I t’s a question I’ve had since I moved to Boise 12 years ago. I occasionally get to ride Bogus’ lifts during summer, and I will get another chance at the Big Mountain Roundup on July 29 (which, take note, is a Sunday).
The roundup is a combination of lift-served mountain biking and hiking, live music, food and drinks, a fun run and a mountain bike race. You can get the details at bogusbasin.org.
In recent years, Bogus has typically started up its ski lifts for mountain bikers just one day during summer. I met with Bogus Basin CEO Alan Moore this week to find out why.
If you don’t feel like reading further, here’s why: money, or more specifically, lack thereof.
But that’s not the whole story. Like any business, it costs money to run a mountain biking/summer program at a ski area, and there’s no guarantee it will turn a profit.
“If we thought we could make money on a summer program, believe me, we would do it,” Moore said.
Bogus had the latest opener ever for its ski season last winter, and it closed out the fiscal year about $200,000 in the hole.
They’re not expecting a one-day event to turn that around. In fact, Bogus officials are just hoping to break even or make a small profit on the Big Mountain Roundup.
It should be a great event, and considering Bogus is still stinging from a brutal ski season, it’s commendable they’re making the effort to get people up on the mountain during summer.
But, you might ask, why do Sun Valley, Brundage and other Idaho resorts offer summer mountain biking and other programs, but Bogus doesn’t?
Turns out there are a few things an average mountain biker like me doesn’t know about running a ski area.
One is that although many ski resorts offer mountain biking, it’s far from a cash cow.
According to the National Ski Area Association, summer revenues at ski areas accounted for 6.9 percent of the total revenue for resorts, and at big destination resorts like Sun Valley, it was about 9.2 percent. That’s based on economic analysis done by the association in 2010-11.
Some large resorts operate their lifts at a loss for mountain bikers and sightseers and make their profits elsewhere, particularly lodging, Moore said.
Bogus doesn’t have that option.
But what about smaller resorts like Brundage?
I spoke with April Russell, Brundage spokeswoman, who filled me in on some details of its summer program.
Brundage offers lift-served mountain biking and scenic rides three days a week and holidays, typically between the Fourth of July weekend and Labor Day.
Sightseers outnumber mountain bikers as users of the lifts at Brundage, Russell said, although revenues are about even between the two groups because mountain bikers tend to spend more.
She added that McCall is a tourist destination, and people are always looking for things to do while they’re visiting.
Brundage is a short drive from McCall, and the top of the ski resort offers fantastic views of Payette Lake, Lake Cascade, the Seven Devils Mountains and the vast backcountry surrounding the resort.
Boise doesn’t have the tourist traffic like McCall’s, and there are also lots of options for residents, from riding trails in the Foothills, to floating the Boise River, to going to movies, parks and events.
“We live in a beautiful place, and people don’t have to drive 16 miles (to Bogus) to go recreating,” Moore said.
That’s not to say Bogus doesn’t want to offer a summer program, and it does on a limited basis.
If people want to see more activities at Bogus during summer, they can simply show up on July 29, buy a lift ticket for $25 (your season pass doesn’t cover it), take a few spins down the mountain, buy some food and have a couple of drinks (not exactly a bitter pill), enjoy the music and have a good time.
Bogus officials said they need to sell about 800 lift tickets to cover expenses, which seems a pretty modest number considering how many mountain bikers are in the Treasure Valley.
If mountain bikers and others flood the mountain, maybe it would send a signal that there’s more demand than anticipated.
I will be there. Care to join me?
Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors
Statesman outdoor writers Pete Zimowsky and Roger Phillips alternate columns on Sunday. Look for Zimo next week.