If you thought the slopes at Idaho ski areas seemed a little more crowded this season, you were right. Several ski resorts reported an uptick in attendance thanks in part to an exceptionally snowy February.
Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area, located north of Boise, broke multiple monthly attendance records, according to General Manager Brad Wilson.
“Every month since we’ve been open (this season) has been a record, and that includes December and January before the snow fell,” Wilson said. “It looks like we’re going to finish this season with about 10 percent more visits than we used to.”
At some points, Bogus got so busy it had to turn skiers and snowboarders away due to a lack of parking spaces.
“Typically we see one or two days a season (when parking fills up),” Wilson said. “This year there were four times.”
Wilson said that was in part due to the onslaught of snow in February, which dumped 12 feet at Bogus. It also put 500 of the ski area’s 3,500 parking spots out of commission.
“We’d love to have too much snow again,” Wilson said, “but we are looking at better ways of moving that snow around (to keep parking open).”
Wilson said Sundays in February were the busiest, as most of the snowstorms that month hit the Treasure Valley on Saturdays. But he doesn’t believe all the traffic can be blamed on the powder.
According to Wilson, Bogus Basin has made an effort to market outside of Boise proper in the last year, extending its marketing into other parts of the Treasure Valley. He also thinks the recreation area’s newly improved summer offerings played a role.
“Introducing people (to Bogus) in the summer helped bring in new people and gave them the confidence to return in the winter,” Wilson said.
He said the increased traffic also means increased revenue, which Bogus plans to put back into the mountain to keep operations running smoothly as things get more crowded. Last month, officials announced they’d replace the old Morning Star chairlift with a high-speed quad and rework some nearby trails to try to remove the bottleneck of beginners on the front of the mountain.
Wilson said Bogus is also looking at adding more parking options and promoting services like its existing bus routes. Ridesharing is another avenue Bogus officials are exploring to cut down on vehicle traffic, he said. They’ll also add another food vendor on the third floor of the Pioneer Lodge.
It’s too early to tell if the boost in attendance will be permanent, Wilson said, but Bogus will be prepared if it is.
“If this is the new normal, great. We’ll take care of people better than we ever have,” he said.
Bogus aims to end daily ski operations on April 14, though Wilson said the ski area may open for a few more weekends if there’s enough demand.
Summer activities at Bogus, including the mountain coaster and several mountain biking trails, will open for weekend use on Memorial Day weekend.
Brundage Mountain General Manager Ken Rider said this season’s snow boosted attendance over the previous year.
“The snowfall came at the right times … and things just ran along smoothly from there,” Rider said.
The McCall-area resort was hit with piles of powder in early 2019, extending the season out to April 13.
“We’re very happy with how this season has turned out,” Rider said. “We want to end it strong over the next two weeks.”
More than 400,000 skiers took to the slopes of Sun Valley Resort this season, according to spokeswoman Kelli Lusk. That’s an 11 percent increase over the previous year’s season-to-date attendance.
Lusk said the attendance spike was likely due to a “perfect storm” of factors — including some serious snowstorms that broke records in Sun Valley in February. The resort saw the most snow in a single month since record-keeping began in 1967.
There’s still time to ski parts of Sun Valley. Dollar Mountain closed Sunday, but the River Run side of Bald Mountain will remain open until April 14, while the Warm Springs side of Bald Mountain will close April 21.
Tamarack Resort just wrapped up its first season under new ownership, and the owners of the Donnelly-area resort are feeling optimistic.
“We really don’t know what happened before, but we really did have a good year,” said Jon Reveal, president of the investment partnership that purchased Tamarack last November.
By snow totals alone, Tamarack outpaced its 2018 season, Reveal said. In 2018, 45 inches of snow fell in February. This year, 167 inches fell in February.
“It’s like 10 feet more snow,” Reveal said. “It’s almost a dream to have that much snow in February.”
Tamarack ended its ski season last weekend, and Reveal said improvements are already underway at the resort, which was left half-finished more than a decade ago when its original owner filed for bankruptcy.
By next season, Tamarack will have replaced its popular Wildwood ski lift and revamped its Village Plaza, Reveal said.