Being a 72 year-old resort means that Arapahoe Basin has a lot of history. That’s probably why A Bay has earned the right to be the locals mountain for the Summit County area in Colorado. The humble resort boasts big terrain and a fun ‘day at the beach’ atmosphere. With half of its terrain above the treeline, you will be hard pressed to find the green trails here (there’s only 5). You can’t find another resort like this one, it truly is one of a kind.
- Access: Fly into Denver, Take I-70 West roughly 80 miles to exit 216 and follow route 6 up and over Loveland Pass. Alternatively take the The Summit Express Shuttle from Denver Airport or the Swan Mountain Flyer line of the Summit Stage bus from nearby Summit County
- Season: Mid October to Mid June (Sometimes July)
- Number of Lifts: 6 lifts and 2 conveyor carpets including one high speed quad the Black Mountain Express.
- Ticket Prices: Adult (19-59) $76 USD, Junior (15-18) $64 USD, Child (6-14) $38 USD, Senior (60-69) $71 USD. Discounted Rates and Season Passes available at tickets.arapahoebasin.com
- Park Facilities: There are 2 terrain parks. High Divide (which usually is the first park open in Colorado) and treeline park, are accessible from the Black Mountain Express and Lenawee Mountain Lift respectively.
- Top Features: It’s a hot spot for early season riding. Tailgating in the parking lot and related unofficial events are a common occurrence.
Opening Day at A-Bay
For more than a decade now, the opening day of Arapahoe Basin is usually the first lift access snowboarding available in Colorado. Sometimes it’s the first in the country. This is a big deal because Colorado is such a shred friendly state that there are usually hundreds of people in the lift line before the sun comes up on opening day. Some even camp out the night before in the blistering cold winds just for a chance to ride the first chair of the season.
In the last 15 years the continual upgrading of snowmaking has really changed the game for this place. The trail known as Ramrod is host to the classic ‘white ribbon of death’ where rocks and grass sometimes line the edges of the trail. In addition to this, the mountain’s steep sections make for a challenging early season day.
The Steep N’ Cheap.
A-Basin has one of the most affordable ticket prices in summit county. Couple this with the vast reaches of terrain in Montezuma Bowl and the East Wall. You have the best advanced terrain bang for your buck in Colorado.
Montezuma Bowl is located on the backside of Arapahoe Basin. It has lift access to a rocky band stretching across the western spine of the mountain above tree line. Below the band there is a vast free-ride ready glade which funnels into the bottom of the bowl. This backside region can yield some perfect south facing afternoon pow turns when conditions comply. It is one of the best pieces of natural terrain available to the inbounds confined rider.
The East Wall is for experts only, and there is no lift. The features here are steep, long and dangerous. If you find yourself hiking up with good snow conditions you might mistake the slope for something in Alaska. This face hangs over, and is visible from most of the resort. This makes it a very public stage for any who dare climb and descend. So, even if you’re not inclined to hike it yourself, you may get to enjoy its entertainment from a distance.
3 words: BACON. BLOODY. MARY!
This is potentially the best drink in Summit County. A full strip of bacon and the majority of a small salad are in this drink. It’s one of the items available at the 6th Alley Bar and Grill located at the base of the mountain to the right of the ticket window. The food is a mix of all the typical favorites; wraps, burgers, grilled meats, noodles, soups and salads. 6th Alley is the one and only official stop for aprés on resort. The resort website claims: “This is where the day’s yard sales become hero lines, and where fish tales of nose-deep powder become time-honored truths.”
Additionally there is a mid-mountain dining option in the Black Mountain Lodge located at the top of the Black Mountain Express. The lodge offers a variety of smoked dishes and beers to help you stoke the mid-day fire. There is also a large deck area for casual outdoor drinking and kook watching.
Ride Like A Local and Live It Up in the Parking Lot.
You may have caught this mountain on a spring pow day; in which case you will get the full treatment. After burning your thighs all day on the deep snow make your way down to the parking lot. You’ll find a group of friends enjoying the time honored American tradition of drinking in parking lots. “The Beach” as some might call it, is a mud lot roughly the size of a football pitch. In the springtime on a saturday you will definitely find dozens of people parked in lawn chairs enjoying beers and music.
What more could you ask for to cap off your budget friendly local level stay in the mountains? Well you might catch this lovely venue on Gaper Day (April 1st). Then you will be able to add wild costumes, swim wear and even MORE BEER to the aforementioned roster of fun items. All said and done, Arapahoe Basin is a landmark for locals, a canary in the coal mine for winter and a generally great place to get away from the big corporate resorts of Colorado.