A-Basin brings short season to festive end | SummitDaily.com

A-Basin brings short season to festive end

Jane Reuter

ARAPAHOE BASIN – Plastic palm trees dotted the picnic tables at the Arapahoe Basin base area on its closing day Sunday. Many attending the Festival of the Brewpubs wore multi-colored leis and Hawaiian shirts, and bands showered the crowd with reggae music. The tropical theme ran strong, some say even to the skiing – which many described as slushy but acceptable last-day conditions.

“It’s a little slushy, but for the last day on the slopes – we’re having a good time,” said Aurora resident P.J. Knight.

Arapahoe Basin closed two weeks earlier than officials planned, the area’s earliest closing since at least the 1980s. Last year the ski area closed its slopes June 10. The latest closing in the past decade was in 1995, when they closed Aug. 10.

But the area’s director of marketing said closing day conditions were better than on most last days of the season.

“We’re skiing top to bottom,” said Leigh Hierholzer. “On closing day, we’re usually downloading.

“It’s not a secret Colorado had a bad snowfall season. It’s too bad we couldn’t have extended it further, but we wanted a quality product.”

The closing day celebration appeared to meet everyone’s expectations. Participants sampled beer from the county’s five breweries. Basin party-planners had ordered 500 glasses enscripted with “First Annual Festival of the Brewpubs” for the event; they ran out by about 1 p.m. and workers resorted to plastic cups.

But even the area’s season pass holders admitted it was high time to shut down for the year.

“It’s slushy, but I didn’t think I was going to get another day in, so I was sitting on the lift, smiling all the way up,” said Frisco’s Tom Gibson, a season pass holder at the Basin.

“It was pretty good, kind of slushy, but pretty good,” said Alison Roberts of Thornton.

Golden resident Mike Dewey, another season pass holder, was not so forgiving.

“It’s the worst it’s ever been, but that’s why we’re drinking,” he said.

All Colorado ski areas received below-normal snowfall this season, but A-Basin might have suffered the most as a result. Without snowmaking, ski area officials were unable to open as planned. A-Basin opened Dec. 21 – its latest opening ever. And they were unable to open the East Wall – a favorite section of the mountain for some A-Basin fans.

But this summer, A-Basin will begin installing its new snowmaking equipment, which will significantly extend the area’s season.

“The key is not to stay open year round, but to have a consistent opening day and a consistent closing day,” Hierholzer said.

The consistent dates ski area officials are targeting are a late October opening and a Fourth of July closing.

It isn’t just the skiers who will benefit from snowmaking. Doug Vincent, a 22-year A-Basin skiing instructor, says it will help his pocketbook.

“Our openings now range from early November to late December,” he said. “It would be nice to have a consistent opening to count on.

“As far as the snow, I’m not really into the manmade, but I do like the idea of a consistent opening.”

Hierholzer, for one, looks forward to an Independence Day closing date.

“It’s been five years since we closed on the Fourth of July,” she said.

Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at jreuter@summitdaily.com.

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