Taming The Beavers: A-Basin’s Alan Henceroth talks about a landmark expansion

Jason Blevins
The Denver Post
A skier rides at Arapahoe Basin earlier this season. After 10 years of review, the ski area received final endorsement of its winter and summer expansion projects from the White River National Forest on Nov. 21, 2016.
Dave Camara / Arapahoe Basin Ski Area |

ARAPAHOE BASIN — The shouts from the chairlift drift down to ski area boss Alan Henceroth.

“How is it, Al?”

“Are you getting it ready?”

“Where’s the good snow?”

Henceroth, who started as a ski patroller 29 years ago and now runs Arapahoe Basin ski area, peels the skins off his skis, transitioning from uphill to downhill after a short hike from beyond the ski area’s soon-to-change boundary.

“Still pretty good on the north-facing stuff,” he hollers to the passersby above. “We’re getting there.”

After almost 10 years of planning and four years of federal environmental review, Henceroth and his Arapahoe Basin team are preparing to open snowy, steep terrain west of the 960-acre ski area. The 468-acre expansion into the Steep Gullies and the Beavers — including steep chutes, glades and a couple intermediate runs — marks A-Basin’s step into the big leagues of steep skiing, joining expert destinations like Alta, Jackson Hole, Crested Butte and Silverton Mountain.

“This is a big piece for the Basin. It’s going to be completely different than what we have now,” Henceroth said. “The best part of my job is when someone comes up and tells me what a great day skiing they had. I think there’s a lot more of those to come, especially with this project.”

Ski area expansion plans across Colorado in the last two decades have largely focused on growing intermediate terrain for the vacationers who float resorts’ financial boats: Peak 6 at Breckenridge in 2012; Arapahoe Basin’s push into Montezuma Bowl in 2007; Telluride’s expansion into Prospect Bowl in 2001; Vail’s addition of Blue Sky Basin in 2000.

While some ski area expansions have focused on expert terrain — Eagle Wind at Winter Park and Telluride’s Revelation Bowl, for example — A-Basin’s next boundary push will open the Steep Gullies’ precipitous, rock-choked descents, which easily will rank as the already-challenging ski area’s most rowdy lines.

“It’s gonna put A-Basin, which is already a good expert ski area, into the great expert ski area category. It brings up the game for sure,” said Summit County local and backcountry guidebook author Fritz Sperry. “It’s definitely legit terrain.”

Read on for the complete article from The Denver Post.

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