Arapahoe Basin: Wednesday, February 2, 2010

The last time I went to A Basin I nearly passed out. One can always blame the altitude (the Basin tops out at just over 13,000 feet!), but I also prefer to point to the anemia, which went undiagnosed for years and caused me to pass out at really inopportune times. Plus, it cramped my style.

So I was a little weary, a little tired, and filled with trepidation as I strapped in on this very cold (brrrrrr) Wednesday morning at the parking lot closest to the ski area. One of the reasons I love these smaller areas is that the walk from the car to the lift, even with all that equipment, takes less than five minutes.

Snow coverage was light, the surface was iced over, and the wind was picking up. Still, a less-than-stellar day on the hill beats the most productive day at the office. The sky was overcast, meaning the light on the crusty Legend was flat, making the terrain difficult to see. But as long as no spots floated in front of my eyes, I was in good shape.

I like to start slowly, so we warmed up on Sundance and High Noon. All the corduroy was gone, and the snow was crunchy here and icy there, but like I said, even a less-than-stellar day on the mountain…

All warmed up and all happy about my $24.99 lift ticket, we headed over to the Lenawee lift, which takes one to the top of the mountain and provides access to the newest addition, a 400-acre playground fondly known as Montezuma Bowl. The Bowl opened in the 07-08 season and because the Basin is more of a late-season area, the Bowl was not open that day or many any others.

Instead of enjoying the blues of the Bowl, we headed down, with just about everyone else on the hill, the Lewanee Face to Dercum’s Gulch. By now the wind had kicked up to the high teens and my fingertips began to protest. After a hot chocolate run to the awesome, mid-mountain Black Mountain Lodge, we made circles: Lewanee lift to the Face to the Gulch.

Then we figured, well, the famous Pallavicini Lift is open, even if coverage is at best three feet. Let’s go for it. Now, S, the skier I was with (bless those double plankers who put up with my knuckle-dragging), has been skiing for about forty years. So his just hanging with me means he’s sacrificing an epic day on the mountain for an outing with a friend.

I’m never one to act ungrateful so I was like, “Yeah, let’s head up Pali (as all the cool locals know it) and make some tracks.” Pali mostly serves black terrain, whose name alone makes my palms sweat when they’re not frozen under three layers of really expensive plastic.

There are a couple of blue runs off Pali, so I convinced myself I would just head for Grizzly Road, the sole blue run off Pali. Except it was closed.

Heart skipping, we carefully catwalked our way to friendlier terrain: the West Wall. The fall line kept dragging me down the mountain and the moguls kept my calves burning, as I was toe side the whole way. Finally, tufts of power lay silently among the mogul mounds, and I turned my way down the West Wall and the rest of the mountain.

Both S and I were tired, and we called it a day. A good day with a few good runs, absolutely no crowds, and some excellent camraderie.

God I love snowboarding.

Lift ticket: $24.99 from Liftopia

Two Hot Chocolates: $5.50

Parking: FREE

A-Basin is still running its two-fer Tuesdays through the month of February.

Read about SheSpoke snowboarding at Loveland Ski Area in part 9 of this series.