John’s Note: This is the third post in my series about Colorado, the place I call home (you can check out the other posts in the series Dispatches from Telluride, On the Ledge at Howelsen Hill, and A Desert In The Rocky Mountains). Though I spend a lot of time talking about the places I travel to in the US and abroad, the truth of the matter is that the travel doesn’t stop when I’m home. That’s why I’m working with Mountain Reservations to bring you one new destination from the Centennial State each month.
It’s December, and even though the ski season in Colorado has been officially been open since October 17th, I’ve been on the road in my new nomadic lifestyle unable to take full advantage. But that all changes when I head back home for the holidays this month, and high on my agenda is returning to one of my favorite mountains, Arapahoe Basin.
Nicknamed ‘the legend’, A-Basin is a Colorado ski and snowboard experience unlike any other, and it will be where I make my first turns of the season in just a few short weeks. Looking forward to that, today I’m sharing five things that make Arapahoe Basin, ‘the legend’ that it is.
Arapahoe Basin didn’t become ‘the legend’ by having the most snow, a glitzy village, or the most advanced terrain. To different skiers and riders, ‘the legend’ can mean many things, but one theme seems to be consistent across the Arapahoe Basin faithful – the ridiculously long ski season the resort maintains. With an above-average altitude for a ski resort and a rare north-to-northeast face, A-Basin takes advantage of its natural features to keep the lifts running longer than just about any other ski resort, earning it legendary status among hardcore mountain enthusiasts. At A-Basin, the first chair lifts are typically started up in mid-October and don’t stop running til July. Yes, it’s possible to be skiing in Colorado while the rest of the country is lighting off fireworks.
Positioned along the Continental Divide just below Loveland Pass, Arapahoe Basin is uniquely positioned along the greatest ridge of the North American continent. At the top of the lifts, wide open views are found where it’s impossible for trees to grow. Hiking along the ridges to the bowls of A-Basin can yield absolutely breathtaking views. And at 13,000 feet, it’s okay to pause a few minutes to catch your breath – and take in the sweeping vistas below.
The parking lot at Arapahoe Basin is located right next to the mountain providing easy access to vehicles for skiers and snowboarders. The first row of cars on the side of the lot closest to the base of the lifts is affectionately known as ‘the beach’. Consisting of a limited number of highly-coveted parking spaces complete with their own picnic tables, the atmosphere along the beach is more akin to a college football tailgate party than the glitz and glamour typically associated with the base of a resort. Coolers of drinks, tailgate games, costumes, grills, and dogs playing in the fresh powder all make for an experience that can’t be found at any other ski resort.
Arapahoe Basin retains the charm of old-school skiing – before $100 lift tickets, slope side condos, posh apres-ski restaurants, and high speed gondolas. A-Basin has largely eschewed the development and expansion that has consumed (and some say destroyed) the other resorts in Summit and Eagle counties. A-Basin is decidedly old-school. What it lacks in modern conveniences and gimmicky technology, it more than makes up for in the simplicity of throwback skiing. No offsite parking, expansive villages, or oppressive lift lines get in the way of what people come here to do – ski and snowboard. This resort style attracts a decidedly different crowd – a relaxed group of people who are passionate about skiing and snowboarding without the headaches of the big resorts.
From the edge of the Denver metropolitan area, skiers and riders can be on the slopes of A-Basin within an hour. But for those looking to make more than a day trip out of a visit to Arapahoe Basin, the surrounding area offers a variety of vacation rentals. The towns of Silverthorne and Dillon are within a 20 minute drive of Arapahoe Basin and the much larger resorts of Keystone, Breckenridge, and Copper Mountain are all nearby as well, providing a variety of accommodation options for those looking to experience a little variety.
Have you ever been to Arapahoe Basin or any other ‘legendary’ ski resorts?