There’s a select group of ski resorts that are commonly brought up as the ‘Best Places for a Powder Day’. However, there lies a ski area nestled away in Loveland Pass, CO that is a Darkhorse favorite amongst powder lovers.
What ski area am I talking about?
Well, you probably already know considering the title of this article, but I really wanted to build some of that dramatic suspense my 5th grade English teacher taught me about. Did it work?
I’m, of course, referring to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area.
The state of Colorado isn’t necessarily renowned for it’s deep snowfall totals like Utah, Alaska, or the PNW, but A-Basin literally stands above the surrounding ski areas when it comes to snow quantity and quality.
A-Basin’s altitude is the key factor. The base area sits at 10,520′, and the top of the East Wall rises to 13,050′ above sea level. The altitude keeps the snow dry and light, and preserves the snowpack during dry spells.
The ski area boasts 350″ of average annual snowfall.
A-Basin racks up plenty of snow for numerous powder days, but the nitty-gritty details are what makes it such an incredible place for powder skiing.
For one, A-Basin limits its daily lift ticket sales. That means you won’t be bogged down in never-ending lift lines no matter how good the snow is, or the day of the week. There are very few resorts that can say that.
Second, the terrain is extremely diverse at A-Basin. The Beavers offer expansive acres of beautiful tree skiing, the front side offers groomed runs, Montezuma Bowl offers sun-soaked laps on a steep pitch, and Pallavicini steals the show.
Pallavicini (A.K.A. Pali), is a proving ground for advanced-level riders looking to test their stuff on some of the most challenging terrain in North America.
All of the locals gather at the base of the Pallavicini Lift on a powder day because they want to score those fresh turns on those legendary steeps.
Pali ends up being an unofficial meeting spot for friends, families, and acquaintances looking to score turns together in fresh snow.
That’s probably because of Pali’s close proximity to the parking lot and ‘The Beach’, and the incredible terrain that can be accessed by riding just one lift.
Arapahoe Basin’s Steep Gullies are the most badass runs in this zone. The gullies are accessed through a gate near the top of Pali. This ends up being another meeting point where friends gather to plan their next run.
^The Steep Gullies
Advanced riders who can tackle The Steep Gullies are treated to incredible couloir turns on fantastic snow. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again- The Steep Gullies are my favorite inbounds runs in North America.
Plain and simple.
The only “downside” to the Steep Gullies is that you have to hike about 15-20 minutes from the bottom back to the base area. This might seems like a negative, but the hike back after a powder-filled lap with a group of friends is the ultimate stoke fest.
^The Steep Gullies
Everybody is beaming from ear to ear, friends are recounting their runs, and a palpable vibe fills the air. The short hike out leads right back to Pali for another run, or you can continue to the 6th Alley Bar to join one of the best après scenes in North America.
One of the things that’s great about A-Basin is that the facilities are small. Now, hear me out on this.
Large ski resorts have dozens of options for guests after a day on the slopes. This spreads out the masses, which is needed for those big resorts, but can ultimately dilute the après party scene.
Arapahoe Basin, on the other hand, really only has The 6th Alley. Therefore, you end up with a room filled with stoked skiers and snowboarders that just had the best day of their lives.
You’ll meet new people, enjoy time with those that you know, listen to live music, drink delicious beers, and reminisce on how amazing the skiing was.
It really doesn’t get better than that, does it?
People love to say, ‘There’s no friends on a powder day.’, but I don’t entirely subscribe to that theory. Here’s what I would change it to:
‘There’s no friends on a powder day unless you’re skiing A-Basin where everybody is your friend.’
Did I cringe typing it out? You betcha.
But, is it true? Yes. Yes. Yes.
All Images Credit: Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area