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See you in the fall

KIM MARQUIS
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk A ribbon of snow snakes down from the top of the Norway and Lenawee lifts Sunday afternoon and was serviced only by the Norway lift. Skiers and riders had to share the narrow passage, prompting A-Basin officials to post a note all around the bottom of the mountain stating, "No beginning skiers" - for safety reasons.
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ARAPAHOE BASIN – Skiing is fun, even in June.That was the response from at least a dozen skiers and riders interviewed Sunday on Arapahoe Basin’s last day of the season. The lifts closed at 2 p.m., ending the state’s 2003-04 ski season.Several hundred skiers and riders took advantage of approximately 900 vertical feet and one open run Sunday. Some were clad in Hawaiian shorts, some men were shirtless and a few others wore costumes in celebration of the last day of the season. Temperatures hit the 40s and the run was covered in about 18 inches of manmade snow.

“You get what you can this time of year,” said snowboarder Chris Lee from Avon as he clipped in at the top of the lift. Bill Putnam, a Colorado Front Range resident who owns a condo in Dillon, was riding for the 30th-or-so time this season.”The snow is pretty good,” he said. “But if there were more of it, it would be better.”Most of the terrain at A-Basin was bare Sunday, covered with green grass and split by the valley’s flowing creek. If it weren’t for the ski area’s snowmaking system, the lifts probably would have shut down weeks ago.

The ski area traditionally targets a July 4 closing date, but Alan Henceroth, director of mountain operations, said lower-than-average snowfall this season prevented the ski mountain from hitting the target date. The ski area receives an average of 367 inches annually. This year, snowfall hasn’t hit the 300-inch mark. “We’re looking at about 70 percent of normal snowfall this year,” Henceroth said Friday. “We’re skiing on manmade snowfall and we’re running out of snow.” On Sunday, the ski area reported no new snow. Seven inches had fallen over the Memorial Day weekend.

“We’ve had a very good season and are extremely pleased with the way our snowmaking system worked,” Henceroth said. “We would have had a difficult season without it.”A-Basin first made snow in 2002 for approximately one month in November. This year was the first full season of snowmaking, helping the ski area to open on Oct. 30, its earliest in history.Henceroth declined to discuss skier numbers, but figures are expected in a few weeks.

Statewide, ski resorts saw a 3 percent decline in skier visits this year. The Gems/Front Range resorts, seven of the state’s areas, including Arapahoe Basin, posted a 12.48 percent decline compared to last season. A-Basin spokesperson Leigh Hierholzer didn’t expect skier numbers to hit last year’s mark.”Last year was a stellar year,” she said.

The ski area closed July 2 and posted a record 317,401 skiers in 2002-03. The average is closer to a quarter million.”Snow is always the determining factor (on skier numbers),” she said. “We had a warm spell in March, and people on the Front Range started putting their equipment away when we still had lots of snow left.”Kim Marquis can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or kmarquis@summitdaily.com.


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