Pacific NW/AK/BC Trip Report: Brundage January 19-22, 2016

David Chaus

Epic & Ikon because I’m indecisive. Or am I?
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Brundage is in central Idaho, about 2 1/2 hours drive from Boise. We drove from the Seattle area, which took about 8 hours. Brundage does not have lodging at the mountain; McCall is about 20 minutes away on Payette Lake. McCall is at an elevation of 5000 feet and has a population of about 3000. The base at Brundage is 5800' and is about a 20-25 minute drive along a winding road (not scary or hairpin-turny, but still 4 miles of 15-30mph wiring road). Originally a logging town, these days McCall is pretty much a year-round tourist destination. Let me clarify that: tourist-outdoors-recreational, rather than tourist-luxury-pampered. People come here to do stuff: hiking, fishing, hunting, and in the winter snowshoe-ing, snowmobiling, and of course skiing and boarding. For it size, McCall over-achieves in food quality IMHO. They have a large number of restaurants including a fabulous bakery, Stacey Cakes, plus a great sushi restaurant, right across the street from a micro-brewery that also has outstanding food. It’s a pretty town, right on the lake, and Payette Lake State Park on a peninsula dividing the lake. There are woods in every direction, with lots of wildlife. Drive down any side street and you will see 3-4 deer at a time, and they will often show up right outside your condo back deck. We also saw a fox a couple of times right outside the deck.

On a clear day, you can see mountains all around you. On a foggy day, you can see fog all around you. Which brings me to Brundage. My first day there, it was a foggy on the the top third of the ski area. The second day, foggy from top to bottom. The last two days, overcast but clear visibility, and from the top of the Lakeview side you can see into town (and vice versa).

With fog.

Without fog.

The lodge. Tix on basement/ground floor, ski shop and day lockers on 1st floor, Smokey's Bar and Grill on the 2nd floor along with season lockers and restrooms, and cafeteria/brown bag area on 3rd floor.

Brundage is not a huge resort, with about 1500 acres and 1800’ vertical. They are planning an expansion though, that will open up a lot of more challenging terrain. That said, it skis larger than it is, because there aren’t many people on the slopes. My first day, I was blown away by the fact that when I started a run I was often the only person there, practically top-to-bottom.

I'm just all alone.

Brundage has mostly locals, but then McCall's population is only 3000. On weekends it draws traffic from Boise, though Boise also has Bogus Basin right there, and Tamarack as well is only 30 minutes from McCall (didn’t get there this trip). So, big enough terrain with few enough people, to make it pretty empty most of the time.

Glades. I love glades.

Brundage is predominantly an intermediate resort, with wide open runs, most of them groomed. However on a powder day, they groom minimally. Also there are glades and glades and glades and glades. A day or two after a 6” powder day, there were still nice patches of powder in the trees, and you can pretty much ski the trees in between every run. To the north side of the resort is Hidden Valley (north of a run called North) it’s trees and glades, no cut runs. The future terrain expansion, currently 20-30 minute hike-to terrain is beyond this area. Currently the one inbounds double black pitch, Northwest Passage, is fairly short, but steep.

So you don’t come here for the gnar, you come for the snow. Brundage claims to have the best snow in Idaho, and with the lack of crowds your chance of getting powder is better here than anyplace else IMHO. On the lifts I met locals, but also a few travelers on ski vacations from Florida or Jersey (the guy who’s working on his 5-year retirement plan to move to Boise, will a condo in McCall). I met family from Montana on vacation, the mother had grown up skiing Winter Park/MJ and loved Brundage. Brundage earned Top 10 rankings in Ski magazine this past year (#9 for families, #10 for value and #10 for snow). I agree with all of those (great terrain pod for beginners on Easy Street and Bear chairs; tickets $62, and great snow) but I’m amazed Brundage even made it on anyone’s radar, as it isn’t a “resort” with base lodging or tons of activities at the mountain, or otherwise much industry buzz as a destination. Most of the resorts that are ranked are much larger and well-known. So somehow they got enough destination visitors, who like myself, had an awesome time. The snow is definitely drier than the Cascade concrete I’m accustomed to, and lasts a long time without setting up.

The main lift, Bluebird, is an express quad with about 1500’ vertical. From there, you can reach most of the mountain. About 4 runs, plus the trees in between, are immediate accessible, to skiers’ right a traverse takes you to the Northwest Passage and Hidden Valley areas. Skiers’ left takes you to a few more long cruisers, plus the trees in between, past the Centennial lift (fixed grip triple that runs on weekends), past Meadow Bowl (absolutely spend some time here), to the Lakeview Ridge. Lakeview Ridge starts to parallel the Lakeview chair lift, a fixed grip triple with about 900‘ vertical, with 3 groomed runs, one runs that’s never groomed, and lots of glades. You can spend a lot of time exploring the Lakeview area, and the view from the top of McCall and the surrounding area is spectacular, unless it’s foggy and you can’t see s#%t. But then, they have all these trees.

Top of Meadow Bowl.

Lakeview chair, McCall visible in background (center).

Continuing on Lakeview Ridge it turns back to the front side and merges with a long green run Temptation, dropping you into the bottom of the Centennial and Bear chairs. Take the Bear chair and it’s a short run on Griz to return to the base.

On my last day we had checked out of the condo and wanted to hit the road, so I skied a half day; in 3 hours I easily racked up 15,000 vertical feet, mostly on the Bluebird express but with a couple of runs at Lakeview and returns on Bear, with a few more times on runs like 45th Parallel that require using the Bear chair to return to base.

In summary, if you like smaller towns, with decent food, friendly people, beautiful setting on a lake surrounded by forests, little to no traffic (no stoplights), easy access to the slopes, great snow, and are willing to live without a ton of steep terrain, Brundage makes for a great trip.
 
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fosphenytoin

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@David Chaus - is AWD / 4WD necessary to travel from Boise, ID to Brundage + Tamarack? Contemplating a visit in mid Feb (President's day weekend) or early March. Thanks in advance.
 
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David Chaus

David Chaus

Epic & Ikon because I’m indecisive. Or am I?
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Not really necessary, no. It's fairly dry around Boise until you get into the mountains, and the highway to the Lake Cascade area (towns of Cascade and McCall) follows the Payette river and doesn't have major mountain passes. Most of the snowfall is right around McCall and especially around the Brundage Mountain road itself.
 

DanoT

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@fosphenytoin, thanks for reviving this thread. One of these seasons I am going to do a Indy resort tour including Silver, Lost Trail, 49*North, and others, now including Brundage.

Is Brundage a 7 day a week mountain?
 
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David Chaus

David Chaus

Epic & Ikon because I’m indecisive. Or am I?
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No, more like 3-4 days, but then maybe Tamarack another 2-3 days and they’re like 45 minutes apart. McCall is in between the two, about 15 minutes to Brundage and a half hour to Tamarack.

Edit: if by 7-day a week mountain you mean open every day, yes they are.
 

fosphenytoin

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One more question: How difficult / treacherous is the drive from Boise, ID to Tamarack?
 
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David Chaus

David Chaus

Epic & Ikon because I’m indecisive. Or am I?
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About the same as Boise to Brundage. Not very.
 

slowrider

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Lots of vintage b&w ski photos in the bar & grill. Fun ski hill for cruising. Check out local market for tix discounts. Great review David
 
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