By R. Scott Rappold
It’s mid-June and the Front Range cities are sweltering. Rivers are running high with snow melt-off and bike-and-hike season is in full swing in Colorado.
Meanwhile at Arapahoe Basin, ski season soldiers on.
Thanks to its high elevation, a deep midwinter base and a snowy spring, this locals’ favorite will reopen Friday for a weekend of bonus skiing. Tailgating in the parking lot, skiing in shorts and t-shirt (or for the guys, no shirt at all), costumes and general gleeful insanity – all will be in big supply this weekend.
And you haven’t lived until you’ve skimmed on skis or surfed on a snowboard across an icy alpine lake. Lake Reveal, according to the ski area, was beginning to poke out of the snow as of the middle of this week.
So for the skier or snowboarder who has never skied in June, or the powderhound who might have forgotten what it’s like, here are some tips to make the most out of your summer-like day on the slopes.
–Get a spring wax. Ski shops – if you can find one that hasn’t closed for the season – sell waxes specially designed for warm snow conditions. It’ll increase your speed and help you keep the momentum when you hit a patch of slush.
–Get there early. The strip of parking lot at A-Basin known as “The Beach” is the most famous tailgating spot in ski country. It’s where parking lot meets the snow and is home to raucous and surprisingly large and elaborate parties. It also fills up quickly so apply yourself and get up early. You can also rent spots. Visit arapahoebasin.com for more details.
–Bring your grill. Usually when skiing it’s too cold for most to comfortably cook out, so take advantage of the warmth and get your grilling on.
– Take your time getting on the slopes. Spring snow is often icy before 10 a.m. so give the sun a chance to soften it up before getting out there.
– Call it an early day. The high sun angle and warm temperatures can turn even the upper-most runs to slush by early afternoon, so by 1:30 or 2 most people have hit the bar or fired up their grills.
– Layers, layers, layers. Many a skier has gotten on the lift in just a t-shirt only to be shivering at the top or whenever a cloud covers the sun. So go full-on summer but bring a jacket.
– Wear sunscreen. That’s always good advice when getting outside in Colorado, but doubly so when the blazing sun is reflecting on blazing snow. You’d be surprised what parts of your face can get sunburnt in such conditions.
– Surf or skim Lake Reveal. More like a glacial tarn than an alpine lake, this frigid pond forms in A-Basin’s upper bowl as the snow melts. With enough speed and the leg muscles to lean way back to keep tips above the water, surfing the lake can be a thrilling experience. Lean too far back or not enough or lose your speed and you’re in for an icy shock. Either way make sure a friend is waiting with a camera.
– Don’t drink and drive. More advice that’s good year-round but keep in mind that law enforcement are aware this party is going on. Don’t endanger your freedom and the safety of others. Have a designated driver.
The Black Mountain Express and Lenawee Mountain lifts at A-Basin will run from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with top-to-bottom skiing, Friday through Sunday. The A-Frame base lodge is closed for construction, but food and beverages will be available at the mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge starting at 10:30 a.m.
Sunday will be the official closing day of the season. But fear not, Front Range skiers. With the longest season in North America, A-Basin will most likely be open again by October.