Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area General Manager Brad Wilson has been through this before.
As a vice president and director of marketing at Brian Head Resort in Utah, he saw what beetle kill can do to a ski area’s forest. The blue spruce trees at Brian Head were decimated.
“It went from a very nicely wooded ski area with delineated trails to a bare ski area, and the quality of the skiing changed dramatically with that,” Wilson said Tuesday, while giving me a tour of the damage done by dwarf mistletoe and bark beetles to the forest at Bogus Basin. “The beetle kill was predicted years before. Salvage logging was tied up in court and postponed. By the time they were able to log, it was too late. This is kind of deja vu all over again for me.”
The Boise National Forest announced a plan last week to log at Bogus Basin for one to three summers, beginning in 2017, to remove dead and dying trees, thin the forest to prevent the spread of dwarf mistletoe and replant with different species than Douglas fir. The Douglas fir trees, the most common at Bogus Basin, are infected at rates of 50 to 98 percent depending on the location, the Forest Service says.
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The damaged trees are easy to spot at Bogus (see the video above). We noticed quite a few between the Pioneer and Simplot lodges and a bunch at the top of the Pine Creek lift. Here’s what to look for:
▪ The first sign of trouble is a dead or barren top of an evergreen tree.
▪ Next, you’ll notice a bushy section below the barren section. This is called the witch’s broom effect because trees that are bushy on the bottom and dead on top form the shape of a witch’s broom standing straight up.
▪ Once the dwarf mistletoe redirects nutrients and creates the witch’s broom effect, bark beetles attack the trees. Dwarf mistletoe takes years to kill a tree but beetles can do that in a season. The result is a completely dead tree.
The dying trees are a safety concern for two reasons: the bulky branches caused by the witch’s broom effect get extremely heavy and can buckle under the weight of snow and the dead trees are a fire hazard. Forest Service crews cut down hazardous trees every year before ski season but aren’t able to remove the trees from the forest without a logging program.
Optimistic about summer
Bogus Basin averaged about 1,000 visitors per weekend day during its summer season, Wilson said. More than 1,000 cars (an estimated 3,000 people) were there Saturday for the final Music on the Mountain event.
Wilson hopes to expand the summer program with an alpine coaster (gravity ride) and other activities for 2017 but won’t know if they’re financially viable until late February, when the winter revenue becomes more clear.
“It showed really good promise,” Wilson said of this summer season, which ended on Labor Day. “It really helps support that there is true demand in the summer.”