Mike Shirley - Resort Executive, Pass-pricing Pioneer

Passing Date

Idaho resort executive and season-pass innovator Mike Shirley passed away peacefully on August 1. He was 81.

Born in Flagstaff, Arizona, Shirley received a business degree from Northern Arizona University. He served four years in the U.S. Air Force and then with help from the GI Bill, earned an MBA from the University of Arizona in Tucson. After graduation, he moved with his wife and young son to Boise, Idaho, where Shirley had been recruited by the engineering firm Morrison Knudsen as its first MBA hire and eventually would be promoted as the company’s youngest vice president.

Shirley started skiing late in life, at age 35. That led to a second career as president and general manager of Bogus Basin, Idaho, where he revitalized the struggling ski area by cutting pass prices in 1998 by 60 percent, gambling that drastically lower prices would attract new and lapsed skiers.

The radical move paid off, with pass revenue up nearly 400 percent the next season. The Bogus Experiment became a case study on the power of value pricing and became a model that dominates the resort industry today, with Shirley referred to as the Father of Affordable Skiing. (See page 5 for a story on the 25th anniversary of Shirley’s discount-pass launch.)

Active in the Boise community, Shirley held board leadership positions at Blue Cross of Idaho, the Boise Philharmonic, the Boise Art Museum, Junior Achievement and the Discovery Center of Idaho.