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Getting Healthy on the Ski Slopes

Story and photos by Lee Juillerat   December 1, 2011

  The guy seated next to me on the chairlift was grinning ear-to-ear, chattering happily and bursting with zest and good cheer as we sat back and enjoyed the ride at Idaho’s Brundage Mountain Resort. It was a weekday morning after a snowstorm. No crowds. No lines.  
  Idaho, skiing alone  
Skiing alone
  “This is Idaho. Ski alone,“ he chirruped. He leaned back, soaked in the sun and flashed a contented Cheshire cat grin. “I’m actually taking a sick day today,” he said, pausing long enough for my confusion to show before adding, “because I’d be really sick if I missed this feel-good fresh powder.”  
  Idaho skiing, getting healthy  
Getting Healthy
  Classes in good health are among the reasons downhill skiers and snowboarders head for Idaho. For most, the first area that comes to mind is Sun Valley, and for good reason. The Sun Valley Resort offers a mind-boggling variety of runs suitable for first-timers to experts, along with great après ski activities at the resort and in neighboring Ketchum. But there’s more, lots more, to Idaho than Sun Valley.  
  Idaho skiing - rest and recovery  
Rest and recovery
  Here’s a trio of others, including Brundage Mountain Resort, a 20-minute drive from lively McCall. Near Boise is Bogus Basin, with its vast landscape and bargain prices. And south of Sun Valley is the Soldier Mountain area where, admit it or not, skiers and boarders always hope for a sighting of movie star Bruce Willis, one of its co-owners.  

Brundage Mountain

It had been a great day of skiing, with weather as varied as the terrain and choice of runs. It snowed, hailed, broke out into beautiful sunshine, and then snowed some more as we skied under sunny skis. A storm the night before deposited three inches of snow, so we spent our early runs swooping through fresh powder then searched out pockets of lesser-skied runs.

I’d been to Brundage other times, but each visit brings new pleasures. The Lakeview Lift - with its dazzling views of Payette Lake - has opened up 160 acres on the mountain’s south side, including two new favorites, Hotshot and Dropline. There’s also access to steeper pitched glades in Dobber’s Dream. New, too, is the Bear Chair, which connects to six beginner runs near the base area while a third new lift, Easy Street, accesses wide, smoothly groomed less steep runs.

  Idaho skiing - after the storm  
After the storm
  With Brundage’s network of lifts, including Bluebird, the high-speed quad that distributes skiers and boarders from the base area, along with Centennial and Lakeview, we spent our day gliding along well-groomed corduroy cruisers and angling off favorites like Main Street, Upper Slobovia, Alpine and 45th Parallel to explore glades or make-your-own routes through the trees. Because it was a weekday, lines were non-existent.  
  “This is Idaho, not cookie-cutter Colorado,” Brundage president/general manager Rick Certano told me, emphasizing that resort managers go out of their way to be loyal and responsive to their core users, including skiers and riders who make the 100-mile drive from the Boise area. “Anybody can charge $100 a day to ski. The greater challenge is to keep it affordable.”  
  Idaho skiing - too late for freshies  
Too late for freshies
  I’d sampled Brundage’s sense of place earlier in the day on both ends of the Lakeview Lift. As I ended my run, the loudspeakers blasted Creedence Clearwater Revival‘s “Fortunate Son” while the lift attendant strummed along air-guitar style on his broom. Then, near the top of the lift, a sign in the booth’s window proclaimed, “If You’re Having Fun, Wave!” I did, and so did the happily grinning person inside.  
  Idaho skiing - fortunate one   Idaho skiing - he's having fun  
Fortunate one
He's having fun

Bogus Basin

I’d always thought that Bogus Basin, the ski-boarding area 16 miles outside of Boise, was just a neighborhood ski area with a few nice runs. I’d thought wrong.

  Idaho skiing - swooping the slopes   Idaho skiing - wide open spaces  
  Swooping the slopes  
Wide open spaces

The Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area—the managers who oversee the community-owned area decline to call it a resort—is a full-fledged mountain with a spidery network of lifts offering access to 2,600 ski-able acres, the second-most in Idaho.

Bogus is also an area with a history. It opened in December 1942 with a single rope tow and has steadily upgraded. It’s estimated that 20 percent of the 585,000-plus people in the Boise metropolitan area ski or board. There’s plenty of incentive. Early season passes are only $199.

“I come up for two or three hours. I’ll ski the quads, then they go back down,” one local explained.

Trailing along behind a mountain guide, I wondered how anyone could cut a visit that short. Bogus is actually three mountains. We spent a dizzying day sampling runs off all three — the Frontside, near the base area, along with Superior, the backside, and Pine Creek.

  Idaho skiing - kicked back relaxed  
Kicked back relaxed

Along the way we heard answers to the question all first-timers ask, how did Bogus get its name? At least two versions exist. One dates to the 1880s when, legend says, two prospectors loaded a shotgun with gold dust, blasted it into the walls of a cave near Shafer Butte, location of Bogus’s base area, then took their claims to a Boise bar where they sold mine shares to unwary patrons. They were long-gone when their sobered partners realized they’d been suckered. Version two, favored by Eve Chandler, the author of “Building Bogus Basin,” tells of an 1866 “group of swindlers” who created bogus gold dust they sold for $14 an ounce and three ensuing arrests that resulted in only a single conviction.

  Idaho skiing - fun times at Bogus Basin  
Fun times at Bogus

There’s nothing phony about Bogus. From the Pine Creek chair we flew down Wildcat, Upper Nugget and Paradise. On Deer Point’s backside we whirred down a series of black runs — Majestic, Nighthawk and Triumph — and gentler Bonanza and Smuggler. The Frontside offered several cruisers, including Alpine, Showcase, Shaker Ridge and Ridge, which provided access to Lower Ridge and the more challenging Lando’s Mojo and Moneymaker runs.

Bogus is for real

  Idaho skiing - it's all downhill  
It's all downhill

Soldier Mountain

Fairfield, the small town that’s 10 miles south of the Soldier Mountain Ski Resort, bills itself as the “Best Undiscovered Small Ski Town in the West.” Those who’ve checked out Solider Mountain might substitute the word “area” for “town.”

Soldier Mountain is bigger-than-it-seems small, with two lifts and a handle tow accessing 1,425 vertical feet and 1,150 acres of groomers, bowls and glades. While there are nice choices for beginners and intermediates, half of the 26 runs are adrenaline-pumping black diamonds for advanced and experts, along with a terrain park. Soldier is also renowned for Snow Cat skiing on nearby Smoky Dome.



  Idaho skiing - headed home  
Headed home

Set in the Sawtooth Range, the scenery is spectacular, with gobs of panoramic vistas.

Soldier Mountain has been a favorite with locals since it opened with a rope tow in 1948 and added chairlifts in 1971 and 1974. Owned by a group that includes actor Bruce Willis, the area remains anything but glitzy and serves as a sharp counterpoint to Sun Valley. Even its new day lodge, completed in January 2010 after the iconic 1948 lodge was destroyed by fire in March 2009, retains the area‘s family-friendly, laid-back atmosphere.

Soldier Mountain’s season is short, usually mid-December to early-April. Plan carefully: except for an extended Christmas holidays season, Soldier Mountain is open Thursdays through Sundays.

For affordable skiing in a relaxed but beautiful setting, troop on over to Soldier Mountain.




Mountain stats

Bogus Basin Recreation Area —

Vertical drop 1,800 feet. 52 runs. Lifts: two quads, one triple, four doubles, 37 kilometers Nordic trails. Amenities: ski lodge, ski school, snack bar, rentals, restrooms, on-site lodging, food service, cafeteria, alcoholic beverages, rental equipment, restaurant, warming hut, yurt, day care, handicap access, shopping, tubing hill.

Brundage Mountain Resort —

Vertical drop 1,800 feet. 46 runs. Lifts: one quad, two triples, one handle tow, one platter tow. Amenities: day care, ski school, rentals, ski lodge, alcoholic beverages, shopping, equipment rentals, gift shop, parking, restrooms, restaurants, yurt, handicap access.

Soldier Mountain Ski Resort —

Vertical drop 1,425 feet. Lifts: two doubles, one handle tow. Amenities: ski lodge, cafeteria, rental equipment, alcoholic beverages, food service, parking, picnic area, snack bar, ski school, restaurant, warming hut, yurt, shopping, gift shop.

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