Ski season still going strong at A-Basin |

Ski season still going strong at A-Basin

Chris Outcalt
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailySummit Cove residents Mike Vallee, left, Jacob Krank, and, Chip Proulx hike up to snowboard the North Pole, and extreme terrain area, Friday at Arapahoe Basin ski area.

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. ” Raul Fortunato made sure to pack his multi-color beach umbrella when he left his house to go skiing Friday morning. It was almost as important as his skis.

By 1 p.m. Friday, he and his wife were done skiing for the day and were lounging in camping chairs enjoying freshly-grilled burgers and beer underneath the colorful umbrella.

“The Basin in the spring is as much about the beach as it is about the skiing,” said Fortunato who lives in Dillon.

The couple were among the first to arrive Friday morning at the hard-packed bumpy dirt parking lot nearest to the ski lifts at Arapahoe Basin. A stretch of the lot starts where the ski hill ends and is known to locals as the beach.

On the weekend, the prime ski-in parking spots are taken well before 8 a.m. and by the afternoon there are plenty of grills, footballs, Frisbees, camping chairs and dogs scattered throughout the lot.

But A-Basin’s lifts are the only ones left running in Colorado and it’s worth making the trip to Summit County to get a few spring runs in, too, Fortunato said.

“Moab is close and attractive but the snow is still great,” he said. “Come on out.”

As long as the conditions are good, Breckenridge resident Jerry Amberger plans to ski A-Basin until it closes on June 7.

“It’s still a good option,” Amberger said. “This coverage is really good, there’s no dirt in any lines or anything, it’s nice.”

Arapahoe Basin is usually the first or second ski mountain to open for the season and is often one of the last to close. It’s the only mountain that’s open in Colorado. There are still a few ski areas open in Oregon, California, Utah and Canada.

The mountain’s 10,780 foot base-elevation helps it hold snow into June. Officials only recently started announcing the mountain’s closing date ahead of time ” it makes planning things easier, said Leigh Hierholzer, Arapahoe Basin’s communications director.

Montezuma Bowl, the mountain’s backside bowl, should be open at least through this weekend, Hierholzer said.

“People are still really into it,” she said.

Denver resident Gundula Tournir hopes to ski a couple times a week for the next month.

“It’s worth coming,” Tournir said. “I think people miss out on a lot, I love being out in May and skiing.”

And the best part is she has the interstate all to herself, she said.

The weather is hard to beat, too, said Summit County residents Flynt Doyal and Lilly Skodras.

“Everybody is out here just having fun,” Doyal said. “It’s sunny and warm.”

“It’s all about what you make it,” Skodras said. “You can come out with a bad attitude and have a bad day or you can understand that the snow is not going to be as good and have a good time with your friends.”

Although the mountain isn’t competing with other area ski mountains, now it’s competing with other recreational activities, Hierholzer said.

“People want to ride their bike or play golf,” she said.

A-Basin offers a series of spring events and concerts to try and attract people to the mountain.

Colorado University student Shea Flynn doesn’t plan to trade in his skis for a bike or a pair of hiking boots until the lifts stop running.

“This is my favorite time of year, you get all the slushy snow,” Flynn said.

His message to the people who are thinking about making that trade: “Keep to the roots of this place, Colorado’s got the best skiing around. Just take pride in it and get as much skiing in as you can.”