Vince Heintzelman on dog sledding race course
Accented by tranquil snows, Priest Lake and the surrounding Selkirk Mountains of northern Idaho are simply majestic in the winter. There’s almost always plenty of snow in this area. In fact, the snow is so dependable the Priest Lake area has a long tradition of dog sledding and each year is home to the U.S. Pacific Coast Championship sled dog race.
For nearly forty years mushers have gathered near the shores of the lake for this annual competition. Contestants from as far away as Alaska join local racers to challenge themselves in a range of events. Sledders from all age brackets try everything from sprints to long distance races. The Heintzelman family has been regulars at this race for years. Vince and Brendia often help with race logistics and the clan supplies a gang of enthusiastic participants.
We make it a family type sport. We love it. The satisfaction you get out of the dogs performing for you. They’re really highly honed athletes is what they are. When you’re out there and the dogs are going good and running at full trot, it’s a very rewarding feeling. --Vince Heintzelman, Sled Dog Racer
Three people riding snow mobiles in Selkirks
While dog sleds are a traditional way to travel through the north country snows, another mode of transportation is also very popular…snowmobiling. It’s become one of the favorite winter pastimes at Priest Lake. And with a trail system of over 400 miles there are plenty of places to explore. On trail 302 northwest of the lake you can cruise to the locally famous shoe tree. And not far from the shoe tree riders can cruise through a grove of immense cedar trees. Just beyond the grove is an icy cascade dusted with snow, Granite Falls. From the falls you can climb into even higher country with great views of the lake. In fact if you have the time and energy, you can actually cruise all the way around Priest Lake on a snowmobile.
This is a familiar territory for Mike and Tracy Szybinski. They’re expert snowmobilers and co-owners of Elkins Resort on the lake. They love touring the area and say their machines take them to amazing destinations.
We can get to areas normally can’t get to any other time of year, it’s really nice. You see a lot of mountains that you don’t see if you’re just coming into area. And being up here in Selkirk Range and up on every peak is amazing, you can really see how the terrain of land lays. It really puts a smile on my face. --Tracy Szybinski, backcountry snowmobiler
Cross-country skiers skiing along the shores of Priest Lake
Whether it’s on snowmobiles, behind sled dogs, or gliding over the powder on cross country skis, Priest Lake really is a winter paradise.
It’s one of my favorite times of year, to be up here when it’s totally quiet and all you smell is the snow and all you hear is the wind. There’s just no place better I can't imagine being anywhere else. I love the fact you can get right down by the lake, look out and have incredible views. It’s breathtaking everywhere you go up here, there’s no place that doesn’t look attractive. If there’s a heaven this is it. --Sandy Lieske, cross country skier