Where We Stand

As the sun rises, we are greeted again today by clear skies and a painfully empty snowbox.

We’re forced to look pretty deep into the forecast for a sign of potential snowfall, and no amount of snow dancing appears to be changing the stubborn high pressure system that’s keeping all the storm clouds at bay.

It’s easy to take all of these factors in and see the situation as half-empty (or worse). But, the half-full side of me has to admit, things could be worse, (and have been).

We were in a similar situation to this two years ago, with even less snow on the ground. Here’s our blog post from Dec. 8, 2009, for those who’d like to compare the photos.

For those who prefer to live in the present, here’s a closer look at exactly where we stand with snow right now:

Brundage Mountain is ready to open for daily operations just as soon as we get enough snow to properly pack and groom the slopes.

Statistics: We have about 14″ of snow at the base and up to 20″ on the summit. There is no ‘magic number’ of inches needed to open, but depending on the type of snow that falls, we’re about a foot short right now. We’re not seeing any real warm temperatures in the forecast, so we’re hopeful that we won’t lose too much of the snow we already have.

Now, let’s take a look at the pictures:

This wide shot of the top of Main Street makes things look pretty good.

Some hikers are finding good lines even up top.

BUT, a closer look shows just how carefully they must pick their turns.

Windy conditions up top have left large rocks exposed.

That’s why we can’t get our grooming machines up there quite yet. Not only does this threaten to damage the groomers, but once these rocks are exposed, the sun begins melting out the area all around them and we see bigger and bigger ‘holes’.

The top of Engen tells a similar story. Doesn’t look too bad from afar.

But the wind has scoured the snow off the top of that run, too.

There’s not quite enough snowpack to move snow from another area to try and cover this up.

The Centennial Lift Terminal has also been somewhat wind-blasted.

Despite all those negatives, there are some positive forces at work.

The snow that’s now blanketing the mountain is more consolidated than in recent years. (You may recall two years ago, we got almost three feet of really powdery snow prior to opening, but there was not a lot of moisture content, so the Opening Day 2008 snow seemed bottomless and we could not groom a couple of our main slopes prior to opening.)

And, once you descend in elevation (out of the wind path) you can see the slopes are actually looking pretty well-covered. This is Temptation Ridge right under the Lakeview Lift, and that is Kickback over to the left. Here, we’ve been able to track-pack the slopes so the grooves will capture the next blast of snow. (The rougher the surface, the better chance the snow has of sticking even if the wind is blowing up that ridge.)

Farther down Temptation, a similar story.

We’ve been able to track pack 45th Parallel, Temptation, North, parts of the Lakeview runs and Griz and Thumper.

Right now, the snow is still too thin to get our 18,000 pound grooming machines on Engen (the bottom of Engen is shown below), Main Street, Alpine and parts of other runs.

A look on the lower part of the mountain shows the other benefits of track-packing:

This shot was taken on Jammer, one of the runs we can’t track-pack yet. You can see the brush looks a little stubborn.

Same situation on Bear.

But, look at what happens once the slopes are tracked:

The brush on the lower part of Alpine has been ‘knocked down’ and should easily submit to the next layer of snow and fold under the snow surface.

Farther up Alpine, you can see how our investment in brush cutting is paying off.

There’s some flimsy brush up there, but nothing compared to what we were dealing with three years ago at this time. Check out this photo from early December 2009.

As I said, things could (and have been) worse. That’s the half-full part of the story. The half-empty part is how it feels to want so desperately to be skiing right now and to still be looking at an uninspiring forecast.

But as we head further in the month of December, we remain optimistic that the forecast will improve and the snow spigot will turn on once again.

And please know, we are primed and ready to spring into action just as soon as that happens.

– April



  1. Devinne Fagen says

    Thanks for the update! Been wondering how it looks up there. Can’t wait for the season to open up! WOOOOOOOOHOOOOOO! Snow Snow Snow Snow Snow Snow Snow…… pa pa pa please weather.

  2. Dave Crawford says

    Thanks April. Santa’s comimg…and he has a sleigh full of snow for all the good girls and boys! Thinking positive thoughts!

  3. skinny skis says

    What is your opening policy? Does the mountain have to be 100% skiable or might you open with just a few runs? Thanks for the update.

    • says

      Hi Skinny skis –
      We would consider opening without 100% of everything open, as long as we feel there are safe routes on enough of the mountain.

  4. Brad Lester says

    Thanks for the update. Even the high country hike in skiing is thin so far. All of us with nice equipment appreciate Brundage Mountain not opening until we won’t tear our equipment up but also have the type of day we expect at Brundage after the two hour drive. Keep the snow dances going!!

  5. says

    Hi April,

    As Devinne states, “thanks for the update” and for the effort you went through (beautiful pictures and all) to provide it.

    I’ve been faithfully doing my snow dances. I believe that to be effective, they must be performed outside so that Mother Nature can see them. But alas, so can the neighbors who are beginning to snicker and point. Aaaaaaaaaaany way, the dancing continues. My shoe soles are wearing out, though! Maybe Santa can be of assistance with sleigh loads of the white fluffy stuff.

    Thanks again for the much appreciated update,
    Al Schunk

    • says

      Hi Al –
      It’s great to hear you are doing your part. Perhaps you can get your neighbors to join you? I’ve sent a couple letters to Santa about bringing us some snow, it would be a lot better if he could deliver it before Christmas, though!

    • says

      Hi Gator Hater –
      We have definitely looked into the pros and cons of installing and operating snowmaking equipment. At this point, we are reluctant to permanently raise ticket prices in order to invest in something that would only benefit us a few weeks a year (and not be necessary at all during other years.) It is something that is always up for discussion, but the expense is considerable and at this point we feel most of our visitors would prefer that their season pass and ticket prices remain stable. There are several ski areas in Idaho that that do have snowmaking, and that’s a great option for skiers and riders who are really eager to ski early season. There are many other ski areas that do not have snowmaking, Brundage is far from alone in that category.

  6. Gerry says

    Well, it’s 83 degrees here today in Buenos Aires and I’m confidents there will be snow on the slopes when I get to McCall in 12 days! Put that fuel in the groomers, ’cause I’m sure you’re going to need ’em ready!

    We appreciate the updates, and the reminder about ’08 was excellent. Wow! Was it ever deep that year!

    As my son say, “Green Trees — Fresh Tracks!”

  7. says

    Hi April,

    I suppose man made snow is better than no snow but, I spent too many years skiing on snow from machines back east and……….as anxious as I am to begin skiing, I’d prefer to do it on real snow that covers the entire mountain and not just the runs.


  8. Doug Cox says

    Team Brundage, thanks for the update. We on the Palouse are looking forward to our annual snow ski vacation in McCall over New years. Let the snow fall so the party can begin, GO COUGS !!!!!

  9. Brad Lester says

    Hi April,

    Please! No man made snow. No opening one run. If we wanted mediocre snow we would go to SV or Bogus. Brundage has always set the bar high and BRUNDAGE PROVIDES!

    Snow dances everyone!!!

    • says

      Hi Everyone –
      Thanks for taking the time to share your feelings on our operations and our snow situation. It’s wonderful to see how many supporters we have out there who are looking forward to skiing and riding with us this year. Now….who is going to track down that La Nina lady and get her on our team???

  10. El Tigre' says

    First off April awesome job, Brundage would not be the same with out you. I have grown up on this mountain, 30+ years, and I’ve seen amazing years, and I have seen years that start slow just like this one. Ullr has always delivered in the end. I would like to bring up attitude. If you are a person that is going to whine and complain about our conditions, now you are most likely never going to be happy with them. Brundage and McCall need tourist revenue to operate but in this case and I am sure most would agree, we really don’t need or want your charity, and more importantly we don’t want to ski with you. I am sorry for the rant but it saddens me to see so many improvements to our small town hill year after year, just to have people from, the low lands complain about it and tear it down. You don’t like it STAY AWAY. To the rest of you willing to wait for it or like me or go for a hike and earn some turn, I will see you when its Knee deep!

  11. skinny skis says

    El Tigre…it saddens me to read your statement. Why go there? Where would McCall be with out tourists? Do you speak for the community regarding your charity statement?

    • says

      Hi everyone –
      One thing that is terrific about Brundage Mountain is that we have so many people who feel passionately about the mountain and what we do here. We don’t ever want that to change. That does mean that people will often disagree about things, especially in a forum like the one provided by this blog. We do ask that everyone remain civil and to understand that skiing and snowboarding are passionate pursuits…but let’s try to keep it in perspective, and focus our energy on something productive…like keeping our spirits up and staying positive until that snow falls and we can all go work it out on the slopes!

  12. el Tigre' says

    First off I didn’t mean to offend if I did. I went there because I dislike ungrateful people, those who are never going to be happy. Good snow or bad, snow makers or not. We are lucky to have a ski area. Do they have any idea what is going on as we speak at Brundage. Dozens of people are working tirelessly to better the mountain. Yet they call us names like “BUMdage.” Yes we need tourist income, especially now more than ever, as a mater of fact, my income depends on it. I’ve been here my entire life, I know what it means to live in a ski town. It upsets me when people bring there big resort ideals to our small hill and I don’t feel we need the negativity. These folks are just going to go tell all there friends what a terrible experience they had. We don’t need negative publicity. Word of mouth travels fast. Our hill has done just fine over the last 50 years. There are other resorts in the area that offer all that we don’t and they are on the verge of bankruptcy. No I do not speak for the community I am sure of that. But I speak for a pretty good number of folks who work hard to make our town and hill what they are today, and year after year it is cut down and under appreciated.

    Brundage has just purchased new groomers, remodeled the lodge, and spent countless hours maintaing all 5 lifts so there are fewer stops, just to name a few. They put their funds where it is needed most. All I am trying to say here is be patient with Brundage, it will get there some day, but for the time being people need to be thankful for what we have.

  13. Dave Crawford says

    Ditto’s to the fantastic job April does, and I’d extend that to the entire Brundage crew. Mine is a nay vote on snowmaking. Idaho has plenty of mountains with man-made snow within a 3 hour drive of most anywhere for those who want early groomers. Tamarack is just down the road if you must. Brundage is among the last of the family-oriented resorts who keep costs reasonable while constantly improving on what they have. Better to not price the family (or those without kids for that matter)out for the sake of a couple weeks of icy groomers (try pricing a pass at Sun Valley). If parents can’t afford to introduce kids to the wonders of skiing, who will buy the tickets at the 100th birthday party? The snow will come. Have faith my friends.

  14. Uncle Festus says

    El Tigre: Only ONE comment was negative up until you unleashed. Virtually EVERYONE except ONE is a very positive comment and we know we have to be patient. I MOVED here for the skiing and my ski life revolves around this mountain also. I’ve skied 52 different areas,taught in three states and Brundage is my home and this is where I am circling the wagons.

  15. the tourist says

    El Tigre

    My family and I travel from Australia every second year to ski Brundage. next year the itinery is all the big names – LA, NY, Washington and McCall.

    We have skiied all the big Colorado resorts and some European ones and have convinced 10 or so families from Australia to travel over the last four years as well, who have come back second times and are planning other trips. That is right – drive straight past SV, avoid Aspen and head to McCall.

    Don’t feel the need to defend Brundage to Big Mountain folk, and be careful not to wish it grow into an ugly monster. People here are confused and think we ski in Iowa and Ohio – it keeps it just as we like it – perfect, uncrowded and friendly. We only selectively invite people to come with us and they all go home saying it was the best holiday they have had. You need to ‘get it” and some people wont and you just can’t change them, as much as you would like to try.

    The Brun will start pumping soon enough.

    Have a great season

  16. Tom says

    My home area is Mt. Baker, WA, which I ski 40+ times a year. We’ve been open since mid-November so I’ve been getting my days in. But, I’m planning a return trip to Brundage in February. Came over for the first time this past January for 8 days and had a great time. Brundage has some great wide open fall line runs and I had a couple of great days on the runs in Lakeview Bowl. I’ve skied BC, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and I can say that without exception the people I interacted with at Brundage were the friendliest, most accommodating ski area personnel I’ve dealt with. And McCall was just a great place to visit. So, like everyone else, I’ll do a snow dance for central Idaho and trust that this February will bring another great ski trip experience.

  17. says


    First off…Bogus seriously needs a marketing person like yourself! Your efforts on keeping the Brundage website fresh and relevant create a feeling of really being up there on the hill. Your posts alone have me leaning to going with a Brundage pass next year, skipping the Bogus pass, and dealing with the extra 1 hour drive (better snow/hill helps too). You do a great job of connecting the site visitor with the hill.

    Secondly…Plan on extending your season. Howard Sheckter (mammothweather.com) mentioned that Strato-warming is occurring which will hopefully translate to a late yet extreme winter for us in the Northwest.

    Again, thanks for making this low-lander feel like part of the Brundage family.


    • says

      Hi everyone –
      It’s so nice to hear a variety of responses from a variety of visitors. Part of what gives Brundage its ‘warm feeling’ is the mixture of like-minded people who ski and ride here – no matter where they come from. As ‘the tourist’ and Tom have mentioned, Brundage has a special character which attracts people who appreciate those same qualities. In our remote location without a huge population base to support us, we can’t afford to be everything to everyone. But we have been very deliberate in focusing our energy (and investments) on excelling at what we believe most of our guests come here for: great slope conditions (on- and off-trail) and friendly, helpful, authentic service. That warm, friendly feeling goes both ways! I often remind our employees that overall, we have the nicest, warmest, most understanding VISITORS that I’ve ever seen at any ski resort. The vast majority of people who choose to spend their leisure time here are friendly, appreciative of what we offer, and many even take the time to learn our names and regularly thank our employees for what they do. This is a rare treat and is as much a part of the Brundage atmosphere as the employees themselves. That’s also part of the reason that people tend to take things personally and get emotionally involved in these forums. We take a lot of pride in the experience we offer here (both at Brundage and in McCall, as well), and believe me, no one is more frustrated that we are not open than those of us who dedicate ourselves to offering that experience. (As it turns out, most of us work here because we love Brundage for all the same reasons that are mentioned on this board.)

      Now, a note to Todd, specifically. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your compliment. I really do believe that letting our friends look ‘behind the curtain’ helps them understand what is going on here. Especially when it comes to snow conditions, pictures and personal experience tell so much more than some statistics on a page, and I’m always glad to hear that our efforts to share that are resonating with our visitors. As for the extended season, we can only hope! As you may know, in recent years we have continued to operate on weekends for as long as snow conditions allowed. We do that both to give extra value to our season pass holders and also to provide the region’s only late-season skiing experience, which can attract visitors from all over Idaho and beyond. Let’s all hope that Howard Sheckter is right. His forecast caters into our Spring operating model perfectly. As our frequent visitors know, some of our best powder days are in March and April, and with a ‘late start’ this year, we could really use a nice, healthy spring season!

  18. says

    Couldn’t agree more with Todd, great job on keeping us well informed with the pics and descriptors. Snowbasin web managers could learn a lot from you. Been skiing Brundage on/off since the late 70’s. Can’t wait to visit the mountain and McCall again soon. We’ll be in McCall during Christmas and sure hope to see a “two footer” or better between now and then. snails

  19. says

    April, your blog has been most helpful to me. I am considering a trip with my 2 1/2 year old son from Bozeman, MT into Idaho to see family this winter. I know Brundage has some super snow days and I am looking forward to the great days of snow you WILL get this winter. Now, I have plenty of great hills to ski here at Bozeman and near by; Bridger Bowl, Big Sky,and Moonlight Basin (married at a church in Big Sky and had a reception at the beautiful Lodge in Moonlight Basin 2004), but I still like to see the country and have fun elsewhere, SO, I just wanted to thank you for the great blog. It will make the differnce in when I get to come over! Love those photos. I am excited to come and try Brundage. I look forward to enjoying what sounds like a GREAT place to spend a day! Love you guys. Don’t change. Keep things great, just as they are!

  20. Eric Brittingham says

    Thanks for a great rundown on current conditions. We are in a holding pattern as to our trip to Brundage the first of January but we’re staying positive. We’ll say a little prayer for snow for you.

  21. Bernie Schultheis says

    Thanks for the explaination April. Effort like yours are another example why Brundage and McCall ROCK. Have had our season passes for 2 months now, it will snow and when it does the skiing will be great. In the meantime Brundage and McCall are still great. See you there Doug.

  22. Jimmy Buffett says

    Well Parrotheads, if we dont have snow perhaps we need a show ? Join the Palouse possey for a festive New Years. Fins up and Go Cougs ! dc

  23. One track says

    Hello. I just moved here from the good ole southeast. South of the Mason Dixon line as a matter of fact. All of our snow back home was machine made. It is a rideable surface but not very desirable. Depending on your snow making crew determines the quality of the snow you can produce. I’ve seen it for several years. These guys go out in the most horrible conditions checking blowers for freeze ups and wind shifts. Digging out guns and pulling air and water lines. Plus the equipment that’s scattered all over the mountain. You’ll have air and water lines, 480 VAC power lines plus the equipment on the side of the slopes. Have you ever seen what 480volts will do to a ski or snowboard edge? It’s not pretty.

  24. Clots says

    My family and I are chomping at the bit to ski. Bags are packed, ski’s are loaded, just need the Snow lords to stop by and drop a few feet for us!!! Thanks for the update…

  25. R Schuss says

    Great status report. Thanks to Brundage crew for sticking to real snow. Manmade snow is just a bunch of frozen iceballs; as hard on skis as rocks! Hooray for real snow! It’ll be here!

  26. Salie Anne says

    Thank you for the update. I live in Dallas, Texas have been to Brundage a half a dozon times, in the last ten years, due to family in the area. I will be sad not to be able to ski this time – but I admire you all for being careful with the mountain. Have a wonderful ski season.

  27. Darrell Holden says

    I’ve hike up there a couple times now and I don’t understand why 1-2 of the runs are not open. I don’t think anyone expects the entire mountain to open so why not just open the runs that are available and definately packed and easy to ski? It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Thanks for listening

    • says

      Hi Darrell –
      We have definitely considered the possibility of a partial opening. However, we do need to offer some groomed terrain for safety reasons. (Including our ability to evacuate someone in the case of an injury.) In order to groom, a slope must first be compacted, then tilled. Each pass packs the snow down an additional 7 or 8 inches from what you are seeing on the mountain. Right now, our lower slopes do not have enough snow for us to do that without kicking up dirt and rocks, which present a real hazard. That said, we continue to monitor our slope conditions closely and would consider a partial opening, as you suggest, as we get more snow.

  28. Uncle Festus says

    It really is almost ALL or NOTHING. Can you just imagine 1500-2000 people on one or two runs? Won’t happen. Don’t want 2000 people on one or two runs during the holidays? Good luck on limiting WHO is allowed to ski on them and who isn’t. Lot’s of pent up frustration here relating to opening status on the mountain and in McCall where it is as desolate as a December with no skiing. LIKE IT IS NOW.

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