150 Boise Icons: Bogus Basin

awebb@idahostatesman.comMay 5, 2013 

Several Statesman readers nominated Bogus Basin as a Boise icon, including Andy Miller, who specified the way the ski hill "lights up the sky at night." Indeed, most Boiseans are familiar with the silvery light that shines off the mountain in the winter as headlights snake their way home.

The celebrated Sun Valley Lodge opened its doors in 1936, but Bogus Basin - named for con-artists who sold fake gold dust in the area in the late 1880s - wasn't far behind.

Like other building projects in Boise, including the old Ada County Courthouse, Boise Art Museum and the Oregon Trail Memorial Bridge over Capitol Boulevard, Bogus has its roots in the Works Progress Administration, the massive Depression-era public works building program. According to the definitive book "Building Bogus Basin" by Boise historian Eve Chandler, a WPA road project that began in 1938 opened Bogus as a year-round recreation area.

That was the same year the Boise Ski Club filed its papers of incorporation with the state. Club members had been meeting casually for a few years by then - strapping on hickory skis and careening down the hills at the end of 8th Street and Horseshoe Bend summit.

The Boise Junior Chamber of Commerce decided Boise needed its own ski hill. The group consulted Forest Service experts, including ski champion Alf Engen, who chose the newly accessible Bogus site. The nonprofit Bogus Basin Recreational Association formed in the fall of 1941 and the Bogus Basin Ski Club sold the resort's first passes for $25.

The bombing of Pearl Harbor put the opening of Bogus Basin on hold for a year, but on Dec. 20, 1942, a 500-foot rope began pulling skiers up the mountain for the first time. An all-volunteer ski patrol stepped up to guard the slopes.

The resort added chair lifts in the 50s, night skiing and a lodge in the 60s, opportunities for physically challenged skiers in the 70s, nordic trails and a ski program for kids as young as 3 in the 80s, a high-speed quad to replace an old chairlift in the 90s and a U.S. Freestyle competition in 2002.

Bogus Basin began as a homegrown operation. It remains one.

"Bogus gives back to the community in many ways," said Chandler, "making skiing affordable for almost everyone, giving free skiing to youth groups and more."

The nonprofit resort's welfare in an era of warmer winters and shorter seasons is something Boiseans take to heart.

The 2012 season was notable for its lack of snow and the latest opening on record for the 70-year-old resort that employs some 700 people. Bogus lovers dressed in snow gear and massed in January on the Basque Block for the "Get Louder for Powder" rally. Season pass holders got cheap beer. Companies donated food. Musicians played. The snow obliged, falling in piles on Bogus a few days later.

- Plan ahead for these upcoming Bogus events: A benefit on Sept. 6 on the Basque Block, details to come, and a talk by Eve Chandler about the resort's history, 7 p.m., Nov. 14 at the Boise Public Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd., as part of the city's Boise 150 program.

Anna Webb: 377-6431

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