Arapahoe Basin Ski Area duo dreams big after growth of disc golf in Summit County

A disc golfer throws a shot from the tee box at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area's 18-hole course during the first-ever Professional Disc Golf Association Arapahoe Basin Alpine Open in early August.
Courtesy Ian Zinner / Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

KEYSTONE — Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is entering into a new era in terms of its on-mountain recreational offerings. Much of that centers around summer, as the Summit County ski area at the Continental Divide is finishing up work this autumn to open new activities next year. That includes climbing, expanded mountain bike and hiking trails, and a lower-mountain aerial adventure park in the trees.

But if you ask A-Basin slopes maintenance manager Louis Skowyra, this increased focus on summer started with disc golf. Much credit goes to lift operations manager Ben Morton and his drive to build an 18-hole disc golf course out of the ski area’s Mountain Goat Plaza base area.

“I would call Benny the godfather of A-Basin disc golf,” Skowyra said. “Not only did he wander around and find the layout of these 18 holes and made a really nice course on our mountain, I think most people would credit Benny with getting us into disc golf. He was the one who got me into disc golf. He’s probably gotten 20 guys at the ski area into disc golf as players, built a group that was passionate about this and keen on taking care of it and pushing it forward.”

Merely opening an 18-hole course at A-Basin is not the ultimate goal for Morton and the crew, though. He and Skowyra have bigger goals. Some are small, such as slight changes to the A-Basin course, including the potential addition of a 19th hole to connect two other holes with a bit of a hike between them. The bigger dreams include doubling the size of A-Basin’s Professional Disc Golf Association-sanctioned event, the A-Basin Alpine Open. Morton also said he and a few other disc golfers in the county would love to see the A-Basin, Dillon and Frisco disc golf courses combine to host a three-day, three-course PDGA-sanctioned event.

And then there’s his dream to construct a new course along A-Basin’s stunning upper mountain terrain above tree line.

“At some point, I’m going to go up to our midmountain and see if I can lay out a course up there, potentially, that people would have to ride the lift and go play,” Morton said. “Now, it’s going to be more challenging because you’re going up in elevation, where the sensitivity of the vegetation and resources increases. But it’s one thing I’m going to take a stab at. We’ll see.”

As A-Basin is set to host its third annual A-Basin Disc Golf Tournament from from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Morton and Skowyra reflected Friday on the sport’s growth in the county in recent years.

Skowyra said Summit County has boomed from 27 playable holes across various courses to almost 100 in the past five years.

“That’s pretty dramatic,” Skowyra said. “There are a lot of people who play disc golf in this county, and that spreads them out really nicely now and provides for more options.”

This year, that increase in playing options is centered around more beginner-friendly courses and holes for people looking to break into the sport. The new “dirty dozen” holes at the Lake Dillon Disc Golf Course, off Cemetery Road in Dillon, provide an ideal after-work, 45-minute round for players of all skill levels, Skowyra said.

A disc golfer throws at the hole at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s 18-hole course during the first-Professional Disc Golf Association Arapahoe Basin Alpine Open in early August.
Courtesy Ian Zinner / Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

Then there’s the nine beginner holes at the new course in Silverthorne at the Summit Sky Ranch neighborhood.

“It’s pretty neat to see this all happen organically thanks to people like Ben,” Skowyra said.

Along with Morton, another Summit County local crucial to the sport’s growth in the county is Steve Howes. Like Morton, Howes, has spent countless hours contributing to the game, namely over at the town of Frisco’s Peak One Disc Golf Course at the Frisco Adventure Park. Frisco’s original 18-hole course has long served as a great intermediate playing ground for disc golfers, something Frisco added onto two years ago with a new course that Skowyra said provided players with the most-challenging nine holes in the county.

A disc golfer throws a shot from a tee box at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s 18-hole course during the first Professional Disc Golf Association Arapahoe Basin Alpine Open in early August.
Ian Zinner / Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

“And they are tweaking that, improving that, making it better,” he said.

Looking ahead, Morton is open to small changes to the A-Basin course to make it better. Next year he said the course’s first two holes might need to be relocated because of the aerial adventure park ropes course. Whether the course changes or stays the same, Morton knows the key to disc golf continuing to grow is to get people on-site. Considering playing the course is free, Morton and Skowyra view it as the perfect medium to introduce and retain recreators interested in A-Basin’s summer offerings.

“It’s just about getting people here,” Morton said.

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