Arapahoe Basin Ski Area hosts second opening day of the season after COVID-19 shutdown
ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREA — It would seem Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has successfully pulled off a safe reopening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lucky skiers and snowboarders who won Tuesday night’s reservation raffle filed in around 8 a.m. donning ski buffs and masks over their faces. The first riders walked across a pathway through the grass, which was exposed on a warm May day, up to a table set up with a plexiglass shield to have their tickets scanned. They stepped up onto the snow, and by 8:20 a.m., the first chair was off.
While reopening day was a momentous occasion — A-Basin being one of only a few ski areas in the country to reopen following widespread shutdowns from the novel coronavirus — the mood of skiers and snowboarders was calm from the moment they strolled into the base area. Reopening day didn’t come with the usual crowds, lines, high energy and pushing.
Of course, much of this was intentional. The ski area could bring in only 600 skiers and snowboarders for the day and isn’t allowing the tailgating and partying that often accompanies late spring skiing. Once skiers and snowboarders made their way up the Black Mountain Express chairlift, they dispersed across the mountain onto the 20 open runs and three chairlifts. One skier compared the experience to being at a private ski area.
A-Basin spokeswoman Katherine Fuller stood in the base area before skiers entered. Fuller said she hadn’t been to the ski area in 10 weeks and that it felt good to be back. While A-Basin will have to continue to navigate health and safety as the ski area continues to operate, Fuller said she is comfortable with the procedures in place.
“It’s new territory, it’s not something we’ve ever done, it’s not something really anyone’s ever done, but I mean, we’ve been working on this since we closed,” Fuller said. “We’ve been ready to reopen since we closed, and we never stopped working on the mountain. We never stopped working on the plans.”
Fuller noted that mountain operations staff took care of the snow throughout the shutdown and continued to groom runs. As for the drawing that chose the 600 skiers and snowboarders who could attend reopening day, Fuller said she was thankful it worked after the original reservation system crashed upon launch. The system couldn’t handle the demand of 4,000 people trying to reserve their spots at once.
“I was watching Google Analytics. I’ve never seen it spin like a slot machine,” Fuller said, referring to the number that shows up on Google Analytics tracking how many people are on a website. “It was unreal. … People want to ski and ride, and that’s OK.”
As for feedback, Fuller said it has mostly been positive as people are simply hoping to get out and ski. She said the only negative feedback the ski area has received has been from people who want to come ski but haven’t been able to reserve a spot. Fuller said no one has complained about the physical distancing or facial covering requirements.
“We’re hoping that this is part of the healing process for the county and helping the county learn how businesses can do things and helping people get back on their feet a little bit and just kind of feeling good that things can maybe start to happen,” Fuller said.
As for those who were among the first to step into a lift line at A-Basin after more than two months, everyone expressed the general sentiment that they were feeling great about the day and excited to get on the mountain. Two Front Range residents in line said that they ride “almost exclusively” at A-Basin and had gotten in about 35 days at the ski area before the shutdown.
Mike Maher and his daughter said the two ski A-Basin and Loveland Ski Area, as his daughter races at Loveland. Maher said he also was at A-Basin for the Fourth of July last year. Like many duos on the mountain, Maher said his daughter won the drawing for them both via a plus one option.
“We were working it all day yesterday just watching the website and the Facebook page, waiting for the revised instructions, and we were both registered, and I did not win but my daughter won, so here we are,” Maher said.
From the top of the Lenawee Mountain lift around 9:30 a.m., Genesee resident Sue Walts said that while she had a great day of skiing at Berthoud Pass on Monday in fresh powder, she enjoyed Wednesday’s spring skiing at A-Basin.
“It’s definitely softening off,” Walts said. “It’s getting better. It’s nice, and there’s not huge lines. It’s really kind of chill. At least the groomers guarantee you’ll have a nice, smooth surface for a while, and then it softens up.”
Walts said she usually visits A-Basin in the early and late season. After trying to reserve her spot Monday night and all through Tuesday, she eventually entered the drawing and received an email Tuesday night that she had been selected.
“I got the email and was running around, jumping up and down, so that was pretty exciting,” Walts said.
Duo Chris Miller and Mike Salgado were riding down Grizzly Road and also commented that the snow was continuing to soften as the sun came out. Both Miller and Salgado entered the drawing, but only Salgado made it out with a reservation.
“He actually got one, and I did not,” Miller said. “So we kind of were able to cover each other that way where we both signed up and one of us got lucky.”
Both men said they had other friends who attempted to get reservations, but Salgado was the only one who lucked out.
Denver resident Curt Seiberlich was standing atop Lenawee Face when asked how his day was going. He smiled and said to look around. He said he was glad A-Basin decided to “push the limit a little bit.” However, Seiberlich was disappointed with the administrative process of the day.
“I think the whole administrative side of this is kind of a train wreck,” Seiberlich said. “For something as basic as, your server crashes, really? You didn’t anticipate that?”
Despite the technical difficulties, Seiberlich said it was an awesome day and especially peaceful. He said it’s a great break for the people who get to come to the ski area after everything everyone’s been through during the pandemic. Seiberlich said he wished more people were able to experience spring skiing at A-Basin this year, noting that he was the only one of his friends to win the drawing.
“I feel super, super fortunate that I did win, and here I am,” Seiberlich said. “It’s an awesome day. … I was fortunate because I won the lottery, but if you push it to the other side, there are a whole bunch of people that want to be skiing, and I think a whole bunch more people could be skiing. I would just like to have more people experience this than just the select few.”
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