The Skiers Of Summer

The Skiers Of Summer Sandpoint Resurfaces as a Singletrack Sanctum

On a frosty fall morning on a farm outside the lakeside community of Sandpoint in northern Idaho, Jason Welker musters the troops. The Pend Oreille Pedalers (POP), the local biking club, has rallied some 30 volunteers in addition to a passel of kids, a pack of dogs and a Kubota tractor. Their task: scratch in a track for the club’s annual cyclocross race in four weeks.

With the intensity of teenagers cleaning up a house party before their parents get home, the volunteers get to work raking, scraping and chopping a route through the doghair hemlock and fallow fields. Three hours and three miles later they are, improbably, done with the course. Lounging amidst hay bales afterwards, Welker, the club’s executive director, and crew contemplate costume ideas and heckling sections for the race. It’s the sort of idle spitballing that usually accompanies bikes and beers, but given the frenetic energy of the course build, the prevailing sense is that the Pedalers will pull it off with gusto.

Sandwiched between the world-class skiing of Schweitzer Resort and Idaho’s largest lake, Sandpoint is one of the fastest-growing small towns in the United States according to U.S. Census Bureau data. Although the landscape of North Idaho now attracts a steady stream of private planes to the tiny Sandpoint Airport, it’s notoriously been a home for those looking to duck under the radar.

At 43 miles long and seldom less than three miles wide, Lake Pend Oreille is also the fifth-deepest lake in the United States at more than 1,100 feet. During World War II the Navy operated a training center at the south end of the lake; today, it still tests scaled-down submarine prototypes in its sea-simulating depths. Sasquatch is thought to haunt the surrounding hills and rumors persist of a Loch Ness-like monster, the “Pend Oreille Paddler,” sightings of which can probably be attributed to the naval testing, or one too many boater beers, or both.

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