Thursday, August 20, 2020

Try a scenic chairlift ride at Brundage Mountain or other Idaho ski areas while you still can ...

Hi all,

I've been hibernating in our cabin in McCall this week, blasting away on some writing and work projects, while trying to get out once a day for a hike, bike ride and/or a swim. I love how easy it is to do all of those things close to our cabin! 

On Wednesday, I thought it'd be neat to take my younger son, Drew, on a chairlift ride to the top of Brundage Mountain, and then hike down. We usually take Drew on hikes from the bottom of the mountain at Bogus Basin, and he does great climbing the mountain with us and doing a big loop to enjoy the 360 degrees views and the surrounding countryside. 

For Drew, a high-functioning autistic lad, this was his first chairlift ride. He doesn't like the thought of skiing, so we go snow-shoeing instead. But I thought, what a perfect thing to do for kids with disabilities to take them out of their comfort zone a little, and let them enjoy the thrill of getting a free and safe ride to the top of the mountain on a super smooth chairlift -- in the summer when it's warm! 

It might not be that big of a deal to us, but it's a BIG deal to them! 

Brundage operates its lifts Wed-Sunday. The one-ride lift ticket cost us $15 each. I wanted to take my pointer so he could get some exercise, but no dogs are allowed on the chairlift (understandable!), and no dogs are allowed on the Brundage trails. So we left Huck at home. 

The nifty thing about scenic chairlift rides with detachable quad chair systems is how easy it is to load and unload. The chairlift slows down to a crawl as you get on the chair, and it does the same at the top, decelerating as you approach the lift station. A sign says, "Keep your feet up!" when approaching the landing platform.  

At the bottom of the Bluebird Express lift, Drew walked right up to the loading platform with me and loaded on the chairlift like a champ. We took off our day packs and held them in our lap so our backs were free to lean against the back of the chair. We lowered the safety bar as soon as we were launched, and then Drew could see he was safe and sound. 

"Whew!" he said after we lowered the bar. "I sure don't want to fall off this thing. It's a long way down!" 

"But don't you feel safe now with the safety bar down?" 

"Yeah, I think so. I just don't want to fall off," he said. 

I talked about looking for deer and elk in the trees on the way up (we see tons of deer around our cabin), and we could see lots of wildflowers growing under the chairlift on the way up. Tall red paintbrush were in full bloom. 

The sky was kind of hazy on Wednesday because of some new lightning-caused wildfires in the Payette National Forest, and also fire smoke blowing into the area from Oregon and California. So we couldn't see the Wallowa Mountains in Oregon ... but Drew didn't really mind.

To hike down from the Brundage summit, they recommend taking hiking trails over by the Lakeview chair, and you can walk down the Growler xc trail over by the long Temptation ski run. You also can take the South Lodge access road down from the top, if you might prefer walking on a dirt road vs. a singletrack trail where you might encounter bikes. 

The views from the Lakeview chair area are splendid! Drew noticed Payette Lake, the city of McCall, and the McCall Airport. We saw lots of colorful wildflowers on the way down, quite a few chipmunks and squirrels, a goshawk cruising the treetops for a meal (bonus), and only one other hiker. 

Brundage, Bogus, Tamarack Resort and Sun Valley will be running their lifts through Labor Day weekend, and then it'll be up to your human power to reach the ski area summits. I highly recommend taking the lift to the top for a fun hike or bike ride on the way down. 

After we finished our trip, Drew said, "I'll never do that again," as he often says after the first time he does something new. But I promise you, it won't be his last chairlift ride. If anything, I wondered why it took me that long to take him on a chairlift!
- SS   

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