Roger Phillips: A great mountain bike trip is more than a trail

Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area is getting a new trail, but it can do more to attract bikers.

October 10, 2013 

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ROGER PHILLIPS — rphillips@idahostatesman.com

I rode part of the new “Around the Mountain” trail during summer, which starts and eventually will end near the Simplot Lodge at Bogus, and I think it’s going to attract a lot of mountain bikers next year.

It will be a cool loop ride that is scheduled to be completed this month, but probably won’t be in prime shape until next spring after snow compacts it.

The Around the Mountain Trail could kickstart what Bogus has long lacked — a real mountain biking program rather than a few trails on the mountain.

Nearby Eastside Trail is extremely popular with mountain bikers. On several occasions last summer, I drove past the packed pullout near Eastside to a nearly empty lot at Bogus.

That could change when those riders check out the new trail, and Bogus has a good opportunity to springboard off the new trail.

For several years, my mountain biking friends and I have traveled around the West and seen what’s being done at popular mountain biking areas.

I’ve ridden at meccas such as Sun Valley and Park City, Utah, which have created world-class trail systems and a world-class riding experience — everything from lifts and shuttles to condos and concerts — all of which complement the trails.

On a much smaller scale, I’ve ridden at Jug Mountain Ranch near McCall, which has creatively blended a golf course and clubhouse with mountain bike trails that also complement other trails in the McCall area.

And in our own backyard, the Eagle Bike Park has successfully incorporated modern riding amenities like structures, jumps and tracks with traditional trails. Its new flow trail, which is just a half-mile long, will likely be a spectacular attraction.

The trail is being built by Gravity Logic, which is among the best trail building companies in the world.

There are many examples where creativity and innovation have created great mountain biking experiences beyond traditional trails, whether in a neighborhood park or at a mega-resort.

And that’s really important because it’s not just the trails that matter. We have an abundance of them in Southwest Idaho, but when you mix riding with eating, drinking, playing and socializing, you can easily turn an hour or two of riding into a full day of fun.

To offer some tough love, Bogus is way behind the curve on this and falling further behind each year.

Bogus might not have tons of money to throw at mountain biking, and running the lifts appears to be a nonstarter, but there are simple and inexpensive things that could enhance the riding experience and hopefully make some money in the process.

ADD RIDING OPTIONS

If I’ve ridden a long trail, I might not want to head back out for another long ride after lunch. But I might have enough energy to play around near the Simplot Lodge.

A pump track, a short flow trail or a set of jumps are relatively easy to build and will complement the longer trails and keep people at Bogus longer. Odds are good they will get thirsty and/or hungry and spend a few bucks.

Those little things give riders a reason to stay longer instead of bolting back to the Valley. And if there’s a little more added each season, eventually, a little turns into a lot.

TAKE DONATIONS

Bogus may not sell trail passes or lift tickets to bikers, but that doesn’t mean it can’t take our money. Make sure it’s easy to donate, whether at the patio grill or someplace else. Riders want to help.

Odds are very good I will donate a few bucks every time I buy lunch if you simply put a donation jar next to the till, especially if I know it’s going toward building and maintaining trails and making other improvements for biking.

WELCOME PARTNERS

The Treasure Valley has an active and vibrant cycling community, from clubs to teams to shops. Mountain bikers have a strong do-it-yourself ethic, so they’re not just sitting around waiting for you to build them something.

They want to participate in the process. Make it easier for them to do so through trail days, projects and fundraisers incorporating their ideas into more improvements on the mountain.

Partnerships should also extend beyond riding. Feature a keg from a local brewery (hopefully donated) each Saturday during summer, and use the proceeds for trails and/or biking improvements. Maybe invite food trucks up to Bogus for a day and split proceeds with them.

I saw several bike demo days around the Valley during summer, but I don’t remember any at Bogus. Seems like a natural.

Create a little bit of festival atmosphere at the same time. Basically, give riders a reason to visit Bogus during summer and spend money while they’re there.

ADD SIGNS

Putting a trail map on a board is a good start, but it’s only a first step. People want to easily find trailheads and trails suitable to their skill level. Once on the trail, they want to easily and safely navigate the trails and find their way back to the lodge.

Consider a person or a family who’s never been to Bogus during summer and knows nothing about the trails. Make it easy for them.

Trails are pretty well signed at Bogus, but an improvement would include suggested routes suitable for beginners and intermediates and extra signage to make sure people have a good experience and want to come back.

There should also be signs on Bogus Basin Road and at the office’s parking lot so people know when Bogus’ patio and grill is open and the hours of operation.

For example, a couple of my riding buddies rode Eastside numerous times during summer. Despite the pullout for Eastside being only a few miles from Bogus, neither knew the grill was open, but both said they would have eaten there several times had they known.

OPEN BATHROOMS

Open the bathrooms at the Simplot Lodge, or put a porta potty closer to the patio. It makes no sense for a person who’s having a post-ride burger and beer to walk several hundred yards across the parking lot to the bathroom. It basically ends the ride because it takes you right back to your vehicle. It’s easier to leave than go back for another beer.

SHUTTLE

Offer van shuttles from Boise to Bogus next summer. Shuttle them all the way to the Pioneer Lodge so they can start their day with a downhill ride.

Figure out the minimum number of riders needed to cover the cost of the van and driver and have people sign up in advance. If the minimum number is met, the shuttle runs.

Start small, maybe a couple of shuttles on Saturday mornings and a couple of return shuttles in the afternoon.

It would be a great way to get young riders up to the mountain without their parents having to drive them. People would also have the option of taking the shuttle up and riding their bikes back to Boise.

THINK LONG TERM

Considering Bogus’ challenging finances after a couple of dry winters, no one expects biking to be the resort’s salvation.

But getting more bikers up to the mountain during summer and enhancing their visit could be a small investment that pays larger dividends in the future.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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