While Spokane skiers seethed over the early closure and other problems at Mount Spokane Ski Area this spring, Boise skiers were celebrating their own community ski resort.
Two thousand showed up for Bogus Basin’s season closer last weekend, drawn by live bands, a western barbecue and a still-deep snowpack.
Why does this community ski resort work? For one thing, it’s a nonprofit resort run by a volunteer association.
“I think it’s because of the interest by the volunteers,” said Eric Stiegemeier, a 25-year resort employee and director of skier services. “I think what they have in common is skiing and the interest to have better skiing.”
Like Mount Spokane, Bogus Basin is close to the city. It’s a 16-mile drive from downtown Boise and its tall, snowy peak is a city landmark.
But because Bogus Basin is nonprofit, whenever the resort has a good year, there’s more money to put into improving it. All profits go to improving or expanding the resort.
“That’s why we have got to where we are today, from starting out with a rope tow (in 1938) to getting to seven chairlifts,” Stiegemeier said.
The resort is run by a 60-member volunteer recreational association, which elects the board of directors.
Jim Tibbs, a 50-year-old police lieutenant who’s the current board chairman, said, “It’s a labor of love.”
“The bottom line is that certainly Bogus Basin wants to provide affordable skiing to the community,” Tibbs said. “And so, they listen to the customers, I guess. … They really go out of their way to attract people to Bogus Basin, and to keep ‘em happy when they’re here.”
Bogus Basin’s formula also includes extensive night skiing, which keeps two-thirds of its terrain open until 10 p.m. daily.
“You can pretty much go up to the mountain literally day or night and do all the skiing that you want,” Tibbs said.
This year’s ski season was exceptional for the Boise resort not just because of the record snowfall. It also was the year Bogus opened its first high-speed quad chairlift, resculpted a hill to make a new beginner area with its own chairlift, and made other improvements that added up to $3 million.
“We felt it was something that the skiers needed,” Stiegemeier said.
The new high-speed chair zips skiers from the base area to the top of the mountain in moments. “It eliminated entirely our lift line problem, getting skiers out of that base area,” Stiegemeier said.
Plus, “What used to be a nine-minute trip turned into a three-minute trip.”
That means skiers are getting “a whole lot more skiing in.”
This was also the year that Bogus started experimenting, for the first time, with grooming steep stretches of its terrain that usually are left to nature. The resort already had lots of groomed runs for varying levels of ability.
“We had enough snow that we wanted to experiment, and see if we could open up some more skiing opportunities in areas that we had never done that before,” Stiegemeier said.
With grooming equipment that it already had, Bogus used two grooming machines and a winch to smooth out runs like Power Line and Tiger. They’re part of a giant bowl at the center of the resort that offers tree skiing, powder, crud and a few cliffs.
This year, groups of intermediates in ski classes were able to cruise down those runs.
“Everybody loved it,” Stiegemeier said.
If he could offer advice to Mount Spokane, Stiegemeier said he’d recommend stressing programs for kids. Bogus Basin runs ski programs for schools throughout its region. This year, about 15,000 kids participated.
Another 300 youngsters are involved in the resort’s ski racing program, from age 7 up. And there’s an active group of older skiers who race in the masters class, as well as freestyle and snowboard teams.
Making skiing available to everyone ” has everything to do with quality of life in the Boise valley,” Stiegemeier said.
Tibbs said his goal at Bogus is for skiers to want to come back. Why?
“Because it’s fun. It’s good for the soul.”
“In the hectic world that we all live and work in, we don’t experience fun nearly enough,” he said.
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