Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area plans to spend nearly $4.3 million this spring and summer to turn the ski area into a multiseason destination and improve the winter experience.
The centerpiece of the changes is a gravity-driven mountain coaster that will be open for the summer and winter seasons. It is scheduled to open Aug. 1 while the target for the rest of the improvements is July 1.
The changes, which include two new conveyor-style lifts in the beginner skiing area, a summer-tubing operation and a large patio in front of Simplot Lodge, are primarily designed to give Bogus Basin a summer source of revenue to offset bad snow years.
The improvements were approved by the Bogus Basin board of directors late last month.
“The board approved the spending on these because we really want to try to not be 100 percent dependent on winter,” General Manager Brad Wilson said. (More on why Bogus Basin is investing in summer, and what it means for skiers, here.)
The improvements will be paid for with the cash Bogus Basin has accumulated during two consecutive strong ski seasons, Wilson said. Enough money still will be set aside for the ski area to get through a bad winter, he said.
Bogus Basin remains $7 million in debt from prior financial struggles, Wilson said.
Here are the changes coming this year (and one coming next year). They differ somewhat from the plan outlined in the recently completed 10-year master plan. One example: The master plan includes a large water feature in front of the lodge. That won’t be built.
The plan is to open Thursday-Sunday beginning July 1 and to go to seven days a week late this summer or next summer. The summer season in future years likely will run from Memorial Day weekend into early fall.
▪ A “great lawn” and patio will be built in the base area in front of Simplot Lodge. The area in front of the lodge will be lowered and the edge where drop-off parking is now will be elevated to create a small slope for first-time skiers and snowboarders. A 70-foot conveyor lift will be installed, with a kids-only area on one side and general beginners area on the other. “You can point your skis downhill and not pick up so much speed it’s going to scare you,” Wilson said. The drop-off area will be moved to the front of the current parking lot.
▪ The new paver patio will be built where the ski racks are in front of the lodge. The pavers will be heated, all the way to the rental shop. An improved ramp, likely asphalt, will be built behind the rental shop to serve as the main entry to the ski area. The patio will include about 200 additional outdoor seats and a food-and-beverage outlet, likely including a grill, barbecue and smoker. “It will be its own unique food outlet,” Wilson said. The food outlet will operate in the summer and winter. Two propane fire rings will be installed in the patio. “We’re never going to be Sun Valley, but we’d like to have some of the comfort and the feel of a Sun Valley — a true mountain recreation area,” Wilson said. “Fire rings, the ambiance of them is fantastic. That’s by far going to be the most popular real estate we have.”
▪ Sod will be put down July 1 as part of the great lawn. It will be irrigated. A walkway will be built through it so bikes don’t tear up the new grass.
▪ Between the Coach and Deer Point chairlifts will be a hub of up to five summer activities that will be removed for skiing. “These are really designed to engage kids and young families,” Wilson said. Plans call for a 32-foot climbing wall (climb on four sides), a four-trampoline bungee jump, gold panning and other activities.
▪ A new conveyor belt will be installed to the race shack at the bottom of Bowl. In the summer, it will serve two 300-foot lanes of tubing on an artificial sliding surface. The surface is built from recycled traffic barrels. The lanes will produce speeds of about 25 mph, Wilson said, “very much like our current tubing hill.” The summer hill will use the winter tubes. The conveyor belt will stay in the winter and create another new beginners area with terrain-based learning that runs into the bottom of Stewart’s Bowl, where the beginner terrain park is now. That terrain park will be relocated (site TBA). The progression for new skiers will be to use the first new conveyor belt, then go to the existing Easy Rider conveyor (moved across the Coach’s Corner run), then go to the second new conveyor and then get on the Coach chairlift.
▪ The hiking and biking setup for summer will be improved, with more signage, the opening of the flow trail constructed last year off of Brewer’s Byway and a new bike skills and pump track behind the loading area for the Morning Star lift. One trail likely will be designated hiking only. “We’re going to try to enhance the hiking experience,” Wilson said.
▪ “The real anchor to all of this is the mountain coaster,” Wilson said. One adult or one adult and a child will load the car near Simplot Lodge, be pulled up the hill toward Pioneer Lodge on 1,000 feet of track and then descend on a 2,400-foot track that includes a couple of 360-degree turns. The downhill portion of the ride is gravity-fueled and the driver has a braking system to control the speed. The cars have seat belts. “The speed you travel is completely up to you,” Wilson said. “The good news is you’re locked onto rails. The seat will not come off, but it feels like it will. Some people will slow down for that and some people will not.” The cars have sensors to avoid running into each other. The ride will last 8 to 10 minutes. Bogus employees will begin moving snow out of the way for construction on April 17, the day after the ski area closes. It will be the first mountain coaster in Idaho, Wilson said.
▪ In 2018: An aerial adventure ropes course will be added next year, in a tree island near the Lando’s Mojo run. Regulatory issues concerning a small stream delayed that project one year. “Everything we’re doing we want to make sure we maintain the look and feel of an alpine area,” Wilson said. “We want it to feel like it’s part of the environment, not that it’s just stuck out there.” For an idea what it will look like, think of the ropes course at Wahooz — only much larger and in a natural environment. The course likely will offer several levels of difficulty and it might be open in winter.
▪ Note: The base area improvements will displace the disc golf course. Bogus Basin is considering relocating the course.
“The idea about summer is everything we have talked about appeals to a much broader group of people than skiing and snowboarding does,” Wilson said. “Virtually anybody can ride the coaster. Virtually anybody can slide down the tubing hill. What it does is it really opens the mountain recreation area up to the whole Treasure Valley.”
The hope is that summer business stabilizes Bogus Basin’s revenue and helps pay for future winter improvements. The next major winter improvement is replacement of the Morning Star lift, currently slated for 2020-21. Bogus also is working on plans for a $5 million snowmaking system that would provide top-to-bottom coverage off the Deer Point and Morning Star lifts.