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Arapahoe Basin is a ski mountain and a local favorite in the Colorado Rockies. Known as “A-Basin” or just “The Basin,” this ski area west of Denver is popular for its short lines and long season.The ski area is also such a favorite amongst Colorado natives because it has a very laid-back atmosphere and tough terrain. A-Basin’s altitude in the White River National Forest reaches a peak of 13,050 feet and has terrain above the tree line including powder-filled bowls.
The resort opened way back in 1946, making it one of the oldest ski areas in Colorado. And it just keeps growing. The Montezuma Bowl is the latest addition, which added 80% to the overall area during the 2007/2008 season.
Montezuma Bowl has blue, black and double-black runs with varied terrain. Everything from groomed runs, to chutes, glades and cornice runs make up the bowl.
Tree Line and High Divide are the two terrain parks at A-Basin. They have jumps, boxes and rails. High Divide gets its name from the killer view of the Continental Divide from the chair lifts at the ski area.
Another great spot for views is at the top of the Upper East Wall. After the view, reap the rewards of the hike up with the exhilarating ride down the chutes. Head to the Lower East Wall for a great powder spot.
Take the Pallavicini lift on the west side of the mountain for super steep, double-black diamond extreme trails. They have very long mogul runs and enough vertical drop to test anybody’s nerve.
A nice, relaxing day at the slopes is also possible at A-Basin. Forgiving trails, lessons with kid-friendly terrain and magic carpets are also available.
There are three lodges to grab lunch at The Basin. The base lodge has a full cafeteria, bar, coffee shop and a grill outside for warm days. At the top of the Norway and Lenawee lifts, you’ll find the Snow Plume refuge. This warming hut sells hot chocolate, coffee and snacks to refuel you. At the top of the Exhibition lift, the Black Mountain Lodge is more formal, with an alpine bistro-style menu.
In addition to the altitude, the mountain has a mostly north to northeastern face, which allows the resort to stay open until June or even July, long after other Colorado resorts have closed.
Spring skiing truly takes on another meaning at A-Basin. The parking lot by the base lodge area is even nicknamed “the beach” because of its sunny, warm afternoons. They also open early, sometimes as early as the second week in October.
To reach A-Basin, take US 6 outside of Denver. It is on the west side of Loveland Pass.
Haute cuisine is absent at Arapahoe Basin; juicy hamburgers and beers at the lodge replace overpriced meals and tailgating in the free parking lot replaces pricey après ski drinks.
Fun events punctuate the year at A-Basin, one of which is the Cardboard Derby. At this event, entrants put together cardboard contraptions to slide down the mountain in. Sometimes the attempts are successful, but it is mostly a comedy show. Pull up a lawn chair and watch the show at the finish line.
The ski area itself doesn’t have lodging, but there are affordable options in nearby Dillon, Frisco and Keystone, Colorado.