At A-Basin, ski season moves Fourth
July 2, 2011
ARAPAHOE BASIN, Colo. – It’s not very often that skiers and riders can roll up to the mountain in a convertible with the top down, sporting their best summer swimwear for a day on the hill.
But that was the case Friday as Arapahoe Basin fired up the Black Mountain Express for the final weekend of the Colorado ski season. It’s the first time since 1997 that the mountain has remained open until the Fourth of July.
“We’ve had a lot of snow, and it remained winter conditions pretty far into the spring, which also really helped,” said director of mountain operations Tim Finnegan. “We had powder skiing until the end of May. Usually it turns to spring in the latter half of April, but this year it was full-on wintertime.”
A-Basin experienced 472 inches of snowfall this season (assuming they don’t get any more in the next few days). That’s the second most in the history of the mountain. Also, having the early-season snowmaking capability, which was added in 2002, helped make it possible for the mountain to stay open later into the summer.
Arapahoe Basin joins Snowbird, Mt. Hood, Mammoth, Crystal Mountain, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood as some of the mountains that have made it this deep into the season. But they’re the only one in Colorado.
The conditions are firm and fast in the morning, but it hasn’t been getting quite cold enough over night to result in the coral-reef-like texture that one might experience in the early morning hours of an April ski day. The snow softens up throughout the day, and as one might expect, gets pretty mushy toward the end.
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The mountain is reporting a 40-inch base with five runs – Upper Falcon, Dercum’s Gultch, High Noon, Lenawee Face and Humbug – and 70 acres open this weekend. The forecast is mostly sunny with a chance of fireworks.
“It’s an exciting time, pretty unique,” Finnegan said. “It’s especially exciting for the people who are visiting, who are here for the summer. Many of them haven’t even seen snow before. And there are some hardcore skiers – a handful of them – who have come skiing everyday this season. They’re going to ski it until it’s completely done.”
Finnegan said a lot of people have an impression that A-Basin stays open this late every year, because it’s so memorable when it does happen. But this is only the fourth or fifth time the mountain has made it this far into summer. In 2003, they stayed open until July 2, just shy of Independence Day.
Of course, there will be plenty of shenanigans and people chillin’ and grillin’ in the parking lot. Expect folks to be donning their best closing-day attire, whether that’s the old ’80s onesie, a full ape suit or perhaps nothing at all.
On Sunday at the midway Black Mountain Lodge, High Five will play a free show from noon to 2 p.m. There is nothing officially planned for Monday except celebrating our independence and being able to ski, said director of marketing Leigh Hierholzer.
“(Skiing on the Fourth of July) is something you can’t do very often,” she said. “Everyone is really excited. The weather is fantastic and they’re just really having fun up there. I talked to one guy from New York who flew all the way out here just to take a run on his snowboard.”
For the real diehards, the good news is, after Monday, they won’t have to wait very long for next season. The Mountain usually opens in mid-October, giving it one of the shortest off seasons anywhere.