Brundage, Idaho is a wonderful “find” (Or should I say “rediscovery”?) in central Idaho, just outside of McCall, anther great “find” in small towns. Actually I visited McCall in the prior century, or was it a earlier life? We considered relocating here, but the kids ski lives and education took precedence and we never made the move. Hmmm … I wonder …
The road trip was a bit of a stretch following my sojourn in Utah, so I settled down in Boise, Idaho for a couple of nights. From my one motel room I had hoped to visit 3 areas. Tamarack was first on the list, but extending circumstances had pushed my arrival to beyond the close, and I’ll just have to return to experience the newer addition to the Idaho ski market.
Not to be discouraged, I simply sidled up the road a piece and invested the afternoon at Brundage. I remain impressed. This is a large, diversified mountain with great natural snow, diversity and comforts. I say only an afternoon? What can I say or do? It is a two hour, picturesque drive form Boise. But it’s well worth the long drive. And the road winds and twists the scenic,historic Payette River canyon.
Surprisingly in my research and preparation the previous evening, I opted to purchase a pass for Brundage from Liftopia, the universal online ski pass vendor. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse: $12.00 for a senior one day ticket. And the offer was only good until midnight. The normal adult ticket was $47 (not bad in and od itself!) and even if I received the customary 50% professional courtesy, I’d still be ahead. True, smaller, friendly facilities sometimes generously “comp” (shorthand for “complimentary) especially late in the season (well after, I hope, their seasonal goals have been met or exceeded). Opting for assuridy over optimism, I pushed the “enter”” key just before dozing off for the night.
The parking lot was fairly populated for a midweek day. But I found a spot comfortably close to the lodge entrance. Upon my hike up to the next level, a broad semi-circular sun terrace of cultured stone stretched from the southern wall of the lodge toward the more distant main lift. It was drenched awash in sunlight, warm and wonderful. And despite a rim of welcoming chairs, there was not a single butt settled into a single chaise.
I introduced myself de rigeur at the guest services counter. Yes, indeed they do extended “professional courtesy” but I as I had suspected, my Liftopia offer is an even lower cost. Note: the two employees were very pleasant, accommodative and informative. I was unable to bring up the confirmation code on my computer screen, but the young lady took the extra time, invested the added effort, and dug my pre-paid reservation out of her computer. No hassles here. I just affixed my pass, traded a little more chatter, and set out on my way to the closest lift. Thank you very much!
There were no crowds, but several skiers were wandering their way toward the high speed quad lift. So I politely enquired if we might share the ride with another obviously solo skier. Well if it didn’t happen yet again as so often in the past. After introducing ourselves, Deann explained she was very familiar with the area, but her home hill was actually down the road at Tamarack. She was only here for the day for her area, as I knew was closed for the season.
And what’s more, Deannn was an instructor deeply engaged with the youth program. She had recently finished the compulsory clinic as required for her level III certification. Naturally I begged to shadow her, and she cheerfully offered to show me around the mountain.
Well she lead me along a narrow cross-track and through some pines that I know I never would have discovered if I were on my own. Like all the days on this odyssey, the snow was still deep and untracked, but too wet for me to drop into any of the extreme steeps and trees we both by-passed on this day. But now I know there’s terrain available off the normal runs to anyone intrepid or foolish enough to take the plunge. Er, I hope to return under more forgiving conditions,
Man, did I ever appreciate Deann’s hospitability and knowledge. We traded information on our respective youth and instructional programs.As good as Brundage is, she encouraged me to return and visit her mountain. She and her husband had recently moved into the area, having retired from the careers in Seattle. She raved about the area and had to question our “almost moved” decision of years ago.
When I broke at the end of the day, I learned of the three local craft breweries conveniently located in town. I almost went for the “Mountain Taco” appetizer plate, but realized the aptly labeled dish was far more than I could consume in a full meal. Hey, I don’t want to be too full to enjoy my visit to McCall’s breweries.
Now it’s four o’clock and the lifts are closed. And here are these three massive, expansive decks, all ideally situated to soak up the sun on a mild spring day high in the mountains. And there is no one here. So alone on the lower level, changing to my “civies” (civilian clothes of normal people), I simply sat back, popped a can from the supply I store for such occasions in my ski bag, and favored the moment (or should I admit the hour?) … ahhh, life is good!
The Brundage lodge has three levels of sun decks. The ground level offers 5,000 square feet of paver, hardscape. as an apron approach which includes a gas-fired fire pit. The second level 1,750 square feet wraps Smokey’s Bar and Grill, goof restaurant and watering hole. The third level is a mere 1,450 square feet and accommodates the retail end of the business, ticketing, and rentals.
But wait, there’s more. As I was loading my car which I was able to drive to the very bases of the lodge stairs, I bumped into a young man and we broke into a chat about the fine life here at the mountain and McCall in general. Yes, he reiterated all I’d heard so far and more. “But,” he said “Perhaps I’m jaded, because I work here at Brundage.”
“Oh?” said I. “And what do are your responsibilities, here?”
“I’m the marketing guy.” replied Mike. Well you could have knocked me over with a feather. THE Marketing Director is the person I always long to meet but hardly ever make it on some my visits. Mike is THE guy you work with when organizing a group tour to any area. And do I ever want to bring a group out here? You betcha. This is my kind of area. Mike Hayes and I exchanged contact info and you can bet the mortgage: Just like the Terminator, “I’ll be back.” And, I won’t be alone!
It was a short drive to the center of town and I easily spotted The Salmon River Brewery. Now, I think you know by know I relish visits to craft breweries, but this was no simply brewery. It was a fine dining experience as attested by the packed parking lot and fully packed dining room. I had no wait however as I nade my way to the an open stool at the bar swiftly moving past the “Please wait to be seated” instructions prominently posted on the hostess’ lectern. I learned long ago, it’s far easier to ask forgiveness than seek permission!
The friendly bar keep granted me absolution and further honored my request for the soup ‘n sandwich luncheon special despite the advent of the dinner hour. I thoroughly enjoyed the food and especially the draft, but the couple seated next to me were sipping wine – wine at a craft brewery!
So I had to question their wisdom and in the ensuing conversation, I eventually learned they had a condominium close by and loved life here in McCall. Dottie and Mike are not skiers per say, but still they enjoyed living in the mountains. They both cited the large lake (well reservoir) on which the town was anchored. Dottie is a nurse employed by the local Blue Cross, but is anticipating her approaching retirement. How coincidental and appropriate. My wife is planning to retirement from her nurse-case manager position at Travelers in the months to come.
Yes, they highly recommend retirement here in Idaho. The cost of living is reasonable, the people are pleasant, and life is good. Hey, you never know …
That’s all in the near future. Tonight I’m heading back to Boise. Tomorrow is another day of skiing and it’s Bogus Basin Thursday.