by Adrienne Van Dooren


Don't pack away those ski's yet! Arapahoe Basin has skiing projected through 4th of July weekend. A-Basin boasts of 2,257 vertical feet (686 meters), a base elevation of 10,780 feet (3,292 meters). The summit elevation is 13,050 feet (3,978 meters) and the longest run is 1.5 miles. A-Basin gets an average annual snowfall of 367 inches and has 66 trails serviced by 5 lifts that include two triple chairlifts and three double chairlifts.

As my friends headed to the rainy beaches of Delaware the week of Memorial Day, I headed to the slopes of Colorado and had an absolutely fantastic time. There was a great base, as they had received some fresh snow a week prior and recently added snow making capability. (A-Basin can boast such a long season because it offers the highest skiable terrain on the North American continent.) Half the mountain is above timberline and it offers great bowl skiing.

The best part for me was the spring break atmosphere. There were tons of tail gate parties in the parking lot and open invites to join folks for a brew. When we tired of skiing we lazed about in lounge chairs.

We were there on a Thursday and Friday but wished we could have stayed longer because Saturdays they host live bands outside as well.

I'm sad to say that I avoided A-Basin when I lived in Colorado in the 90s. I was more a blue skier then and had heard that A-Basin had the reputation of being almost all expert terrain. While it does have a lot of challenging expert runs I found out this trip that there were plenty of blue, nicely groomed slopes (O.K. so my skiing hasn't improved a lot since I moved to DC-I still prefer the blues to the bumps).

There isn't much green, but they do boast a bunny hill with $5 lift tickets. Lessons are a great deal this time of year as well. My buddy, Earnie, got a private lesson for the price of a group because no once else was taking boarding lessons. He had an awesome instructor named "Cowboy" that had him swishing down the hill in no time.

The early bird may get the worm but the late skier gets the deals. Imagine skiing with half priced lift tickets, $49 rooms, sunny skies and no lift lines. They are now selling 03-04 adult season passes for $169. This includes unlimited skiing at A-Basin for the remainder of the 2002-2003 season and 2003-04 ski season. With youth season passes going for $109 and children's passes for $49.

My favorite runs were off the Norway lift. I took Humbug down to Highrod several times just because I liked the snow conditions and could ski fast. Best of all I had the runs mostly to myself and there were no kids (i.e. speed bumps).

The more challenging runs are off the Pallavicini lift (It's signature run). Pallavicini is one of Colorado's longest and steepest trails. Highly recommended expert runs are Standard, International and East Avenue. Unlike Brekenridge and others, all the runs at A-Basin lead to the same small base area. In my case, this was perfect because it was easy to meet up with friends after skiing at different levels/trails. We'd just meet at the lounge chairs near the lift or on the balcony near the bar.

Best of all, I never had to wait behind a single person in a lift line.

I suppose the only down side to summer skiing is missing out on the larger après ski party crowds and happy hours. Still -there is something to be said for hanging with the locals. Folks were quite friendly in the A-Basin Sixth Alley Bar and The Breckenridge Brewery also proved to be fun later in the evening.

I definitely had a hankering for Fondue though and couldn't find a nearby restaurant. Keystone's was closed (although I later heard there was one in Breckenridge (I'll check it out next year). Instead, we went to the Mint. It was terrible! They specialized in cooking your own steaks and after a tiring day of skiing I didn't want to do that. So we got all you could eat prime rib (overcooked and too fatty) and Lobster (undercooked). The Mint is well known and was recommended by the hotel clerk, but I found it pricey; it had little atmosphere, and poor service. It's definitely not a restaurant I'd visit again.

Good news though, the Fondue House on top of Keystone Mountain reopens in June to accommodate summer hikers who take the Gondola up. There is a summer resort crowd-albeit smaller than the winter one- who come to Summit County for the hiking, mountain biking, white water rafting and other outdoor sports. In June, folks often combine these kinds of activities with a few days skiing for an all around vacation.

Check out the deals: Comfort Suites, a 3-star Hotel in Dillon, offered us a "stay and Ski Package" featuring a Jacuzzi suite and breakfast for only $49 per person and that included the 2 lift tickets! Learn to Ski or Board Package-includes 03 spring season ticket, 5 two -hour group lessons and equipment $200.

As of June 1st, they have 37 inched of snow mid-mountain and 17 trails are open. See ya 4th of July?