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Abundant snowfall meant a banner year for northern Idaho ski areas

A skier at Brundage Mountain Resort. The resort typically gets about 330 inches of snow per season, but got only 250 inches this winter, said Brundage President and Managing Director Bob Looper. File photo.

Low snowfall early in the season in the Rocky Mountains cut down on skier visits this season at many western resorts. But northern Idaho had a banner season, thanks to record-setting snow, and Schweitzer Mountain saw record skier visits over the season.

“Schweitzer and Lookout Mountain and Silver Mountain had a great season,” said Bob Looper, the president of the Idaho Ski Areas Association. Schweitzer usually gets around 300 inches of snow per season, but got 450 inches this winter, and still has a good covering of snow now.

So does Brundage Mountain near McCall, where Looper is president and managing director. But Looper said Brundage is closed because Treasure Valley skiers put their ski and snowboard equipment away for the season when the weather warmed up in the valley. Most of the season’s 250 inches of snow fell in February and March, when southern Idaho skiers were already moving on to other sports. Brundage typically gets around 330 inches a year.

“You could probably ski top to bottom at Brundage,” Looper said May 7. “But a lot of our customer base is in the Treasure Valley. And when people don’t see snow, they put away the skis and break out the bikes and golf clubs.”

The National Ski Areas Association reported about 21 million visits to Rocky Mountain ski slopes for 2017-2018 in a preliminary study. That is a drop of about 5 percent over last winter’s ski season, or about 1 million fewer visits than the season before.

But some U.S. resorts reported record seasons, including Wyoming’s Jackson Hole, Whitefish and Bridger Bowl in Montana, and Schweitzer.
Where Schweitzer, Lookout Pass and Silver Mountain had some of the earliest season openings in the nation, the Bogus Basin ski area, just outside of Boise, struggled with a very late start because of low snowfall, said Looper.

Outside of northern Idaho, including at central Idaho’s Sun Valley, “the rest of the state did pretty well,” said Looper. “It was a decent year, an average year.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

About Anne Wallace Allen

Anne Wallace Allen is the editor of the Idaho Business Review.