Arapahoe Basin Ski Area gears up to reopen amid demand so high it crashed the reservations system
ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREA — It’s rare that a ski area has two hyped up “opening days” in one season, but after an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis closed all Colorado ski areas in mid-March amid the coronavirus pandemic, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area officials repeatedly said they would try to reopen for late spring skiing.
On Sunday, the ski area got the green light to reopen with restrictions Wednesday, May 27, after more than two months. Since the announcement, A-Basin management and employees have scrambled to prepare a safe reopening day.
Polis addressed the opening during a press conference Tuesday.
“Arapahoe Basin in Summit County is opening (Wednesday) with strict precautions for the lift lines, a mask requirement,” Polis said. “It’s skiing for the athletic fun of skiing. … If anybody’s been to A-Basin on a normal June skiing day or May skiing day, you know it’s a party-like environment on the base and even on the mountains. That’s not what this is. This is skiing for skiing.”
Polis noted that skiing is an activity that is relatively safe during the pandemic because social distancing can be easy to maintain.
The ski area is allowed to have a maximum of 600 skiers per day, and spokeswoman Leigh Hierholzer said two beginner runs, 18 intermediate runs and one advanced run are scheduled to open along with Black Mountain Express, Lenawee Mountain and Pallavicini lifts.
Throughout the day Tuesday, Hierholzer said patrol, grooming and lift operators were preparing for operations as other staff prepared for guest arrival by sanitizing, putting up safety protocol signage in the base area, parking lot and lift mazes and preparing checkpoint and boundary control measures.
Hierholzer said A-Basin staff was busy Tuesday but that the mountain has been preparing to reopen for more than two months.
“We’ve been preparing and waiting to reopen since March 15, the first day we were closed,” Hierholzer wrote in an email. “We never fully shut it down.”
As for employees, Hierholzer said the ski area was able to rehire some staff, but since reopening is limited with only chairlift and bathroom access, reopening is being done primarily with existing staff members.
Despite the warm spring this year, Hierholzer said the ski area has a 40-inch base and that the snow looks “fantastic,” particularly at the top of the mountain. She added that the ski area received 6 inches of fresh snow Sunday.
Skiers and riders were so eager to carve up the fresh snow that an online reservation system crashed almost immediately after it was launched. Forty-two minutes after the reservation system opened Monday evening, A-Basin posted on Twitter apologizing for the delay and stating that they were not sure when the system would be back up and running.
Hierholzer wrote in an email that the original system was overloaded and couldn’t handle the volume. While she said the ski area expected a high demand, the demand that the system saw couldn’t be accommodated.
After failed attempts to relaunch the reservations system, the ski area posted Tuesday afternoon on Twitter that access to the ski area would instead be done via a random drawing for one day at a time. Passholders hoping to ski or snowboard the following day must enter into a drawing the day before. Each day, the drawing will select 570 current season passholders and offer 30 day pass tickets for sale. The drawing and additional information can be found at ArapahoeBasin.com/may27-reopening.
“We’ve prepared for (Wednesday) for sometime now,” Hierholzer wrote in an email. “I think we will learn a lot, but we are looking forward to it. We’ve worked very closely with health department officials to follow their guidelines, and we are asking guests to cooperate. We need everyone’s help to do so.”
Hierholzer added that guests are required to follow health protocols and will be asked to leave if they do not.
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