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Best Snow in Idaho: A History of Brundage Mountain

Eve Chandler chronicles a history of hitting the slopes

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One of the first photos in Eve Chandler's new book, Best Snow in Idaho, shows a family in long wool coats, raising their hats to a young boy, arms above his head in triumph as he shoots off a ski jump. The photo--taken at the first McCall Winter Carnival in 1924--captures the winter sports culture of the area that is home to Brundage Mountain Resort.

That culture and history is the centerpiece of Chandler's book celebrating the McCall ski area. The book is filled with photos and stories of the mountain that claims to be home to the "best snow in Idaho."

"I've always loved the ski area, so when I was approached to write a book about Brundage, I was delighted because it's a great mountain," Chandler said. "It's a very different story than the Bogus Basin story because it's privately owned, but both ski areas have a real focus on families and teaching children how to ski."

Brundage Mountain is Chandler's second book; she previously detailed the history of Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area.

Her new book tells the story of Brundage's 50 years but also explores the culture of the McCall area that allowed the mountain resort to thrive. According to Chandler, winter sports gave people living in the area a way to endure the long, snow-filled season.

"There's a wonderful history of the whole area in the book," she said. "It starts out with the 1924 winter carnival, so to people who like history, it's more than just a book about a ski area."

An Idaho native and avid skier, Chandler spent a portion of her childhood on Brundage's slopes, so she was eager to preserve the history of the mountain and the unique offerings it brings to Northwestern skiers.

"It just has a different feel because Brundage is a much smaller ski area," she said. "When people go to Brundage, they feel like they're on vacation. They've left their problems at home, because when they come to Brundage, it really removes them from their home environment. I kind of feel like, when you go up to Bogus Basin, you still feel like you're connected to the community of Boise."

Chandler said she has always been drawn to historical writing. Now in the latter part of her career, she has recently devoted her time and her talent to documenting the histories of local ski areas, and not, she believes, without due cause.

"I think Idaho is just so fortunate to have this wonderful skiing and snowboarding culture that's grown up throughout the years. It's enriched our lives," she said. "I'm very pleased that the people responsible for both Brundage and Bogus Basin wanted to preserve their history. That's an important thing to do."

Chandler also includes a chapter about what the future may hold for Brundage. After 20 years of negotiations with U.S. Forest Service officials, the resort recently added 388 acres adjacent to the ski hill. The area's highest priority is the addition of a new lift, which will add nearly 300 acres of skiable terrain. The lift is planned for Sargent Mountain, the highest elevation on the hill. The longest new run will have 1,200 feet of vertical drop.

According to April Russell, spokesperson for Brundage, the changes highlighted in Chandler's book are long-term goals, but visitors can still expect smaller changes and improvements this season. Some of those include a custom weather forecast for the mountain, a mobile phone app and the conversion of 1,000 square feet of deck into an indoor expansion of the lodge.

Additionally, Brundage officials plan to add a snow ruler equipped with a live-streaming webcam to the mountain's summit. One such ruler is already installed at the base of the mountain and Russell said the website receives more than 500,000 hits each year.

"We're known as a powder skiing place, so people are always interested in exactly how much fresh snow we're getting," she said. "Generally speaking, in ski resort lore, there's a reputation that the ski resorts lie about how much snow they get. We want to prove that we're telling the truth by letting people see with their very own eyes the actual snow on the mountain," Russell added.

When nearby Tamarack Resort opened in 2004, it was regarded as a major competitor for Brundage's business. But as Tamarack has faced one setback after another, including foreclosure, repossession of one of its lifts, a string of federal charges filed against its most recent investor and failure to operate for several seasons, Brundage has continued to thrive. Tamarack is slated to open this year but Russell isn't worried.

"We've learned over the last six or eight years that we can operate successfully with Tamarack as our neighbor. We've proved that we can operate successfully if Tamarack is not operating."

Not even a dry winter can keep Brundage down. Last year's low snowfall led to a late opening for the resort; the first skiers didn't take to Brundage's slopes until Dec. 30. Bogus Basin didn't open until Jan. 19.

Missing out on so much of the ski season tightened this season's budget but Russell said Brundage officials are looking forward to a better year despite those significant financial setbacks.

"What we've learned is that we can operate successfully missing a big chunk of the holiday period," she said. "The conclusion is that we've got a real solid foundation for our business and that we've figured out a way to weather some of those storms, or weather the lack of storms, maybe, is the right way to say that. We're really proud that we're still able to offer meaningful improvements to people this year."

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