Ever wanted a ski pass that gets you on the lifts from October to June (and sometimes July)? Then Arapahoe Basin is the resort for you. The snow comes early and lingers late here, with a base elevation of 10,780 feet and the longest ski season in North America. It's a "local’s" mountain in every sense of the word, with low ticket and food prices and a friendly vibe. Unlike other Summit County ski areas, you don't pay to park or ride a bus to a gondola to a ski lift. Just pull up and walk to the lifts. And then there's the terrain - most of it above timberline on wide-open trails and epic chutes that will make any skier feel like a pro. Skiers can escape to the backside in Montezuma Bowl or just rip the groomers down the front side. And be sure to come back in May and June for t-shirt skiing and partying on "the beach," where the parking lot meets the snow, one of the most famous party spots in North American skiing.
I have too many stories of A-Basin to tell just one. I learned to scare the heck out of myself on double black diamond runs here. I learned that sometimes you have to hike to find fresh tracks. I learned that enjoying a few beers and burgers on the grill in the parking lot beats an overheated and crowded ski lodge.
- Most of A-Basin's terrain is above timberline, and that means bitter cold and, often, poor visibility. Dress extra-warm and bring low-light goggle lenses.
- If you park in the bottom parking lot and don't need to buy a lift ticket, hit Pallavacini Lift first. It's the quickest way to access the steeper terrain, though there is a blue run to the mid-mountain lift.
- The bacon bloody mary is one of the best-known in Colorado. Guaranteed to return feeling to frozen toes.
- When skiing from mid-April on, plan to ski from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., to avoid the morning ice and the afternoon slush.
Recommended season(s): October to June.
—R. Scott Rappold