On the Hill: Craving for more carving
Five lift rides, four hours in the car and three spectacular hikes gave two skiers who hadn’t had enough of winter one more day of skiing at Arapahoe Basin on Monday.No, it’s not over yet for America’s highest lift-served skiing. Spring snowstorms at “The Legend” have got the throwback mountain in better shape than it’s been midseason some years.The parking lot was crowded for a Monday, and for good reason. The mountain was spread with a deep layer of cream cheese and the sky was blazing blue at 12,000 feet. The East Wall beckoned.Hiking the North Pole gate in that high, craggy environment at A-Basin sometimes feels just a little like ascending some remote Alaskan peak. The hike isn’t strenuous, and the skiing’s about as interesting as it gets inbounds. The chutes look steeper from the bottom than they actually are.After a descent down the North Pole route and a lift ride up, it would be more than an hour before On the Hill would take another seat on a lift.Another hike up to the Notch 2 route, down to the East Wall Traverse, over to the Willie’s Wide ladder and a lung-burning staircase straight up the face, back down deep, creamy spring snow, to the traverse over to the far right of the Lower East Wall and down to the lodge for a cold one. One more ride down the Pali side was all it took to satisfy a spring craving for carving. Mission accomplished.And it was no freak day at “Agony Basin.” A week before, all of Denver and Boulder descended upon the mountain for a good, fresh 6-8 inches. The parking lots overflowed, cars and trucks lined Highway 6 and the Beach looked like a major college tailgate with car tents, kegs and two-table spreads.The masses swelled the Palavachini lift to a 40-minute wait and pushed the singles line at Lenawee Mountain up the hill so skiers coming from some directions had to herringbone up the mountain just to get in line. But no one was complaining. “Not too bad for May” ruled lift conversations between strangers.
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