As usual, A-Bay was one of the first two ski resorts to open this year, tying Loveland in the race to crank up the chairlifts on October 29. Only a few runs are open at the moment, but that will change soon as the snow falls and snowmaking begins.
You can read about every Colorado ski resort in the Edge, our winter sports guide. Find the Edge in print this week inside of Westword — or follow along as we roll out the guide online. Each description lays out what's new, what the signature experience is at each resort, what to splurge on, how to go cheap and, of course, what to drink. Now, head for the trees.
ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI & SNOWBOARD AREA
What’s new: A-Basin spent $1 million on improvements to its base area over the summer, adding a new music stage by the ticket office and overhauling its guest-services center and season-pass offices. John Popper and Brothers Keeper christened the new stage over the summer when the ski area hosted the Stage 2 finish of the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, and it’s expected to add to the already renowned après-ski party scene this winter. Still, you’ll find the real action on the slopes. The runs under the Pallavicini lift, in the back bowls, and on the East Wall are magnets for the more extreme skiers and snowboarders, and the mountain has also stepped up its terrain-park offerings and beginner skiing in the Molly Hogan area in recent years.
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Signature experience: “Skiing the Pali — it’s some of the best extreme terrain close to the Front Range, and it’s generally open for a large chunk of our season, making the steeps, bumps and tree chutes accessible no matter if you’re here in December or in the spring,” says A-Basin spokeswoman Adrienne Isaac. When the day is done, kick back in the 6th Alley Bar & Grill with a bacon Bloody Mary. “Last season, we sold over 25,000 of our signature drink,” Isaac notes.
Splurge: Book early for the wildly popular Moonlight Dinner Series, hosted by chef Christopher Rybak at the mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge. “These four-course meals highlight cuisines from mountain regions of the world,” says Isaac, noting that several of the themed dinner nights are already sold out. “Four are lift-served — you take the Black Mountain Express to and from dinner — but guests may also hike, snowshoe, skin or splitboard in the moonlight. The first dinner, a New Moon dinner — headlamps recommended! — and the last dinner, Polynesian Luau, are our randonee dinners and are not lift-served. It’s really an incredible gourmet experience to have, and you never leave one of chef’s dinners hungry.”
Ski bum tips: “Buy your lift ticket or pass online and early; it’s really the best way to save on access to the mountain,” Isaac says. “If you want to snag one of the free spots on the always-popular Beach, you need to get here early.” Not content to ride (or pay for) the chairlifts like a mere mortal? A-Basin has also been attracting intrepid mountaineering uphillers — skinners, splitboarders and snowshoers — with an uphill-access policy in effect on open terrain before and after the lifts close, and hosts a Rise & Shine Rando series on Tuesday mornings at 7 a.m.
Drink locally: Colorado brews take center stage at the 6th Alley Bar & Grill, with twenty rotating taps featuring New Belgium, Avery, Ska, Elevation and other local favorites. Also, look for event partnerships with New Belgium — like the New Belgium Mountain Adventure on February 27 — and Broken Compass Brewing, among others, and don’t miss the fifteenth annual Festival of the Brewpubs on May 29. Sitting out traffic, resting up those legs, and looking for food and drink after a long day on the mountain? Check out the Dillon Dam Brewery and Pug Ryan’s in Dillon, or the new Baker’s Brewery in Silverthorne.