A-Basin season ends with powder | AspenTimes.com

A-Basin season ends with powder

Bob Berwyn
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Bryan Kreykes get into the spirit of Arapahoe Basin's closing day Sunday. The resort was the last in North America to shut its doors for the season. (Eric Drummond/Summit Daily)

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. ” An epic season ended Sunday ” at least for lift-served skiing and riding ” with yet another powder day at A-Basin, a couple of inches of fluff freshening The Legend’s makeup for the last few runs.

Outside the lodge, snowboarder Tina Cartwright buckled up and glided toward the chair, toting a cold beer and wearing a bright lei.

“It’s been awesome. This is the best powder season I’ve had,” she said. “I can’t wait ’til next year!

The dust-on-crust conditions quickly gave way to spring slush, with even a few pockets of windblown powder lingering up high on the West Wall, just enough to cushion the landing after launching a lazy air off King Cornice.

“It’s been a great season,” A-Basin spokesperson Leigh Hierholzer said at the A-Frame, before heading off to a TV interview. The ski area was the first to open for the 2007-’08 season Oct. 10, 2007, and the last to close.

According to chief operating officer and general manager Alan Henceroth, that added up to 243 days of skiing. the last edition of A-Basin’s electronic newsletter, Pali’s Pitch, jokingly reminded diehards that the start of next season is just 18 weeks away.

A-Basin has seen steady growth in skier visits the past few years and is probably headed for another record season. For Henceroth, the highlight was the mid-season opening of Montezuma Bowl.

“Even though it’s inbounds, it’s a bit of a touring experience,” Henceroth said, describing the broad sweep of alpine terrain that saw its first lift-served skiing early January. The east side, with jumbled boulder fields and old-growth spruce and fir glades, was big hit with A-Basin guests, Henceroth said over a cup of coffee at the A-Frame.

In all, ‘Zuma Bowl was open four months and two weeks, closing May 20.

“We always said, if we can get four months we’ll be happy,” Henceroth said.

The new terrain added about 400 acres and upped the powder-per-person quotient, Henceroth said. Skier visits grew by about 10 or 15 percent, while the bowl added 80 percent to the ski area’s total skiable acreage, spreading people out across the entire mountain. Finding powder stashes two, three days after a storm was easy most of the winter, helped by steady, season-long snowfall, he added.

As expected, the new lift also helped ease peak-time congestion at Lenawee, Exhibition, and especially Pali. Some longtime Pali diehards who opposed the ‘Zuma Bowl expansion later expressed a change of heart after seeing how the new terrain helped relieve skier pressure on the front-side’s steep north-facing powder preserve.

A-Basin this summer will focus on the parking situation, expanding and linking the upper lots and providing a shuttle service to base, along with a pedestrian tunnel under Highway 6, hopefully finished in time for next year, Henceroth said. After that, the plan is to replace the Exhibition chair with a detachable quad ” A-Basin’s first ” the following summer.

Then the ski area will take a breather and possibly start thinking about replacing some of the aging base-area buildings, Henceroth said.