No snow? No problem. Idaho ski areas chase summer dollars

Mountain biking, hiking, sightseeing and other summer activities have become a revenue source for Idaho ski areas, like Tamarack Resort.
Mountain biking, hiking, sightseeing and other summer activities have become a revenue source for Idaho ski areas, like Tamarack Resort.

Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area hopes to improve its winter product by expanding its summer program.

The new emphasis on summer recreation starts July 2, when a lift begins running on weekends for mountain biking, hiking and sightseeing.

And that’s just a teaser.

If the summer goes well and snowfall doesn’t disappoint this winter, Bogus Basin hopes to add a mountain coaster (a gravity-fueled ride), a ropes challenge course and possibly other attractions for the summer of 2017.

“Pretty much any ski area that has a market for this is investing heavily in summer,” General Manager Brad Wilson said. “Bogus Basin, fortunately being 16 miles from Boise, has a strong market for summer. The temperature differential between the mountains and town is substantial and really provides people a respite.”

Bogus plans to capitalize on new U.S. Forest Service guidelines that were finalized in 2014 to allow more “natural resource-based” recreation at ski areas that utilize Forest Service land. The Deer Point Express lift will run on 10 weekends this season — Fourth of July weekend through Labor Day weekend — after running on just three last year.

“The approach through the years has been a focus on winter and let people do what they want to do through the summer,” said John Hart, the marketing director at Bogus Basin. “... It was very well-received (last year). We saw a lot of bikers and hikers. That gave us the confidence to expand into weekly service this year.”

Bogus Basin is putting the finishing touches on its master plan. Phase one will call for about $4 million in investments, Wilson said, with an emphasis on summer infrastructure. But skiers will notice an improved look to the lodges and shops this winter, he said.

Future summer activities in the base area could include a trampoline/bungee jump, rock-climbing wall, canopy/zipline tour, the challenge course and perhaps a water feature in addition to the mountain coaster. The Coach lift will be moved slightly uphill to create more space.

Bogus also has made a big push into live music, which will be provided from 3 to 6 p.m. every open weekend and from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on four Music on the Mountain days (July 2, July 30, Aug. 20, Sept. 3). Plus, the food and beverage menu will be “more upscale,” Wilson said, because the restaurant is serving fewer guests than during ski season.

Phase two of the master plan could include one of the most-desired improvements to the winter infrastructure: a new Morning Star lift.

“The whole idea behind the phasing is the summer activities are designed to fund the winter improvements,” Wilson said. “Without that, we don’t have the cash generation. Summer really becomes the economic engine that will allow us to make significant improvements on the winter operations.”

Here’s what the region’s major ski areas have planned this summer:

Bogus Basin

Opening: July 2. The Deer Point Express lift will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekends and holiday Mondays through Labor Day (Sept. 5). Prices are $10 for a single ride, $25 for a day and $99 for the season.

Notable: Bogus is expanding its mountain bike program this summer. A new beginner, single-track trail will run up Bogus Creek toward the Showcase ski run and a new flow trail will drop from Pioneer Lodge to Simplot Lodge. A new summer trail map has been produced and distributed to bike shops, the administrative offices and a rack outside Simplot Lodge. The ski area has more than 36 miles of trails, including the popular Around the Mountain trail that is part of the Ridge to Rivers system. A trail connects the Simplot Lodge parking lot to the Eastside trail, too. A mountain bike league will be contested on Thursdays.

The trails are multi-use, so hikers are welcome to explore the mountain. Simplot Lodge is open 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends. Two disc golf courses will be offered, one each from the Simplot and Pioneer lodges.

Tamarack Resort

Opening: Saturday. The Tamarack Express lift to mid-mountain will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends and holiday Mondays through Labor Day. Prices are $15 for a scenic ride, $29 for a bike half day (1-4 p.m.), $39 for a bike full day and $129 for a bike season.

Notable: The Tamarack Bike Park will be open with regular lift service for the first time since 2007. The multimillion-dollar park features 21 trails covering more than 1,700 vertical feet. Three trails that weren’t available for the shuttle program last summer will be open this year.

“We’re really fortunate the infrastructure held up this long,” said Wolfe Ashcraft, the Bike Park manager. “Every trail up here has been touched by hand this year.”

More info:

Here's what a novice downhill mountain biker can expect to experience at the Tamarack Bike Park.

Brundage Mountain

Opening: Last Saturday. The BlueBird lift will run again this weekend, then Thursday-Sunday (and holiday Mondays) from June 30 through Labor Day. The final weekend is Sept. 10-11. Lifts operate from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Adult prices are $14 for a scenic ride, $18 for a single bike ride, $35 for a full day and $129 for the season.

Notable: Brundage has added a 4.7-mile loop, Black Bear, for a cross-country mountain-biking and hiking experience. It is open in both directions. The rest of the trails down the mountain are downhill, bike only. Black Bear can be combined with the Growler downhill trail for variety (bikers only). Sightseeing chair rides still are the most popular activity, Brundage communication director April Whitney said, with folks walking along the ridge for the views from the top of BlueBird.

Other popular draws include Smoky’s Bar & Grill and disc golf.

“It is an important season for us,” Whitney said. “That’s why we’ve expanded it. We’ve found people are coming to town earlier in the summer season and staying later.”

Goose Lake Road, the connection from Idaho 55 to Brundage, is being widened and adjusted this summer to provide a safer route. Delays of up to 30 minutes are possible on Thursdays but not on Fridays, weekends or holidays. The project is expected to finish in time for this ski season.

More info:

Sun Valley Resort

Opening: July 1 for bikes (delayed by elk calving); Saturday for the gondola for hikers and Roundhouse restaurant customers. Lifts run daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adult prices are $25 for a single sightseeing ride, $39 all day for bikers and $359 for the season.

Notable: The Cold Springs and Warm Springs trails provide long, scenic descents on Bald Mountain after riding the Roundhouse Gondola and Christmas lifts. Or, you can hike to the top of Bald Mountain and ride a lift down. Visit the summer trail map on the Sun Valley Resort website for some recommended trail combinations that don’t require a lift. The River Run to Warm Springs Traverse route is a local biking favorite covering 12 miles and 1,500 feet of elevation gain. Also, check out the free Yoga on the Mountain at 8:45 a.m. and 10 a.m. each Saturday except July 9 (through Aug. 27).

More info:

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