COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — If anyone is grateful for Coeur d'Alene's clear skies this summer, it's Erik Lindberg.
As a professional pilot, Lindberg said visibility is important to his job. Especially when he's providing seaplane rides to tourists.
Coeur d'Alene's summer marks a change from previous seasons when smoke from area wildfires blanketed the Lake City.
"I was frustrated, a bit bummed. Because I knew we were going to have a slower day or slower week," said Lindberg, who flies for Brooks Seaplane Service, of smoky skies during 2018. "Tourists would come down and say 'Is it too smoky to fly?'"
While Lindberg wasn't immediately able to quantify the amount of seaplane rides Brooks had provided in 2019 compared to 2018, he said the lack of smoke has certainly been beneficial.
"This year, we haven't had any of those issues to address," he said.
Local tourism officials appear to agree.
Coeur d'Alene Convention and Visitors Bureau manager Mark Robitaille told KREM that tourism was partially affected by bouts of wildfire smoke during previous summers. Visitor numbers, however, still continued to increase each year.
This year saw a spike in visitors compared to 2018, though. According to Robitaille, the amount of taxes collected by hotels in Kootenai County was up 12% in 2019 over the previous year. In 2018, the same number sat at 7%. Robitaille said that tourism officials use the hotel tax numbers in part to gauge the amount of people visiting the area.
"It's so much easier to breathe," said Lauren Johnson, immediately after finishing a paddle board ride on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Tuesday. "Fresh air makes a difference."
Johnson was visiting the Lake City with her family from Calgary and noted her own run-ins with wildfire smoke in Alberta.
"We were kind of worried, but we're glad that it's not smoky anymore," she said.
The following video is a report on why Spokane attracts so much wildfire smoke.