At the beginning of the summer, Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area—with the help of the city of Boise—launched a $60,000 feasibility study conducted by SE Group, a national resort consultancy firm with an office in Ketchum. The firm hosted an open house Sept. 1 at the Highlands Event Center in Boise, where it unveiled its findings on how to help the ski resort, which has been hit with lagging revenue and low-snow years.
The bottom line: Bogus needs to invest in robust snowmaking, increase summer recreation opportunities and raise prices.
Nearly 200 people packed the room as SE Group President Ted Beeler went through slide after slide detailing the plights facing Bogus Basin, including a bout of dwarf mistletoe plaguing the forest.
He detailed a wish list compiled from surveys of mountain users and managers, which included detachable quads to replace the Coach and Morning Star lifts as well as upgraded lodges and a larger marketing department.
None of that is possible if Bogus keeps charging so little for lift tickets and season passes.
"Price structure is the heart of the issue," Beeler told the audience. "In the past several years, comparable ski areas have raised their day lift tickets from $71 to $85. Bogus went from $48 to $49. This is obviously not a sustainable business model. Even as a not-for-profit, Bogus needs to generate a profit to make improvements."
The study, which will be completed in October, suggests myriad other recreation opportunities the resort could invest in to drive more traffic. These include zip lines, adventure courses, mountain boarding, panning for gold, summer tubing, fat-tire snow biking, a climbing wall, festivals and Segway tours.
Mountain managers are taking steps to save money for the upcoming season, though prices won't raise until the 2016-2017 ski season at the earliest. This year, Bogus will shorten its hours. Chairlifts will close at 4:30 p.m., Sunday-Tuesday and 9 p.m. all other nights, instead of the usual 10 p.m.
"Operating seven days and nights a week is extremely expensive for us," Interim General Manager Nathan Shake told Boise Weekly. "We looked at our sales and visits during those hours and from 9 to 10 p.m., it was nonexistent. Shaving off that hour for the whole season is pretty significant."
The mountain will also only open for weekends during preseason—meaning Thanksgiving-Dec. 12—and for the month of April.
Shake pointed out that if Bogus' season pass price had kept pace with inflation, it would cost well over $300, rather than the popular $199 season pass sale skiers enjoyed until prices went up to $229 in 2013.
"It's a tough story to tell. We've had four bad snow years and we're going to raise the price," he said. "We just have to keep our existence in mind."
At the end of the open house, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter made a brief appearance where he waved the flag for Bogus Basin.
"I was asked if the city would participate in this feasibility effort, and my answer was, 'Are you kidding me? Of course we will,'" Bieter said. "We'll do all we can to make Bogus thrive. I just have to say ... I want to talk about a gondola from here to Bogus."
That got a rise out of the crowd.
"As crazy as that is, who knows, maybe we look to do that someday," Bieter said. "We're going to be skiing at Bogus and recreating at Bogus forever."
A few open house attendees were disappointed no time was allotted for a question-and-answer session or public discussion. Rather, those interested in sharing their opinion are urged to participate in another online survey at bogusbasin.org.