New Book Highlights History Of Brundage

Oct 8, 2012

Snow will soon fall in Idaho's mountains, getting skiers excited for the winter. Already ski resorts in Sun Valley are making snow. But it will be at least until Thanksgiving before one of Idaho's popular resorts in McCall opens. Brundage Mountain has roots that go back to the 1920s. 

New book details the history of Brundage Mountain
Credit Spike and Judy Baker

The history of this popular ski area is chronicled in a new book titled Brundage Mountain: Best Snow in Idaho. Boise author Eve Chandler wrote the book.  She’ll talk about her book at the Brown Bag Lecture Series at the Idaho State Historical Museum Tuesday in Boise.

Chandler said in a recent interview that Brundage grew out of an earlier ski spot, known as the Little Ski Hill.

“The Little Ski Hill opened in 1937 and it was a small recreational ski area for the town of McCall and New Meadows and Cascade.  It was really known for its big jump and there were many jumpers that came out of the McCall area.  Quite frankly, they outgrew the Little Ski Hill.  In the late 1950’s they had some of their hometown kids going off to the Olympics and they really needed a larger mountain to train their kids for the downhill and slalom racing.”

Q. And that led to Brundage in 1961?

A. It did.  Corey Engen, who was an Olympic skier and the instructor for the area, Warren Brown who owned the mill, they got together in the last 1950’s, around 1957, and started batting around the idea of creating a larger ski area for central Idaho. 

The 3 Founders of Brundage: Warren Brown, Jack Simplot and Corey Engen
Credit Brundage Archives

They brought on board Jack Simplot to help them with the financing.  In just two and a half short years, they worked with the Forest Service and looked at about four or five different locations, and they managed to open Brundage Mountain on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 1961 which is a remarkable feat to plan and jump through all the bureaucratic hoops and open a ski area in that short of time.

Q. The book is filled with photographs. How did you find all of these beautiful pictures?

A. There’s over 280 photographs.  I was so lucky because Brundage Mountain has a rich archives and it includes the early history of the skiing from the 1920’s to the present day.  Then many, many people came to me with their photographs. 

Photo by Jerry Cornilles of the 1961 Chair #1 loading area
Credit Jerry Cornilles

Jerry Cornilles, who lives in Nampa, brought me his professional photographs of Brundage Mountain that he took the first year they opened in 1961, ‘62. 

Q. Now you have all kinds of people, along with pictures, in this book.  You’ve got a lot of little profile sections on folks who have been important to Brundage or made an impact.  Is there one or two that are your favorite?

A. I love the profile on Abbie Johnson and Abbie is probably one of the oldest skiers up at Brundage.  She had a small little stroke a few years ago and she said that her doctor almost forbid her from skiing.  And she says there’s no way I’m going to die in a rocking chair.  So she comes out with a good friend, her husband has retired from skiing, but she meets a friend from North Idaho and she is from North Idaho herself and comes to spend the entire winter in the New Meadows area.  Just about daily, you’ll see Abbie on the hill, skiing her favorite run, Rodeo.  She does wear a helmet and she says she loves to ski fast.

Skiing at Brundage in the 1970's
Credit Spike Baker

Q. Wow, that’s amazing.  Now I wanted to ask you how did Brundage Mountain get its name?

A. Many people have offered stories and when I did the research, I had to find out which stories were true and which were false.  The true story is in the late 1890’s. 

There was a sheep man by the name of Winfield Scott Brundage and he would summer his sheep on Brundage Mountain.  He actually went through a log jam and brought his sheep up on the Mountain and found a perfect place for summering his sheep and so the Forest Service actually named Brundage Mountain after Mr. Brundage who was the first to summer his sheep in that area.

Copyright 2012  Boise State Public Radio