Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is about to get bigger.  A lot bigger, and a lot more fun for skiers of all levels.  Known as The Legend, this resort situated 68 miles outside of Denver, Colorado along Loveland Pass has come a long way from its opening in the 1945-1946 season with a single rope tow.

At this time A-Basin has just under 1,000 acres of skiable terrain.  They plan to open an additional 468 acres of new terrain to the west of the current ski area boundary.  With the 2016 U.S. Forest Service expansion approval secured, construction will begin this summer, with a portion scheduled for completion in time to open for skiing and riding next season as hike-back terrain.

The area to be developed over four years is already part of A-Basin’s Special Use Permit area and is a favorite ski destination for more adventurous and advanced skiers.  These sidecountry skiers often hike or hitchhike along U.S. Route 6 to get back to the resort from the uncontrolled area, and six skiers have perished in avalanches since 1982.  Development of this area will reduce risk to skiers and open up the area for greater use.

Included in the expansion approval are replacements for the Pallivacini and Molly Hogan lifts, as well as 338 acres of terrain development into The Beavers and Steep Gullies.

The Beavers will include groomed intermediate “blue” runs, open bowl skiing and advanced tree skiing. The terrain will be served by a fixed-grip quad chairlift. The new chairlift for The Beavers will be installed during summer of 2018. The Beavers will open as lift-served terrain for the 2018-19 ski season.

Alan Henceroth, COO for A-Basin, blogged earlier this month about the choice of a fixed grip over a detachable lift for The Beavers.  He noted a few key points of consideration:

  • Financial – While still measured in the “millions of dollars,” a fixed grip lift is about half the price of a detachable lift.
  • Installation and Maintenance – Without road access, installation and maintenance is difficult for any lift. A detachable lift is the most difficult without road access. In the lift world, more difficult also means more expensive.
  • Wind – Occasionally, the A-Basin Summit is just a tad bit windy. We think a fixed grip lift in this location will have less wind related downtime than a detachable lift.

The Steep Gullies will be labeled as “extreme terrain,” with a double-black diamond rating.  The terrain in The Steep Gullies will be the most challenging terrain offered at Arapahoe Basin. The area will be accessed from the Pallavicini Lift.  Skiers will be required to hike or ski back along a cat track to return to the base of that lift.

The Beavers and The Steep Gullies will remain unpatrolled and unmitigated backcountry terrain for the remainder of the 2016-17 ski season.

The next few years will clearly bring significant changes to this popular ski destination as they push forward into this phase of development and continue to bring legendary skiing to Colorado.

Have you skied A-Basin?  Share your favorite run in the comments below.