By Martin Griff
The Gem State’s capital has been the nucleus of several of my ski adventures and no trip to Boise is complete without a visit to Boise State’s iconic blue turf field at the 36,387 seat Albertsons Stadium.
Last season, my hike along the Boise River to pay homage to The Blue ended in a whole lot of white as the field was covered in snow. Disappointment was overshadowed by an understanding that the white turf blocker was a harbinger of excellent ski conditions.
Skiing Bogus Basin
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area offers the closest skiing to Boise. It is just 12 miles north, as the crow flies, and 20 miles north by road. These are 20 hard miles – climbing almost 3,500 vertical feet with countless hairpin turns. The 45-minute drive is an adventure in itself.
Bogus Basin is nonprofit community-run operation. But, with a 1,782′ vertical drop, 2,600 acres of day skiing, 165 acres of night skiing, and 11 lifts, including three high speed quads, Bogus is much more than a local hangout. There are also 23 miles of groomed Nordic trails at Bogus Basin.
Word on the slopes is that Bogus Basin got its name from the bogus gold dust peddled during the 19th century gold rush. Despite its name, snowboarding and skiing Bogus Basin is the real deal.
General manger Brad Wilson explained that they are not a typical local ski hill. “Destination skiers are always thrilled to be here because it is so much more than they expect.”
He added that Bogus Basin pricing on tickets and food is local, therefore lower than at destination resorts.
New this season is an all-season mountain coaster, 4,300 feet of twisting track through the woods, including two 360-degree turns. It’s an 8 to 10 minute trip depending on how much the rider uses the braking system.
Game on at Tamarack Resort
Tamarack Resort is 73 crow flying miles north of Boise and 100 miles by road for a two-hour and 10 minute drive. Tamarack Resort sits along the western edge of Lake Cascade, a reservoir on the north fork of the Payette River. The mountains surrounding the road from Boise have the textured appearance of a deeply wrinkled Shar Pei dog.
Tamarack’s trails mimic those dog wrinkles and the cruising on its 45 trails, 1,020 acres and 2,800 vertical feet is fabulous.
The resort’s history, well, not so much. In fact there have been many times when locals have had to ask, “Is Tamarack Resort open?”
Tamarack’s lifts began spinning in 2004. In August 2005, then President George W. Bush and first lady Laura stayed at Tamarack and the future of America’s newest destination ski resort appeared bright . . . until a bankruptcy filing in 2008.
The lifts stopped turning in March 2009. A high-speed quad chairlift along with its 18 lift towers were repossessed in 2012 as part of the foreclosure process. The resort still has six lifts including two high-speed quads.
Unfinished buildings and fabric membrane covered “temporary” structures shape the resort skyline. Humans were few during my visit, which while great for the ski experience, can’t be good for spreadsheet tabulations.
When I asked Larsen about his plans to get my fellow East Coasters onto his slopes, he explained that many people in Boise don’t know Tamarack is back in business and his current focus is on building a local following.
As part of a strategy to raise its local profile and let people know that Tamarack Resort is open, they’ve created a series of videos highlighting interesting locals, mountain upgrades and information concerning the resort’s financial status.
Everyone Loves Brundage Mountain Resort
Brundage Mountain Resort is 100 miles as the crow flies north of Boise and just 23 crow flying miles north of Tamarack. For those who prefer roads, it is 116 miles north of Boise, for a 2 hour and a 30 minute drive.
Brundage is 8 miles northwest of McCall, a town of 3,000 folks that sits on the southern shore of Payette Lake. McCall has an excellent selection of hotels and restaurants, an annual Winter Carnival and a curling venue. For those looking for a first-class experience in food and lodging, the newly renovated Shore Lodge is the place to be.
For dining, allow me to suggest a steak and seafood restaurant called Steamers. I had eaten low carbohydrate for three months until their warm bread pudding with vanilla ice cream broke me. It was worth it, even with the hour on the treadmill afterwards to burn it out of my system.
Enough food talk. My mission was to ski and Brundage is a wonderful place to ski on 1,920 acres of lift-accessed terrain. There’s another 420 acres of lift-accessed “unpatrolled and uncontrolled” backcountry terrain, and if that’s not enough there’s 18,000 acres of guided, snowcat backcountry skiing at Brundage.
Brundage has 46 named trails : 20% novice, 50% intermediate and 30% advanced. This means that despite the intimidating backcountry numbers, family skiing at Brundage is an excellent choice. (Kids 6 and under are always free!)
In addition to those named trails, there are secret runs at Brundage not found on the trail map. The locals call them Mexico, Nova Scotia and Switzerland, but none of them are oriented as you expect to find them on a globe. I asked resort spokeswoman April Whitney to mark up a trail map with these secret runs, but the usually accommodating Communication Director nixed that request. Best bet is to strike up a conversation on the lift with a local.
Back in Boise, a friend of a friend had a connection who had a connection and there I was on Boise State’s iconic blue turf field, covered in snow. I came to see blue and a snow angel cut through the white.
Martin Griff is living his ski bum dream this winter, traveling around North America, both North and South of the US/Canadian border. A journalist by education and profession he shares his thoughts, impressions, experiences and those things that puzzle him on Fridays.
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