Depending on how you look at things, we either got a lovely extended fall or were robbed of primo skiing due to unseasonably warm weather. If your thinking falls into the latter camp, you'll be glad to know that resorts are finally opening – and offering more than ever this year.
In this year's edition of Edge, our snow-activities guide to resorts in Colorado, we've told you about what’s new at every major ski area in the state, must-do experiences and insider tips. We’ve also done our own tireless research all over the state and reached out to some experts for suggestions on how to make the most of it all, whether you’re looking to drop some coin for something special or just trying to get by as a dirtbag ski bum like the rest of us. We'll roll those out at resorts open, like Arapahoe, which opened October 21.
ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AND SNOWBOARD AREA
What’s new: To help mark its seventh decade, the ski area spent over $1 million in the off-season to improve its base area and Arapahoe Sports retail shop, expanding on several years of improvements that have brought the overhaul of the popular 6th Alley Bar & Grill, a new concert stage and a new Kids’ Center. “I think guests can expect a more complete, comfortable base-area experience this season,” says Arapahoe spokeswoman Adrienne Saia Isaac. Next up? “We’re looking forward to finalizing our expansion plans for the Beavers and the Steep Gullies. The U.S. Forest Service will issue its final Record of Decision toward the end of this calendar year. Basically, the terrain is sweet, and expanding into that terrain will make the ski experience just that much better. If everything goes well with the final stages of approvals, guests could expect to see lift-served skiing as early as the 2018-’19 season.” For now, the Beavers and Steep Gullies remain officially “sidecountry” terrain. Hike them at your own risk.
Signature experience: “Ski the Pali,” Isaac says, kicking off her list of recommendations with the famed expert terrain under A-Basin’s Pallavicini lift. “Hike the East Wall. Drink a bacon Bloody Mary. Visit the avy [avalanche rescue] dogs. Ski in a T-shirt or swimsuit in May, June — maybe even July. Skim the pond at Lake Reveal on closing day.”
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Insider info: “Fridays are a great day to come up to the ski area,” Isaac says. “They’re not as busy as Saturdays, and there’s always live music in the 6th Alley in the afternoon; it’s the best way to kick off your weekend.” For a candid look at daily conditions, previews of terrain openings — like the ever-popular East Wall — and other happenings at the Basin, follow “Al’s Blog,” a photo diary by CEO Alan Henceroth, at arapahoebasin.blogspot.com.
Splurge: Book early — as in right now — to get a reservation for one of the Moonlight Dinner Series events presented by chef Christopher Rybak at the mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge. Tickets range from $70 to $110, depending on the event, at arapahoebasin.com/dinners, and they always sell out. Work up an appetite by snowshoeing or skinning up instead of taking the lift. Already missed out on tickets? Call 888-272-7246 to get on the wait list, which does occasionally open up.
Ski bum tips: A-Basin gives free lift tickets and season passes to regular volunteers. “Put in your days and get a pass,” Isaac says. “We’re always looking for fun-loving, gregarious people to be hosts in our base area, waste warriors and volunteer ski patrollers.” Volunteer-ski-patrol tryouts are typically held in January, but other options are available all season. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com for more information. Otherwise, spring for the $319 adult season pass, for what is certainly the longest ski season in Colorado, given that the Basin is typically the first ski area in Colorado to open and is always the last to close.
Drink local: Colorado brews are on tap at both Black Mountain Lodge and 6th Alley Bar & Grill; A-Basin is also known for its tailgate-party vibe in the parking lot and the area known as the Beach. Watch for Beer Maker Dinners, to be announced during the season, featuring chef Rybak’s food pairings in collaboration with small-batch brewers like Salida’s Elevation Beer Company. After leaving the mountain, Isaac suggests pointing yourself toward Broken Compass Brewing in Breckenridge. Dillon Dam Brewery, Pug Ryan’s Brewery & Steakhouse in Dillon, and the Baker’s Brewery in Silverthorne are other nearby options.