Tamarack survives long, strange ride

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) - In December 2004, Tamarack Resort opened as the first new U.S. ski resort in decades, and it was surfing the giant swell of the real estate boom.

The resort sold roughly half a billion dollars worth of property and borrowed hundreds of millions more to develop a grandiose ski and recreation resort fueled by pricey vacation homes, condos and hotels.

Then the real estate market crashed.

The story of Tamarack has been told often, and the resort is frequently tagged with “financially troubled” or a similar description.

But what’s often overlooked is through it all - with the exception of one ski season - Tamarack has attracted skiers and boarders.

They come for the long, swoopy groomed runs, powder shots off the summit ridge and glades that hold secret powder stashes, and they stay for its casual, friendly atmosphere.

Tamarack has gone from a grand vision to just another Idaho ski resort, and that could be its salvation.

“We’ve become part of the skiing and recreation community in this area,” said Tim Flaherty, Tamarack’s general manager. “We take it personally, and we’re doing the best we can to keep this place alive.”

Tamarack has also established its own identity based on reality, not a sales pitch. It falls as a ski resort somewhere between local resorts like Bogus Basin and Brundage, and destination resorts like Sun Valley.

Rather than catering to well-heeled nonresidents who spend thousands of dollars per visit, most of Tamarack’s customers come from Idaho, particularly the Treasure Valley, and the resort’s prices reflect that.

You can buy a daily adult lift ticket for the same price as at Bogus Basin. You can also rent a cottage or condo and stay the night on Tamarack’s slopes for a similar price that you would pay for a room in downtown Boise.

“You don’t have to be a mega millionaire to come up and enjoy this,” Flaherty said.

“We offer a five-star experience at a three-star price,” said Wolfe Ashcraft, recreation and marketing manager for Tamarack.

To appreciate the current Tamarack, you have to look at it from different perspectives.

From the perspective of skiers or boarders, they mostly see what they expect.

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