Top Spots for the Best Winter Activities

Fun adventures for the entire family

By Abigail Thorpe

The Inland Northwest offers incredible opportunities to get out and experience the snowy winter months. Head out to one of the several mountain resorts for some epic alpine adventures, or enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice fishing and skating in your own backyard. From holiday lights to eagle-watching cruises and night skiing, there is an adventure everyone can enjoy.


SPOKANE


Night Ski at Mt. Spokane

Just an hour from downtown Spokane lies Mt. Spokane, where there’s fun for the entire family, including skiing, snowboarding, tubing and night skiing! If you’re looking for a nighttime winter adventure—or you just want to extend your ski day into the evening—head on up for night skiing on the mountain from the end of December through February, Wednesday through Saturday nights. Sixteen of the mountain’s 52 runs are open for night skiing, and it’s an experience you won’t want to miss.


During the day, take advantage of the mountain’s 1,704 acres of skiable terrain, or head out on snowshoes or cross-country skis to explore Mt. Spokane State Park’s acres of backcountry.


Cross Country Ski at the 49˚ North Nordic Center

Located by the 49˚ North Alpine area, the Nordic Center offers groomed and ungroomed trails for snowshoeing, classic and skate skiing, and fat bikes. You can bring your own gear, or rentals and lessons are available. Head out from the cozy yurt, which is open Friday through Sunday from 9am to 4pm, and explore 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) of Nordic trails. Trails are open Friday through Tuesday.


Skate the Ice Ribbon at Riverfront Spokane

What’s better than an ice rink? An ice ribbon! Head to downtown Spokane to show off your skills on the Numerica Skate Ribbon at the Riverfront. The 650-foot winding pathway offers slight inclines and declines as it winds around a Northwest-inspired landscape. Grab a cup of cocoa or coffee afterward. Make sure to make a reservation online prior to coming to the rental counter, and don’t forget that masks and gloves may be required.


Spokane Falls Numerica SkyRide

Head up on the 15-minute ride over the Spokane Falls for spectacular views of the second largest urban falls in the U.S. Thanks to the all-weather enclosed cabin, the SkyRide operates year-round. Experience the 200-foot drop over the Huntington Park Natural Area, as well as aerial views of the art deco City Hall as you travel past. Named “One of the Top 12 Scenic Cable Rides in the World” in 2013 by Conde Nast Traveler, Daily Traveller and MSN, the Numerica SkyRide is a can’t miss while in Spokane.


Explore the Cork District

Situated within the urban core of downtown Spokane sits the Cork District—a collection of 15 wineries along with other businesses that make for a delightful (and tasty) afternoon adventure. Award-winning wineries are within easy walking distance of each other, right in the midst of shopping, dining and entertainment, so when you’re done wine tasting, head out for a delicious dinner downtown. The Cork District also includes two separate tasting clusters in Mount Spokane and the Spokane Valley for those more adventurous wine enthusiasts.


COEUR D’ALENE


Enjoy a Weekend at Silver Mountain

Just 30 minutes from Coeur d’Alene off the I-90 near Kellogg lies Silver Mountain, a winter escape that offers visitors everything from 1,600-plus acres of alpine skiing to snow tubing, and gondola rides to the top of the mountain for a scenic overlook. Make it a weekend adventure and stay with Silver Mountain Lodging, where every stay includes access to Idaho’s largest indoor waterpark: Silver Rapids Waterpark.


Hike Tubbs Hill

It doesn’t have to be summer to go hiking! Grab your winter boots and a warm coat, and head downtown to wander the publicly owned land right on Lake Coeur d’Alene—Tubbs Hill. The hill offers 120 acres of pristine trails to wander and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. It’s often covered in snow during winter, making for a snow-dusted and icicle-bedecked winter wonderland. The hill is open year-round and just a short walk from the downtown shopping district, providing the perfect opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of winter!


View the Holiday Lights

Coeur d’Alene’s annual Holiday Light Show enchants families every single year. Throughout the holiday season, the Coeur d’Alene Resort and Marina area lights up with more than a million Christmas lights. Head out for a great family tradition and view the lights from one of the several boat cruises operating nightly throughout the holiday season, including a special Journey to the North Pole cruise to see Santa.


Book an Eagle Watching Cruise

As winter descends upon North Idaho, so does the majestic eagle. With the colder weather, eagles migrate into the area from Canada and Alaska, with hundreds settling at Lake Coeur d’Alene’s northern end to feed on Kokanee salmon. Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruises offers eagle watching cruises throughout the winter. Book one to enjoy an up-close view of this special seasonal phenomenon.


Cross-Country Ski and Snowshoe Farragut State Park

On Lake Pend Oreille’s southern tip lies a former WWII-era naval training location that is now Farragut State Park. A popular summer destination, the park’s 4,000 acres are just as fun and ready to explore in winter. Head out to cross-country ski, sled, snowshoe and fat-tire bike the various trails, woodlands and lakefront throughout the park.


SANDPOINT


Ski Schweitzer Mountain

Looking for some of the best skiing in Idaho? No winter would be complete without a trip up to Schweitzer Mountain Resort. The independently owned resort offers 2,900 acres of terrain, with two massive bowls and renowned tree skiing. Relish the epic view of the valley and lake below on your drive up and from the slopes, and don’t forget to stop in for an après-ski cocktail or bite at one of the many restaurants and shops in the village.


Ice Skate at City Beach

When winters are cold enough, the shallow waters off City Beach in Sandpoint freeze enough to allow for ice skating. Grab your skates and some friends, and head out for an old-time experience on the lake. The Third Avenue Pier is also a prime spot to skate on the lake. Just keep in mind, you’re skating on deep water, and make sure it’s safe conditions and the ice is thick. It’s usually a narrow window, but it’s well worth the effort.


Go Ice Fishing

You can still throw a line in during the colder months—in fact, it’s a popular sport and hobby amongst many Idahoans during the winter. Head to Lake Cocolalla 10 minutes south of Sandpoint, or there are even popular ice fishing areas in Lake Pend Oreille. You’ll need an ice auger to drill the fishing holes, and make sure ice conditions allow before you head out on the ice—you’ll need at least 3 to 4 inches of solid ice to support a grown person. Don’t forget to check out Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game for ice fishing rules before you head out.


Take a Sleigh Ride at Western Pleasure Ranch

Head into the beauty of the Cabinet Mountains on Western Pleasure Guest Ranch’s epic winter sleigh rides. The 2-mile 30-minute sleigh ride takes you through the forests and foothills of the mountains, with incredible views of the Selkirk Mountain Range. The horse-drawn sleigh is powered by a draft team and is the perfect opportunity to take in North Idaho’s winter wonderland. If you want to make an entire night of it, sign up for the sleigh ride and dinner package, and enjoy a gourmet meal after.


Adventure in Pine Street Woods

Just up Pine Street in Sandpoint lies a pristine track of 180 acres that is protected for local recreation and educational opportunities. Enjoy snowshoeing and Nordic skiing through the rolling meadows and woodlands during the winter months, when there are plenty of trails and space to roam. Pine Street Woods is free to use and open seven days a week from 7am to 7pm.


Relax at the Ainsworth Hot Springs

Nothing makes it easier to endure the winter cold than a good soak in a natural hot spring. Head to British Columbia, Canada, to soak up the healing and rejuvenating powers of the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, which has been welcoming guests since the 1930s. Enjoy warm mineral waters in a natural cave and pool, then relax in the resort.


Celebrate at the Sandpoint Winter Carnival

Every winter since 1973, locals and visitors alike head out to experience the Sandpoint’s antidote to cabin fever: The Sandpoint Winter Carnival. Experience a week of celebrations and events, including fireworks at Schweitzer Mountain, the famous K9 Keg Pull outside Eichardt’s, and live music and parties all over town.


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