Arapahoe Basin Ski Area plans chairlift replacement, new barbecue restaurant and warming hut

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area plans to build Midway Barbeque next to the existing Black Mountain Lodge to increase efficiency of food service at midmountain.
Photo by Janice Kurbjun / Summit Daily archives

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area could be getting an upgrade with a warming hut, barbecue restaurant and replacement chairlift.

The fixed-grip, three-person Lenawee lift would be replaced by a high-speed detachable four- or six-person chairlift that would be able to bring skiers and snowboarders to the top of the mountain more efficiently. The hut would support winter and summer activities, and the barbecue restaurant would sit next to Black Mountain Lodge.

All of the upgrades are pending approval by the U.S. Forest Service.

The Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest is soliciting comments on a proposal for the chairlift replacement and two buildings. According to a notice from the Forest Service, the purpose of the projects is to improve skier circulation on the mountain and to “enhance the quality of the guest experience at A-Basin.” The current Lenawee lift has been operating at the ski area only since 2001, but a larger lift would increase the uphill capacity and improve the loading and unloading experience, according to the notice.

“Currently, guests riding the Lenawee lift can experience lift lines longer than 15 minutes while lower-ability level guests can have difficulty loading due to the speed of the fixed-grip lift, which cannot slow down to allow easier loading and unloading,” the notice explained.

A-Basin’s Mountain Operations Director Tony Cammarata said a four- or six-person chairlift would increase Lenawee’s uphill capacity from 1,800 guests per hour to about 2,400 guests per hour. In addition, the detachable chair allows the chair to slow down for guests to load without slowing the lift.

The proposed Midway Barbeque would add onto the current midmountain service offered at Black Mountain Lodge. The new building would be 2,100 square feet with space for food service and guest seating and would match the design of the lodge. Cammarata said the Midway Barbeque would be separate from the lodge but close in proximity.

Currently, the barbecue operation for Black Mountain Lodge is on the deck of the lodge, and Cammarata said the Midway Barbeque would open the deck area up to guest seating and provide a better facility for staff to cook. Overall, Cammarata said the Midway Barbeque would increase food service efficiency at midmountain.

The warming hut, called the Steilhang Hut, would be about 1,000 square feet and would be next to the East Wall avalauncher tower. The hut would provide year-round food service, indoor seating, composting toilets and an outdoor deck. In the summer, the hut would be used by people using the via ferrata course — a protected climbing route involving a steel cables — on the East Wall.

“The location we’ve proposed is right where the new access trail to the via ferrata on the East Wall is, so we envision this being a potential service for those folks or the trail system that we have started,” Cammarata said. “This might be a pretty cool hub for hiking trails, biking trails or our via ferrata guests.”

As for timing, Cammarata said the hut could be done this summer, along with an expansion of A-Basin’s Il Rifugio restaurant. A-Basin is looking to start the Lenawee lift replacement project in summer 2022. Cammarata said the Midway Barbeque project also could take place next summer.

In addition to these upcoming projects, A-Basin, long thought of as the mom and pop ski operation in Summit County despite corporate ownership in Canada, also undertook several capital projects over the summer, including chairlift replacements, building its Aerial Adventure Park and constructing the via ferrata course.

“It’s our long-term vision to not necessarily get bigger here, we want to get better,” Cammarata said. “We want to make sure that everything that we provide to our guests is of high quality. I just think that these projects and some of the ones that we completed this summer not only allow us to be a year-round recreational opportunity for locals and for guests in Summit County, but I think it really allows us to provide a product that’s a notch above what some others are doing.”

The Forest Service’s notice added that less than 0.1 acres of disturbance would be required for each building. The project proposal has been accepted by the Forest Service and is in the public scoping period. Anyone who wishes to comment on the proposal can submit letters referencing “Arapahoe Basin Food Service and Lenawee CE” by March 7.

Electronic comments can be submitted at Written comments must be submitted to Lisa Stoeffler, acting forest supervisor, c/o Sam Massman, Dillon Ranger District, P.O. Box 620, Silverthorne, CO 80498-0620. Letters should include the commenter’s name, address, telephone number and organization represented, if any.

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