Bringing the Economy Home

A Seasonal Ski Hill Is One Idaho County’s Top Employer

In about 30 minutes, outdoor winter recreators can escape the snow-less city of Boise and find themselves in a winter wonderland.  It’s the Bogus Basin Mountain Recreation Area.  Downhill ski slopes along with Nordic and snowshoe trails are perched on the far southern end of Boise County, just across the Ada County line.  It’s this seasonal ski hill that is Boise County’s top private employer.

Justin Marty / Flickr

Bogus Basin Ski Area, outside Boise, Idaho

Bogus Basin employs on average 200 to 300 people each year.  That’s according to data from the Idaho Department of Labor.  To get the data, the department calculated the average number of employees between October 2010 and September 2011.  So, it’s not always an accurate measure of what’s really happening.

The general manager at Bogus Basin, Mike Shirley says the ski area hands out about 1,000 W-2s each year.  That includes part time, temporary and full time workers.  Shirley says Bogus Basin has just 35 full time, year-round employees.

“We go from 35 year round employees to probably 700 in the wintertime,” Shirley says.  “We run two or three shifts with all the grooming and everything and we’re open day and night so we have at least two shifts of customer service, ski school, rental shop and everything that happens up there.”

Shirley says it’s a unique situation, because Bogus Basin wouldn’t survive without the nearby cities across the county line like Boise, Meridian and Nampa.  “I wouldn’t bet any of them [employees] live in Boise County,” Shirley says.  “We really do have an anomalous situation with relying on Boise for our customer base and employment base and everything else.”

Shirley wasn’t surprised when I called with data showing his ski hill is the top employer in the county.  He says Boise County is in tough shape.  It was once home to the largest city in the state, the county seat, Idaho City.

That was back when gold miners struck it rich in 1862.  Idaho City Chamber of Commerce Vice President Betty Banas says the miners made money fast, then most of them left town.

“Within a few years of the strike, the gold had become harder to find and more difficult to mine. With fortunes no longer to be made, the prospectors left in droves.  Fires also ravaged the community. The first, in 1865, wiped out eighty percent of the buildings in town. Others, in 1867,1868, and 1871, were similarly destructive.” – Idaho City Chamber of Commerce

Jessica Pupovac / NPR StateImpact

Click on the map to see the top five employers in Boise County.

Canadian mining companies Mosquito Consolidated and Atlanta Gold Inc. are doing exploratory drilling in the area.  Banas believes mining is about to make a come-back in her town.  “I think a lot of people hope it does,” Banas says.  “But this town has been so pushed down – it hasn’t got a lot of sparkle and hope.”

The Data

Boise County’s population has fluctuated wildly in the last century.  Census data estimates Boise County’s population was more than 5,000 people in 1910, by 1960 just over 1,500 people lived in the rural county.  It’s steadily increased since the 60s and today about 7,000 people live in the county.

[spreadsheet key=”0AiLU6Cs5LWZIdGVZaUZHMDFuNDlNeWZPRVo3QlpRVXc” source=”U.S. Census Bureau/Bureau of Labor Statistics ” sheet=0 filter=0 paginate=0 sortable=0]

To see Boise County’s top five employers click here.


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