One gets a sense of the vibe at Arapahoe Basin long before you hit the slopes. Signs in the parking lot direct you with a playful, distinctive, and markedly human tone; “Almost There!”, “Keep Going!” Soon enough I ease my car in to a spot and being to slip my boots on carside. Adjacent me is a group of weary locals, all soggy socks and smiles as they load their boards in to their car after a half day at A-Basin.
I meet Kimberly Trembearth, the area’s marketing guru, at the base lodge. After briefly discussing what’s going on at the Basin today, Kimberly shows the area’s true colors: “The oyster bar doesn’t open for another two hours, so go ski. Have fun!” she orders. Yes ma’am.
Arapahoe Basin is one of Colorado’s Gems ski areas, which in essence means it appeals to those who will forego valley parking if it means they can have the whole place to themselves. Works for me.
The snow gods have been kind to A-Basin this year, and their early-season is shaping nicely. The area is open from top to bottom, and the coverage is great. I immediately head to the top, making quick work of the already-minimal lift lines by opting to ski single today. As I make laps on the Lenawee Mountain Lift, all of my chair-mates are either locals, or die-hards to traveled great distances in search of early-season snow.
“It’s great, I can’t believe it’s not even Christmas yet!” remarks a full-time lobbyist, part-time ski bum from Michigan, who asked not to be identified for fear of her boss finding out she was skiing during a work trip. “I had a break in work and I hopped a plane for Colorado. You guys have all the snow.”
Colorado’s got all the steel too. Arapahoe Basin’s High Divide Terrain Park is in full effect, with four features including rails and boxes, and a few kickers to keep the masses entertained. The stoke (bro-brah slang for level of excitement) is very high in the busy terrain park. At a time of year when the typical ski area’s offerings amount to little more than a one-run, man-made “ribbon-of-death”, Arapahoe Basin has enough snow to build a terrain park.
I’m not too proud to admit that I have close to zero terrain park skills. I briefly contemplate throwing a sweet daffy just to amuse the peanut gallery, but quickly think better of it, mostly for fear of being shown-up by a 9-year-old.
This early in the year it doesn’t take long to burn my legs out, so after another run I head for the 6th Alley Bar, a local institution down at the base area. If you haven’t been to the 6th Alley, go, if only to try the bacon bloody mary. Hollywood’s central casting department couldn’t assemble a more convincing ski area bar scene. Families, local ski bums, and weekend-warriors are all right at home here.
There is one thing at the 6th Alley that’s completely out of place this high in the Rocky Mountains; fresh seafood. Arapahoe Basin’s Raw Bar has gathered somewhat of a cult following over the past few years. Essentially, the Raw Bar brings New England, Asian Fusion, and the Colorado Rockies together in an unlikely, albeit delicious medley. Fresh snow followed by fresh Maine oysters, a bacon bloody mary, and some laid-back folks telling jokes all night is a pretty darn good close to a day skiing in Colorado.
Chef Paul sees me and my video camera coming, and begins preparing plate after plate of delicious sashimi-grade delicacies for me to sample. I try oysters on the half-shell, ahi tuna, and fresh shrimp. It’s the last thing I’d have expected to find here, and now that I’ve had it I’ve got a feeling that no après ski experience will measure up. Sushi bar, meet ski boots. No wonder they call Arapahoe Basin “The Legend”.
-John Trousdale, Mountain Correspondent, Colorado Ski Country USA