed to install once they got everyone off of the lift.

We quickly decided there was no way we were getting back on that chairlift! Our friend Rich called the resort and said they needed to get a shuttle vehicle up to the top of the mountain and start bringing people back down.


Meanwhile, a cloud had settled over us blocking the sun and the thermometer started to drop.

The resort finally got the lift running again and gave us the option to ride it back down. The lift operators said it was safe. We agreed with that. But was it reliable? Sixty plus people had been stuck for forty-five minutes in the wind and cold. A few brave souls opted to go down via the chairlift rather than wait for alternate transportation but not us. We weren't willing to take a chance.

The temp was now was down to 51 degrees (before windchill) as we waited for our ride to show up. We were not dressed for this and couldn't wait to get back down the hill. About ten minutes later, we were cozy in the 4WD Tahoe vehicle and on our way. At the bottom, we were given coupons for $10 off a meal plus refunded the ticket price for the lift. Not a bad deal. We were impressed by how quickly the resort set out to do the right thing.

Since it was now close to noon, we decided to get some lunch - indoors, of course! And to refill our now empty beer mugs.

We'll go back next year for the festival but I think we'll pass on the chair ride to the top.


  1. thankfully, it was only 45 min! yikes!

  2. ha ha....ah...memories. the long weekend was a great time. i look forward to our 4th year attending the festival in 2015.

  3. Wow that would have been scary. I don't think I would have got on the lift either. I do think the views were amazing though.

  4. Well that was an interesting adventure! I wouldn't have ridden down either that's for sure and I'm glad you had other options. And glad you weren't the ones stuck... It was great that the resort made some of the problems up with the gift certificate etc though! You did get some remarkable pictures up there. And some fun memories and a good story!

  5. I wouldn't even have written the thing up!
    All is well, that ends well and you have a great memory to share.
    It looks like a great area...

  6. Wow...a pleasant but not so pleasant venture! Beautiful views! I'm like you, the shuttle would have been my way back down! :-)


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