Imagine a ski area that actually listens to their customers?
That might seem like a pipe dream for most ski resorts across Colorado, but as we mentioned last year, Arapahoe Basin is dedicated to preserving the skier and rider experience.
A-Basin made a huge investment last summer to upgrade the Lenawee Chairlift- the main lift that ferries riders to the ski area’s 12,500 ft. summit on the front-side of the mountain.
A skeptical skier might believe this was only so A-Basin can sell more lift tickets, but you’re wrong, my friend.
You see, Arapahoe Basin still limits their daily lift ticket sales to avoid overcrowding on the mountain.
Upgrading Lenawee from a fixed-grip triple to a detachable six-pack has increased uphill capacity, but not to the point of crippling trail flow.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Arapahoe Basin’s Director of Mountain Operations, Louis Skowyra, about how the new Lenawee Express is being received by the A-Basin diehards:
“The new lift has been very well received…our guests know us and trust us, so they’ve been very patient as we work through all the kinks associated with a new piece of complex machinery (not to mention a delay in opening the lift due to construction challenges).
At the most basic level, the Lenawee Express makes it easier to get around our mountain- that’s a win for everyone.”
One of the benefits of installing such a heavy lift is that it runs exceptionally well in windy conditions.
Guest safety is always important, and Skowyra says that going with a six-pack was actually better for operating in windy conditions over a quad.
“To achieve that increase in carrying capacity, we knew we were shopping for a detachable lift. From that point, the conversation narrowed to 4-pack vs. 6-pack.
Interestingly, uphill capacity is the same on a 4 and a 6 (due to carrier spacing over the line). What tipped the scales for us is the fact that 6-packs tend to hold up in the wind a bit better than 4-packs.
Simply, they are heavier.”
^The Lenawee Express runs in essentially the same location as the old Lenawee Triple
Having the lift open more frequently is (obviously) a good thing for the overall skier and rider experience.
The Lenawee Express services a massive amount of terrain, and being able to spread out skiers all over the mountain is important for minimizing crowding on trails and in lift lines.
Skowyra emphasized that when explaining why Arapahoe Basin decided to replace the lift:
“After we expanded the ski area to the South (Zuma) and West (Beavers), the bottom of Lenawee became the most obvious chokepoint in skier flow.
Lenawee is critical to accessing Zuma, The Beavers, and the upper mountain, so nearly all of our guests will ride Len throughout their day.
If you skied a busy day over the last year or two, the pinch point was painfully clear: An increase in uphill capacity was needed at Len.”
Without any lift lines, it should take a skier about 3 minutes to ride Black Mountain Express, a couple of minutes to scoot down to load Lenawee Express, and then just another 4 minutes to ride to the summit.
Basically, you’re looking at just under 10 minutes to reach Arapahoe Basin’s 12,500 ft. summit from the base. Not too shabby.
Arapahoe Basin is already one of the best ski areas in the country. They could get complacent with that reputation, but kudos to them for continuing to listen to their passholders about necessary improvements.
The Lenawee Express is an excellent example of that, and their strategy is paying off.
All Images Credit: Ian Zinner/Arapahoe Basin Ski Area