Dave Yost: A-Basin is simply the best
I decided I simply had to write a letter of thanks to the Arapahoe Basin staff and management for running such an exceptional operation. From their brand new lift, the top notch on mountain food service at their Black Mountain Lodge, and their parking improvements, the place is not only the best bargain in skiing, it is one of the best places to ski period. With the possible exception of Heavenly at Lake Tahoe, the view from the top of the Montezuma lift gives everyone a view unmatched anywhere in the US.
My wife and I are now A-Basin regulars but we rarely skied there before they opened the Zuma lift. Back then, we only visited the area during spring breaks. As one gets older, you tend to appreciate a few things like a good shuttle system and real employees helping to pack cars into a parking lot. While some resorts tend to focus on handing out tissues to those who paid over $100 bucks for a day’s skiing, the management at A-Basin seems to have the right balance between letting everyone have a good time and making the hill a safe operation. You don’t see lift operators or restaurant employees goofing off or ski safety employees standing around when they should be watching the hill.
One of the reasons I wrote this piece is that a few days ago, there was a vehicle accident just above the A-Frame base lodge. It looked like a wagon or SUV slammed into a tanker truck and the guard rail while the car was coming down the icy hill. We happen to have been one of the first cars to pass but we did not witness the crash. Some of A-Basin’s parking employees had the whole situation under control before any emergency help showed up. At some resorts, the kids would stand by and watch. This focus on employee responsibility is evident everywhere up there; and is lacking at some of Vail’s resorts. I won’t name the place but once we saw one lift attendant building a snowman while the other ignored an obvious incident in the lift line that should have resulted in the police being called. Another issue is the absence of Yellow Jackets or patrol on some of Keystone’s congested blue runs. I was told they mainly watch the greens. That’s strange; speed demons don’t pay attention to colors.
Earlier this year, a ski instructor sped between me and the line of nearby trees. He was not with a group but clearly should have had the common sense to both stay clear and slow down; especially near a slow sign. This sort of thing does not seem to happen at A-Basin. Ski areas simply have to face the fact that their responsibilities include safety; and not just making money. This includes watching for reckless maniacs on the hill.
Having said all these good things, A-Basin is not for the timid or the very young. There seems to be a lot of parents who are hauling their very young kids up there to see the view. I would not recommend the place novices of any age unless they only ski off of the bottom Black Mountain lift. This year alone, I crashed twice and was out of business for a while because I found myself over my head relative to my skills, my skis, and the snow conditions. You also have to watch the weather. We were recently on the upper lift when it stopped during an 80 mph gale that came in very quickly and forced the lift to close. Again, the operators and ski patrol did their job to perfection.
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