Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area opens its summer season Saturday (pricing details and schedule are at the bottom of this post). We spoke to General Manager Brad Wilson about what to expect from this summer and the summers to come, the financial impact of the late-starting winter of 2017-18 and one key way Wilson hopes to improve the skiing experience in 2018-19. Here is the bulk of that interview:
Question: Will all the summer activities be open this weekend?
Answer: "Everything is open (Saturday) and ready to go. ... This will be the first summer that the mountain coaster has been operational. We're super excited. We think it will be incredibly well received. We had good participation (in the winter) when the weather was nice. When it was cold and snowy, people didn't want to ride the coaster, which is no surprise. But as soon as the sun came out, people were riding it in good numbers. The response has been absolutely terrific. The amount of re-rides is really amazing. The amount of people who ride it tandem is really cool ... one spouse trying to scare the other spouse, I think."
Q: Is this expected to be the year that summer becomes profitable?
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A: "Yeah. Last year, I would say we broke even on our summer activities. This year we hope to do a little better than that. The whole idea behind creating this summer business was to create enough revenue to help us make the improvements in winter we need to make and have an economic engine to do other things."
Q: Do you still plan to add more activities in the future?
A: "We still have plans for an aerial adventure course (ropes course) and potentially a canopy tour (ziplines), definitely expanded mountain bike trails. We are ... working with the Forest Service to get approval to put mountain bike trails on Deer Point."
Q: You have some trails on Deer Point now. What will be different?
A: "The trails that are on Deer Point weren't designed to access the top of the lift. They go under the lift or around the lift but none of the trails were designed for gravity bike riding from the top of Deer Point to the bottom. With gravity-oriented trails, there's very little pedaling required at all to go top to bottom. That helps people that aren't riding in the Foothills every morning. ... The first trail that we will build off that will be a beginner flow trail. Flow, meaning not having to do a lot of pedaling or doing a lot of braking. It will appeal to a wider variety of riders, families. That will be kind of the anchor trail off of Deer Point. We'll add more difficult trails as we go along. We could potentially at least construct those trails in the fall with a real opening next spring."
Q: Did you get all your trails open last summer?
A: "We got 'em all open, but Berm, Baby, Berm! was never as good as it will be this year. It hadn't had a chance to pack in."
Q: Is the plan to add the aerial adventure course next year?
A: "In our master plan, it's on the table for next year."
Q: You made a bunch of changes to the ski area last summer. Anything in the works for the winter crowd?
A: "We will have a full-time, starting July 1 and until it snows, brush crew that will be focused on manicuring our existing trails and making them able to open on less snow and be better early. We have taken a big step. We'll have a six- to 10-man brush crew in place all summer, every summer. We just decided this needs to be part of what we do moving forward. We need to take advantage of every inch of the ski area that we can. ... Lower Triumph, for instance, we weren't able to open with a 40-inch base. The brush and even small trees have grown so much on the lower section that we couldn't get a Cat down it. That's a trail that's lit, so it's really important for night skiing to have that open. It's one of the best skiing trails we have. We'll manicure it so it's easy to open. War Eagle is another example — it has a lot of obstacles. ... They should be able to open on 12-15 inches of snow. We just have deferred that maintenance a while too long and we're going to take back control of that and not let that happen anymore. A year like last year really drove home the point."
Q: Last winter obviously didn't go according to plan with the snow. What was the financial impact?
A: "If you would have asked me that Feb. 10, you would have gotten a completely different answer. We were in really pretty desperate shape leading into mid-February. We had only closed for four days after we opened on Dec. 26, but still we were not providing the level of skiing product that we were happy with but we did as much as we possibly could with what we could offer. Still, we were greatly impacted business-wise. As soon as mid-February rolled in and Mother Nature decided to deliver the goods, business snapped back, people showed up and continued to ski and we had a record March. We had our second-best season pass sale ever (in revenue) and we ended up the season with our second-best year on record (in revenue). It was a remarkable recovery and it really just shows how dedicated our clientele is to being able to ski close to home and having a great product within a few miles of their house. They stepped up. We're extremely grateful that everybody did." (Wilson added that the season-pass sale revenue was only 2 percent below the record set in 2017.)
Q: What would have happened without that turnaround?
A: "There's no telling. Part of me would love to know the answer to that, but I really can't wager a guess. ... We were $2 million behind budget on Feb. 14 and on March 31 we were only $1 million behind budget. That's a lot of making up. Our March looked more like a normal January."
2018 summer pricing, schedule
Schedule: Business hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The recreation area is open May 26-28, Friday-Sunday for three weekends and seven days a week from June 22 to Aug. 19. The schedule shifts to weekends only after that (plus Labor Day). The season could continue into October. Food services will be available during operating hours.
Unlimited day pass: The passes are $49 for those 12 and older and $39 for those 11 and younger (add $10 for each for chairlift-accessed mountain biking). You get unlimited access to the mountain coaster, summer tubing, the climbing wall, the bungee trampoline and the chairlift.
Winter pass holders:Customers who purchased 2018-19 winter season passes receive a summer chairlift access and a one-day unlimited summer activity pass. Those perks were added in response to the subpar ski season.
Mountain coaster: The mountain coaster is $15 single or $25 tandem. Additional rides are $10 and $15. Single riders must be at least 54 inches tall. The minimums to ride the coaster are 3 years old and 38 inches tall. Tandem drivers must be at least 16 years old and 54 inches tall.
Mountain biking: A single ride on the chairlift (Deer Point) or shuttle bus (Pioneer Lodge) costs $15 for 12 and older or $10 for 4-11. The all-day rates are $30 and $15. You can ride the trails under your own power for free.
Scenic chairlift rides: A single ride is $15 for 12 and older, $10 for 4-11, free for children 3 and younger. The price is $30 and $15 for all day.
Summer tubing: $15 for a one-hour session. Must be at least 38 inches tall.
Bungee trampoline: $10 for 5 minutes. Weight range is 40 to 200 pounds.
Climbing wall: $10 for 15 minutes. Weight range is 40 to 250 pounds.
Shafer Butte Mining Company: $10 per bag (not included in unlimited day pass).
Hiking trails: Free.
Horseback riding trails: Free.
Music on the Mountain: June 30, July 7, July 21, Aug. 4 and Aug. 18. Music from noon to 7 p.m. All other Saturdays and Sundays have some live music.