There’s a spectrum when it comes to how serious mountains tend to take themselves. A lot of Vail owned resorts take themselves way seriously, whereas places like Winter Park feel a little bit looser. Arapahoe Basin sits all the way on the least serious side of the spectrum. Any given day you’re likely to see someone in a goofy costume, someone on ski blades, and tons of people grilling in the parking lot. April 1st, which is celebrated across the entire world of skiing as Gaper Day or Jerry Day, whichever you prefer, brings out the absolute best of Arapahoe Basin. This year, Gaper Day happened to fall on the first day of the mountain’s 75th Anniversary Party (I’m willing to bet this was intentional, but that’s not something I’ve been made aware of).
So, on Thursday, March 31st, I went to bed with my alarm set for 5 a.m., a normally unreasonable time to wake up for Friday skiing. We had already packed the car with a majority of the necessities for the next day: our skis, poles, ski blades, grill, table, camping chairs, and more. The morning of April 1st, we were on the road by 6, hoping to snag a beachside parking spot.
The lower parking lot, as we mostly expected, had already begun to reach its maximum capacity when we arrived at 7:30. Parking lot vibes were already buzzing hard. Grills were out, certain Colorado smells filled the air, and there was even a man fire dancing near the Pallavicini lift. I met a man from Chicago who tried to convince me to drive for Uber in the mountains and ski as much as possible, something he’d been doing for 6 years now. We were taught about the onesie game (spotting a onesie on mountain earns you a point, giving an individual wearing a onesie a high-five earns you five, and hugging an individual wearing a onesie earns you ten) and met a guy who had already earned 81 points in the hour he had been sitting in the parking lot. In short, the party had begun long before the lifts had opened.
The lifts opening did not spark any rush to get on the mountain, as the morning weather wasn’t the best and many individuals were enjoying some pre-skiing drinks (I strongly disagree with the idea of skiing drunk, but having a few drinks before, during, or after skiing is never something I look down on). We got on to the lifts fairly quickly, beating a majority of the crowd, and quickly got warmed up to shred on ski blades all day. Once the lines began to grow, Lenawee Mountain Lift was, unsurprisingly, an enormous party. Funky outfits were everywhere, music was bumping, and the crowd was cheering nearly the whole time.
If you’ve ever skied Arapahoe Basin, you know the skiing around Lenawee is a bit like a theater. If you’re on the lift, you have a pretty solid view of a lot of what’s going on around the mountain, and if you’re skiing off the lift, you’re almost always within view of some existing crowd. Days like April 1st and the 75th anniversary party get the crowds rowdy, and if you know what you’re doing and toss a couple solid daffys or spread eagles, you’ll often get plenty of cheers. If you mess up, on the other hand, the crowd won’t hesitate to let you know they saw it.
Lunchtime came and the parking lot was filled with the smell of camping grills and other airborne scents. We busted out our own grill, immediately making way too many hotdogs. Fortunately, because of the friendliness of the mountain, we had a pretty easy time handing out the extras to some hungry parking lot citizens. Different songs were coming from every corner of the parking lot, with EDM coming from one tailgate, Grateful Dead coming from another, and some Cardi B swinging in to ruin the vibe (sorry if you like Cardi B, but I am 100% willing to die on the hill that her music, and others like it, is in no way ski tailgate music).
Following lunch, the whether warmed, the vibes slowly calmed, and the rest of the day sped by. We left around 3:30, hoping, and failing, to beat the majority of traffic on I-70. In short, Arapahoe Basin’s 75th Anniversary Party was an absolute blast. It succeeded in representing everything that rocks about the mountain, and definitely gave me some long lasting memories (and sunburns…). Oh, there were also a lot of people skiing without helmets. I’ve been guilty of doing that in the past, but I never intend to again. It’s a bad idea, wear a helmet.
Anyways, happy 75 years of operation Arapahoe Basin. Without any doubt in my mind, I can say that you’ve earned it. You’re one of the few to keep the positive skiing vibes alive and strong, and hopefully you’ll continue to keep it going for another 75 and many more.
Image Credits: Nolan Deck & Connor Mokrzycki