Plans for A-Basin coming to life | AspenTimes.com

Plans for A-Basin coming to life

Kimberly Nicoletti
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

ARAPAHOE BASIN, Colo. ” “The Basin’s gettin’ pimped; only weeks left now.”

Matt, one of Montezuma Bowl’s 600 friends on MySpace.com, dropped that comment online, and he couldn’t be more right on. After splicing the cable together last weekend, crews are hoping to finish hanging chairs by Wednesday, when A-Basin will do a load test.

The test involves putting weight on the chairs to mimic a full load, then testing the chairlift with starts, stops and slow runnings. An engineer will verify that everything is working properly, and the lift should be licensed to operated by Nov. 1, said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin’s general manager.

Meanwhile, A-Basin is showing up in nontraditional places. The 61-year-old is on MySpace but you’d never know its age by the company it keeps. Nelly Dewey writes sweet-nothings to the self-proclaimed “single” entity.

Nelly says, “I want you to remember I will always love you, no matter how you hurt me.”

And now, the Basin has more to love, with an additional 400 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain.

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Henceroth sees the expansion, as well as advertisements throughout Front Range billboards and buses, driving more people to the mountain, but he believes the additional terrain will spread them out; in essence creating less crowds throughout the mountain.

“Overall, it’s going to seem less busy,” Henceroth said, adding that lift lines on Pali and Lenawee should decrease.

The new mid-mountain restaurant will also help spread people out away from the base area, he said.

And parking? On Friday morning, a bulldozer worked to regrade and expand the High Noon parking lot, which will add 120 more spaces. Next season, as well as in the 2009/2010 season, A-Basin will create a new lot on Highway 9 at the first shoulder above High Noon, where some cars park during crowded days. The expansion will double the current width, allowing it to hold 300 vehicles.

Zuma lift will sweep 1,900 people up the bowl per hour. The 1,100-vertical-foot lift will have a ride time of nine minutes.

Zuma will be a fixed-grip, four-person lift, rather than a detachable, because a detatchable quad costs about twice as much. So far, A-Basin has stayed on budget with the $3 million expansion, and it plans to use additional funds to replace the Exhibition chair with a detatchable quad in the next year or two.

“We decided to put the (detachable quad and the money) in on the front side, where it was needed more,” he said.

Skiers and riders will now be able to take Exhibition to Lenawee lift, then take one of two entrances into Montezuma Bowl. There will be a new trail from the top of Lenawee to the blue side of the bowl, where six blue groomers sit underneath the Zuma lift. Or, people can turn right off of Lenawee, go over a small hump and take a catwalk ” which Henceroth said is close to level ” toward Cornice Run to drop into advanced terrain, located on the west side of the bowl. The maximum pitch is about 35 to 40 degrees off the cornice, Henceroth said.

In the past year, other area resorts also have expanded. Breckenridge built a skiway back to town, and is going through preparations to expand onto Peak 6. Keystone is looking for more hike-to terrain behind the resort, and Copper Mountain expanded its skiing terrain on Tucker Mountain.

Since its 1982 master plan, A-Basin has had its eyes on Montezuma Bowl. But at that time, it was part of Keystone, and the company had other priorities, Henceroth said.

But once Canadian-based Dundee Realty bought the Basin in 1997, priorities changed. Still, it’s taken a decade to complete more pressing projects, such as snowmaking, a new mid-mountain restaurant and replacement of Lenawee lift. But after more than a quarter of a century in the making, and a few public comments last year that protested more resort expansion, Montezuma Bowl is midway through its biggest expansion project.

Its 600 online friends are waiting patiently, hoping and praying for snow.