Winter Recreation

Does skiing terrify you? Lessons at Bogus Basin helped one beginner find the joy

More than 11,000 beginning skiers and snowboarders have utilized the Passport Program at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area since its inception.
More than 11,000 beginning skiers and snowboarders have utilized the Passport Program at Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area since its inception. Photo courtesy of Bogus Basin

Next year. When I’m stronger, healthier and have more time — then I will learn to ski.

That’s what I told myself every winter for a decade after moving to Boise.

Last winter, I finally did it.

From the gear to lift passes, skiing is an expensive sport. Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area’s Passport Program is an economical way for adults and children 12 and older to get started in skiing or snowboarding. The cost is $299 for equipment rentals for the season, four group lessons (1 hour and 45 minutes each) and a free season pass (if you join the program in February or March, the pass carries into the next season). That’s about a third of what it would cost you to get all those things outside this program.

The Nugget cat track replaces thrills with views as it takes skiers along the outer edge of the ski area and offers panoramic views of snow-capped peaks that go on for miles.

They’re also offering a new beginner ski/snowboard package this year for adults and children 7 and older. It’s $69 for equipment, lift ticket and one lesson. That will be available daily at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.

“The new one-day beginner package provides a flexible, easy way for individuals to try skiing or snowboarding out,” said Susan Saad, director of community and customer relations for Bogus Basin. “Our hope is that they get hooked, and continue heading up the mountain, either on their own or through other beginner lesson programs like the Passport.”

Bogus is so close — just 16 miles up the mountain — that I felt like it would be a huge missed opportunity not to give the Passport Program a try, even though I’m now in my late 40s and 40 pounds heavier than when I arrived here in 2005.

Take a video and photo look at Bogus Basin's Wildcat run.

Better late than never, right? For me, it was a terrifying and exhilarating experience. I highly recommend it.

The original Passport Program started in 1999-2000. By 2002-03, it evolved into what it is now (equipment, four lessons, season pass). Since then, more than 11,000 would-be skiers and boarders have been through the program.

Passport offers a bunch of sessions in the winter and spring (weekday and weekend options). I chose lessons in the spring because I thought late-season skiing might be a little less intense — and possibly come with less snow/ice and fewer drivers on Bogus Basin Road. Other than the last stretch of road near the ski area, the road was largely free of snow and ice in February/March.

There were a couple spring snowstorms on the mountain that I experienced while learning to ski. They were so beautiful that I found myself bummed to come back down to the Valley.

For those who don’t have wheels, or don’t want to try navigating the windy road up to Bogus, there is a ski bus run by Caldwell Transportation Company. Last season, the ski bus made morning stops in Caldwell, Nampa, Middleton, Star, Meridian, Eagle and Boise (three places) and returned skiers to the Valley at 5 p.m. Cost was $8 one way, $13 round trip and $117 for a book of 10 tickets.

The Bogus Basin staff demonstrates the proper way to hit a jump. Video courtesy of Corey McDonald, terrain parks director.


I’m (still) a true beginner. I don’t come from a skiing family, and I didn’t join college friends who spent winters on the slopes of Willamette Pass in Oregon. I’ve been on a couple of memorable cross country ski trips, including one to Crater Lake, but the two times I tried downhill skiing without any professional guidance ended with moderately disastrous results.

While I didn’t break any bones or suffer serious injury from wiping out, I developed a healthy fear of flying down a mountainside without brakes. But I never stopped wanting to learn how to ski.

The night before my first lesson at Bogus I realized I didn’t have even the basic gear, like waterproof pants. In the hunting section at Walmart, I found some black pants that appeared to be at least water-resistant (about $25). I also picked up some long underwear and heavy socks that served me well. I started the season with random winter gloves from my closet but during one of the spring storms on the mountain decided I needed to get some low-end Gore-Tex gloves and cheap goggles (remarkably helpful when it’s snowing hard, though they do tend to fog up).

I didn’t wear a hat or helmet last season but I will invest in one or both of those this winter. A warm, dry noggin is nice when skiing and, though helmets look cumbersome, what’s more inconvenient than a serious head injury?

There are small lockers at Simplot Lodge where you can stash extra gear and other items (cost is $1). Larger lockers at that lodge and Pioneer Lodge can be rented for the season for $150.


Group lessons are a lot of fun because you meet new people, and you’re learning from each other. There were about a half dozen other people in my group, the less advanced of two groups of beginners.

We started off on the flat, then took the magic carpet up the bottom half of the bunny slope. That doesn’t sound very scary but I still remember the sheer terror of those first runs.

If my fellow beginners were confronting high anxiety about getting injured, they didn’t show it. I felt almost paralyzed by it. Learning how to get off the ski lift at the top of the bunny slope without a dramatic dismount that left me on my butt took more than a few attempts.

It’s humbling to struggle mightily at something 6-year-olds can do effortlessly — but well worth the effort. There’s a special kind of euphoria that comes from conquering extreme fear and repeated failure.

My ski lesson group graduated to higher terrain but I opted to stay behind to keep working on the basics of turning and stopping. I fell only a few times during a half dozen trips to Bogus but nothing major (and no injuries). That was a huge victory in my book.

On my last trip, there was a magic moment when everything came together, and I felt pure joy in skiing.

Katy Moeller: 208-377-6413, @KatyMoeller

How much does it cost to ski/board at Bogus Basin?

  • Rent skis, boots, poles or board, binding, boots for one day: $29. Season lease is $189.
  • An adult day pass (ages 19-69) is $59. A season pass is $499.
  • A one-hour private ski lesson for adults and children 3-plus is $64.
  • The Passport Program for beginner skiers/boarders is $299. The package includes equipment, four group ski lessons (1 hour, 45 minutes per lesson) and a season pass.