We profile them all in The Edge, our insider's guide to the 2014 ski and snowboard season that's inserted in the November 6 issue of Westword; we'll be rolling out those profiles as the mountains open, starting with A-Basin. See also: Photos of Opening Weekend at A-BasinARAPAHOE BASIN SKI & SNOWBOARD AREA arapahoebasin.com 888-ARAPAHOE A-Basin kicked off Colorado's ski season again this year, winning the race to open on October 17 with the help of unseasonably early fall storms and prime snowmaking conditions. The ski area has earned a reputation among Colorado's most extreme skiers and snowboarders for its expert terrain on the famed Pallavicini face, accessible by chairlift from the base, and for hike-to terrain that rivals any of the steepest stuff in the state. The après-ski party vibe is first-rate too, thanks to the raucous scene at the "Beach" area of A-Basin's parking lot and inside the recently renovated 6th Alley Bar & Grill, which opened last season. The mountain is also now catering more families, with improvements to its Molly Hogan Learning Area and new multi-pack lesson packages. First-timer? Take advantage of multi-day lesson packages and head-to-toe rental packages that can include jackets and pants as well as boots and skis or boards.
Signature Experience: "I think there are two ways to go -- the fully extreme bucket list and the fully extreme après bucket list. If you're really good, you can do both in the same day," says A-Basin spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac. "If it's open, expert skiers and snowboarders should hike to the top of North Pole and ski down the East Wall. You can't beat the view from the top, and it's an exhilarating run. If it's not open, you have to ride the Pali lift and ski the Pali face, period. If you're more into après, my suggestions are to grab a spot on the Beach near the Pali lift and grill with your pals, then finish your day with an A-Basin Bacon Bloody Mary in the 6th Alley Bar & Grill."
Splurge: "Big spenders won't find much to blow their cash on here in terms of the ski and snowboard experience," says Isaac. "Every lift ticket -- whether you buy online, at the window or have a pass -- gets you the longest season in Colorado and some of the best terrain around." Still, the all-you-can-eat Moonlight Dinners at the mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge, $69-$98 per person depending on the event, are worth every dollar. Ride the lift or bring your snowshoes.
Ski Bum Tips: Buy early and buy online for the best lift-ticket deals. Powder in the forecast? Get there early, before the parking lot fills up, but don't be surprised if someone living out of his truck has beat you to it. Ready to turn your kids into powder fiends? Kids fourteen and under ski free at A-Basin from November 30 through December 19, with no purchase necessary and no strings attached.
Drink Locally: Look for a rotating selection of twenty beers on tap in the 6th Alley, including New Belgium, Avery, Elevation, Ska and Left Hand. To get your suds straight from the source, head to the Dillon Dam Brewery in Dillon or Bakers' Brewery, opening this month in Silverthorne. Watch for profiles of all of Colorado's other ski areas on Show and Tell as they open in the coming weeks.