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December 4, 2019

By Jim Kenney
PugSki Travel Correspondent

I skied Arapahoe Basin (aka A-Basin) in February and May of 2019. Characteristic of the lengthy ski seasons offered at A-Basin, it was great both times. I've made several visits to this exceptionally challenging mountain in the past as well and I love the place. A-Basin opened for skiing in 1946 and is deservedly referred to as The Legend. It is steeped in history, scenery, and expert ski terrain. The retro A-Frame base lodge once served as a missile testing facility. The massive interior wood beam framework could withstand a direct hit from a missile, an avalanche, or any sort of après ski ruckus kicked up in the lodge's 6th Alley Bar.

A-Basin is perched on the western flank of the Continental Divide just across from Loveland Pass. The first thing you’ll notice descending the pass on US Highway 6 is the hike-to extreme terrain of the precipitous 13,000 foot East Wall. It towers over a choice selection of lift served options including corduroy cruisers on the Lenawee and Norway faces, world class black diamond bump runs in the Pallavicini trail pod, wide open ridges in Montezuma Bowl, and steep tree shots served by the new Beavers chair. An expert would never tire of this place, but there are also enough easy runs to provide a bold novice-intermediate with several days of fun.

If you’re looking to test your skills or just dislike the hassle and pretension of mega-resorts, check out the hardcore, yet friendly scene at A-Basin. With its latest expansion to 1400 skiable acres this mountain is fast becoming one of the big boys and represents an excellent cross-section of the best of Colorado. Lift served skiing takes place between approximately 10,800 and 12,500 feet. Hiking the East Wall can add another 500 vertical feet. The high elevation and mostly northern exposure make A-Basin one of the premier late season ski options in the US with lifts routinely spinning into the month of June. Arapahoe Basin is about two hours west of Denver International Airport on a good traffic day.

All photos by Jim Kenney except as noted.

Arapahoe Basin and the bumpy Pallavicini trail pod in all its glory, as seen from the eastern approach on Highway 6.

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The impressively steep "Pali" section of the mountain features about 20 double black diamond runs and is served by its own chairlift rising 1,329 vertical feet. With unrelenting steeps and serious moguls, this is very stout skiing!

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@Vince and bumps galore under the Pali chair.

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Nearby, the West Turbo trail is sprinkled with trees and a few small cliff drops.

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The Lenawee and Norway slopes comprise the majority of the intermediate terrain at A-Basin. This is Wrangler trail, a super wide green circle run on the looker's lower left of the front side of the A-Basin layout where the Lenawee and Norway slopes merge.

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PugSki member @mdf dropping Norway Cornice in the merry month of May 2019.


Mini-powder day in East Gully near the Lenawee Mountain lift.

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Two guests enjoy a Bacon Bloody Mary on the deck of the Black Mountain Lodge beside the Lenawee and Norway faces. Constructed in 2007 at an elevation of approximately 11,500’, this restaurant/shelter has one of the most awesome alpine settings of any on-hill dining option in Colorado.

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I was at A-Basin in 2015 with PugSki member @Michael R. when he made the hike and skied a chute on the East Wall called 2nd Notch. Mike described it that day as "sketchy". 2nd Notch is the slightly snowier chute in the center of this photo. This hike-to expert/extreme terrain is accessed from the looker's right via lifts serving the Lenawee Face summit.

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This photo was taken by @Michael R. while in 2nd Notch, looking back up at the top section.

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Arapahoe Basin has the vibe of an authentic ski area, not a glitzy resort. It's one of the few areas in Colorado where after a great spring day of snowriding you're welcome to chill in the parking lot with your BBQ grill, cooler, and lawn chairs.

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On the Beach with PugSki members @dean_spirito , @Noodler and @Ken_R .

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This is PugSki member @Ken_R heading into Montezuma Bowl in early May 2019. 2019 featured an exceptionally snowy spring with A-Basin still firing on all cylinders (100% open) and offering some of the best late season terrain variety in America.

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PugSki member @Tony S ripping the upper Zuma liftline.


Montezuma Bowl is located on the scenic backside of the mountain. This is Michael R. scoping out the Zuma Cornice in mid-winter. The slopes of Keystone (background) and Breckenridge (far background) can also be seen in this photo.

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@Philpug is in the foreground of this photo from the upper Beavers terrain. A new quad chair (1501' vertical) opened for the 2018-2019 season to serve this terrain. It's a superb addition to the west side of the ski area providing 339 acres of lift served terrain in The Beavers area and 129 acres of hike-back extreme terrain in the contiguous Steep Gullies area.


This is a view of the Bailey Brothers glade underneath the new Beavers chair.

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This is Loafer, a steep groomed trail to the looker's right of the lower Beavers chair liftline. The tree-lined runs and extensive glade skiing in The Beavers make it a great place to be on low-visibility days.

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There has been an exciting evolution at Arapahoe Basin in recent years. With the latest terrain expansion it now boasts more than 1400 skiable acres, comparing favorably with many renowned mid-sized resorts such as Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, Crested Butte, Taos, Solitude, and Brighton. In 2019 Arapahoe Basin boldly terminated its 20+ year partnership with Vail Resorts and its Epic Pass and joined the ranks of the Ikon Pass for the 2019-2020 winter season. The Colorado Front Range "local's hill" is still unfettered by slopeside development, but with plentiful Summit County accommodations nearby, consistently smart infrastructure improvements, and a long, reliable season - it's become a place to build a ski week around!

A-Basin website: https://www.arapahoebasin.com/

A-Basin trail map: https://www.arapahoebasin.com/the-mountain/trail-maps/

About the Author: Husband, father and retired Department of Navy civilian, Jim Kenney is a Washington D.C. area native and has been skiing recreationally since 1967. Jim’s ski reporting garnered a West Virginia Division of Tourism’s Stars of the Industry Award for Best Web/Internet/E-Magazine Article.
About author
Jim Kenney
Years Sliding on Snow: 57 (started in 1967 and have skied every year since)
Age: geezer
Days Last Season: 64 (2022-2023)
Skill Level: I ski blues and blacks.
Home Mountains: Snowbird UT (primary), Solitude UT and Massanutten VA (secondary)
Prior Home Mountains: Blue Knob PA
Favorite Conditions, in Order: powder, packed powder
Makes My Day: everyday on the hill is a privilege and a joy
Greatest Skiing Achievement: bringing four kids into the sport
Second Greatest Skiing Achievement: have visited close to 100 ski areas and since 2000 I've documented my ski experiences with numerous travel articles and reports on a variety of websites.
Current Quiver: Blizzard Bonafide, Renown Endurance 98, Kastle LX85, Nordica Vagabond
Boots: DaleBoot Custom ski boots


Thanks for the feedback @Joe Strummer
Actually, the crowds at A-Basin have definitely increased in recent years along with all the nice improvements/expansions. Supposedly, one of the reasons they switched from Epic to IKON is to lessen crowding on prime days. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. :popcorn:
I'll add that most weekdays should still be pretty crowd-free. Here is A-Basin COO Al Henceroth's take on reasons behind Epic-IKON switch: Al's Blog
I love your posts. You are a great storyteller and photographer. Thank you for sharing!!! :beercheer:
Gorgeous. Cannot wait to ski A-Basin later this month. @Ken_R I hope you don’t mind me asking, who makes the gold jacket you were wearing?
Gorgeous. Cannot wait to ski A-Basin later this month. @Ken_R I hope you don’t mind me asking, who makes the gold jacket you were wearing?

Hi! Not at all. Its a Patagonia Down Sweater
Basin local and employee here, great review/tour!!! Love this mountain!! Can't wait to get on Pali this weekend :)
Nice tour, Jim! I spent a winter working at the Basin in 79-80 when I was 16, a runaway from Alaska, along with my best friend, looking for blower pow. We got about 90 days in that season. Our moms were not happy but our dads were secretly impressed that we pulled it off.

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