Westword's Guide to teh '96-'97 ski and snowboard season

Forget which ski area has the lowest lift-ticket prices and what mountain has the most high-speed quads--you already know that (or the resorts themselves will tell you). The 1996-97 season has begun, and now that the skis are waxed and the snowboard has been tweaked, the most important info to know is where to find the secret powder stashes and the buffest food bargains. That's why, for the third year in a row, Westword has gone to the locals to ask them to get vocal about their favorite bump runs and their burgers of choice. We tracked down the ski bums, the part-time waitresses/full-time 'boarders, the professional racers and others who make their living on or near the slopes. They're the ones who do whatever's necessary to get on the mountain as much as possible.

All the people we interviewed have lived near their preferred resorts for years. And they've shared their experiences and their expertise here, giving up the dope that can come only from a local's perspective. Which means you're going to find stuff here you can't get anywhere else. It means you have The Edge.

Arapahoe Basin
Vlasta Bovee was one of Copper Mountain's first ski instructors when it opened in 1972, but she has a soft spot for Arapahoe Basin, which celebrates its fiftieth birthday this year. "We've skied the Basin first and last every year for almost thirty years," says Bovee, who was transferred to Colorado from her native Nebraska in the early Sixties by United Airlines. "It's become almost nostalgic. It's still a wonderful small area, although that's changing quickly."

Bovee is one of the locals who laments the possibility that A-Basin may start snowmaking operations--possibly year-round--and add an alpine slide within the next year or two. "Certainly there are improvements that we could use up there," she says. "Better lift service would be nice. But snowmaking would change the whole scene, although I wouldn't object if they did it just part of the year, not year-round." Bovee adds that if A-Basin makes snow in the summer, during the day the top layer would melt and freeze again at night, making for less than ideal conditions. "We get a lot of ice to begin with," she says. "You really have to pick your days at A-Basin. The conditions are either very good or very bad because of the high elevation and extreme exposures."

"One thing, though: You learn to ski well, with good edges," she adds.
For carving "great big, round GS turns," Bovee recommends Lenawee. "It's pretty," she says. "A cruiser with lots of humps and rolls, and you can go all the way to the bottom and then just start over." But the less-experienced looking for a kinder, gentler run should head off Exhibition to the east, where Bovee says there's a "whole bunch of nice runs geared more toward the beginner, ones that are nice and flat, with a little bit of a lift." A-Basin, she explains, doesn't offer a whole lot for the intermediate. "It's for the beginners or the solidly advanced," she says. "There's not a whole lot in between."

But intermediates still can find something that won't do them in, particularly at the end of the day. "All the gentle slopes at the bottom are nice after a lot of people have been at them," Bovee says. "The runs are very narrow, and they take on an easy, steady slope." More expert skiers and snowboarders will appreciate what they find off Palivacinni--"Pali" to the locals--certainly the best-known area of A-Basin, but not necessarily the one hit by the most people. "I only like the Pali itself if the moguls aren't too high," Bovee says. "And there are some other good runs off the Pali lift." Bovee also mentions that getting over to the East Wall off the Lenawee lift can reward skiers with "quite a few fun shoots," and she lists the Alleys and North Woods as two favorites--but again, only when they're not too bumped up. "When the weather is bad, I stay down in the trees," she says.

Her preferred tree run is the Turbo Chute. "Over the years, I've really enjoyed the Alleys," she says. "But especially Turbo, which is a real challenge. And I love the North Woods trees, too. I feel really great when I've accomplished those." She notes that the area might "scare a few people, but there are also some easier runs to be found in there, if you keep your eyes open." And while A-Basin "still is never really busy," Bovee says that those looking to be alone should think about doing some hiking. "Head off to the west of the Pali and then hike back toward the area a bit," she says. "There's skiing all the way around to the chutes on the East Wall, but it can get a little windblown. But if you take a really long trek over, you can drop off in fifteen- or twenty-minute intervals." And from the top of Lenawee, skiers who stay on the ridge can drop into the expert chutes found there. "No matter what, on A-Basin it's almost guaranteed that you're going to get a workout," Bovee says.

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