Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Lisa Marie Mercer
Arapahoe Basin

The Arapahoe Basin ski area is located in Summit County, Colorado. Locals call it "The Basin" or simply, "A-Basin." Every year, Arapahoe Basin competes with Loveland for the honor of being the first ski resort to open and the last one to close. A-Basin has opened as early as October 13th, and closed as late as July 4th.

The History of the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

During World War II, an area near Vail Colorado, known as Camp Hale, served as the training grounds for the 10th Mountain Division. The heroics of these skiing mountain warfare troupes inspired an interest in mountain activities. After the war, many former 10th Mountain Division members opened ski areas throughout the country.

A-Basin's story begins in 1945, when the Winter Sports Committee of Denver asked Larry Jump, a former 10th Mountain Division member and Olympic skier Frederick Schauffler to scope out land for a ski area. The duo recruited Olympian Dick Durrance to help with their efforts, and after surveying various parts of Colorado, they discovered an area on the western side of Loveland Pass. The Arapahoe Basin ski area opened in 1946, with just a rope tow, which was located halfway up the mountain. An army weapons carrier, which was pulled by a four-wheel drive transported skiers to the base of the rope tow.

Ralston-Purina bought Arapahoe Basin in 1978, and upgraded its lift system. The dog food company continued to own Arapahoe Basin, as well as Keystone and Breckenridge until Vail Resorts purchased all three ski areas. Then, in 1997, the Department of Justice ruled that the ownership of Keystone, Breckenridge, Arapahoe Basin, Vail, and Beaver Creek constituted an unfair market share of Summit County area ski resorts. Vail sold Arapahoe Basin to the Dundee Realty Corporation of Canada. They did, however, find a convenient loophole. Vail does not own A-Basin, but it manages the resort. As such, skiers and snowboarders can still purchase lift tickets or season passes which can be used at all three resorts. A higher-priced ticket or pass offers a limited number of days at Vail or Beaver Creek, which are Vail Resorts' upscale ski areas.

Recent Developments at Arapahoe Basin

The Basin has come a long way since that first rope tow. January of 2008 marked an 80 percent expansion in Arapahoe Basin's terrain. In fact, the addition of the new Montezuma Bowl on the backside of the mountain was considered the largest North American ski resort terrain expansion of 2008. The 400-acre Montezuma Bowl is one of the few off-piste ski areas that offers blue-rated terrain, in addition to its black and double-black diamond trails. Special ski classes focus on bowl-skiing techniques.

A-Basin Mountain Stats

There's a reason why the Arapahoe Basin ski area is famous for its reliable snow. The resort is situated at a base elevation of 10,780 feet, which rises to a majestic summit of 13,050 feet. The resort receives an annual average of 360 inches of snow. Its 490 acres are home to 69 trails, which are divided into 15 percent beginner terrain, 45 percent intermediate and 40 percent expert terrain. The resort has six lifts, which include one quad chair, two triple chairs, two double chairs and one surface lift.

The Beach

The Beach is the Arapahoe Basin parking area that is located right next to the lifts. It is also a favorite spot for birthday celebrations, Halloween parties and the famous end of season "beach party." Picnic tables are available, so you can leave your food in the car and enjoy a picnic lunch.

If You Go

Sea-level dwellers should spend a few days acclimating to the altitude before attempting to ski at the Basin's high elevation. While early skiing may be tempting, there's a reason why locals refer to it as "skiing the white ribbon of death." Only one, narrow trail will be open, and lift lines will be long. Try to finish skiing by 3:00 pm at the latest. Arapahoe Basin does not have many trees, so late afternoon flat light can impede vision.

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Arapahoe Basin Ski Area