Photo Credit: Bogus Basin Facebook

Bogus Basin: Boise’s Year-Round Playground

Resting 16 miles above Boise’s core, Bogus Basin is an outdoor enthusiast's dream come true. Mountain bikers, trail runners, skiers and snowshoers flock to the easily accessible, all-season outdoor hub for their daily dose of Idaho mountain air.

In the midst of the Great Depression, Boise’s population brushed 25,000 residents. Skiing had just been introduced in the U.S., and many valley residents got their first look at the sport during Sun Valley’s 1936 grand opening. Shortly after, an inspired, adventurous group of young adults formed the Boise Ski Club, skiing and tobogganing at the American Legion Golf Course and Horseshoe Bend Summit. Motivated by the national attention cultivated by Sun Valley, the Boise Junior Chamber of Commerce sought to build a local winter recreation area. The group had a vision of a ski area that would not only make skiing accessible to locals, but also become a driver for commerce in the Boise Valley.

Source: Boise Arts and History

After months of combing 150 miles of terrain from the Boise foothills to Idaho City, a site selection team — led by ski champion Alf Engen, Boise Ski Club President John Hearne and Boise Forest Landscape Architect Yale Moeller — made their decision. The team concluded that the best site with the most dependable snowfall was Bogus Basin, a snowy bowl at the base of Shafer Butte.

With a site selected and funding in place, Bogus Basin began to come to life. The Boise Junior Chamber of Commerce received a WPA grant to construct a road from Boise to Bogus Basin. Backed by the State of Idaho, Ada County, the City of Boise, the U.S. Forest Service, the Civilian Conversation Corps and private and local funds, the ski area began to take shape. Hillsides were cleared for ski runs, water and sanitation systems were installed, a parking lot was created and a 500-foot rope tow was installed. Shortly after the road was completed in 1940, barracks and a lodge were created for training, which would later serve as Bogus Basin’s first ski lodge.

Source: Bogus Basin Facebook

On Sunday, December 20, 1942, Bogus Basin opened to serve more than 200 valley residents, free of charge (there was no fee to ski during that first year). Carpooling was coordinated for the first season as wartime gas rationing limited access to the ski area. Round-trip travel to Bogus Basin would consume most of the four gallons allotted weekly. At the time, the road was one-way only, which meant the morning traffic headed up the mountain and in the afternoon, the direction would switch back toward the city.

Bogus Basin has transformed over the years, but its core ideals remain. Staying true to affordability, day passes cost just $54, dropping to $47 after 1 p.m. Ten lifts, including three high-speed quads, lend access to 2,600 acres of skiable terrain for all abilities. Bogus Basin is one of the few destinations in the country to offer night skiing, where adult tickets are reduced to just $25 to ski 165 well-lit acres. A $14 day pass permits entry to 37 km of groomed Nordic trails for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Another admired feature is the Pepsi GoldRush Tubing Hill, an 800-foot downhill slide with a paddle tow back to the top.

Source: Bogus Basin Facebook

Originally created as a ski area, opportunities do not cease with the change of season. An extensive trail system snakes across the mountain, popular for hiking and mountain biking. Concerts are held throughout the summer season in the natural amphitheater accompanied by local food and beverage distributors. The Mountain Discovery Camp, a collaboration with Boise Parks and Recreation, offers two unique day camps for children to absorb natural education and outdoor recreation. Numerous races, cycling leagues, chair-lift rides and fundraisers utilize the area.

Source: Bogus Basin Facebook

Currently, Bogus Basin is focused on improving programs and expanding year-round recreation. Bogus Basin General Manager Brad Wilson explains the organization’s mission to enhance its offering. “We are determined to develop current programs and incorporate more all-season opportunities that provide education and recreation to the community,” says Wilson. “As a nonprofit, we are obligated to provide affordable outdoor access. When we expand opportunities, we generate more revenue to increase our outreach and education programs.”

Last year, Bogus Basin’s SnowSchool, a science-based experiential learning program, introduced thousands of children to the mountain. During the winter, groups head out on snowshoes to learn the science behind snow, winter recreation and snow safety. The Mountain Discovery Camp during summer allows groups to explore the forest over a five-day period.

Source: Bogus Basin Facebook

Affordability, convenience and community have remained the foundation of the recreation area. As Wilson states, “It’s part of our DNA. Our sole purpose is to provide accessible, affordable outdoor education.” Although Bogus Basin did not receive 501(c)3 status until 2005, the area has always been a volunteer-ran, not-for-profit, community-based recreation area.

Source: Bogus Basin Facebook

Today, Bogus Basin operates under a volunteer board of directors, with a year-round professional staff and seasonal employees managing day-to-day processes. Bogus Basin began because of community support and effort and remains today for the same reason. Providing the Boise Valley access to all-season outdoor recreation, education, employment and volunteer opportunities, Bogus Basin is truly a community treasure. 

Source: Bogus Basin