Few mountains offer inbound terrain like Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin. There’s the gorgeous Montezuma Bowl, the gnarly Steep Gullies, the mogul filled Pallavicini, the tree-filled Beavers, and, of course, the remarkable East Wall.
With three separate routes up and many routes down, the East Wall has a ton of steep and deep terrain to explore. The most popular hike, the North Pole hike, departs from the top of the Lenawee Express lift, and takes just around 15-20 minutes. Reaching the top puts you above 13,000 feet and provides access to several routes, including 1st Notch, 2nd Notch (which may require crawling down a rope to access), West Vertical, and, of course, North Pole.
Willie’s Staircase is definitely a bit more of a demanding hike, but those willing to make the push will be rewarded with several mind-blowing routes down. It goes without saying that these routes are very much expert terrain. Corner Chute, Snorkel Nose, and Willie’s Wide are definitely not for the weak.
The Tree Chute hike provides access to several shorter runs in Tree Chutes 1-7. Those looking for a bit more can continue on to access the 8th Tree Chute, North Y Chute, and South Y Chute. A trip along the East Wall Traverse (beginning just below the North Pole hiking gate) will place skiers and snowboarders just above the bottom of the tree chutes, allowing for a little taste before committing to the entire hike.
Every run along the East Wall dumps out into Land of Giants and Lower East Wall, two low-angle playgrounds that act a perfect cooldown to conclude a trip to the upper portion of the wall. If you’re unwilling to make the hike, these lower portions still provide plenty of terrain to fill up an entire day.
Hiking to the upper East Wall only made me wish I had done it sooner. You really can’t comprehend the kind of runs you’ll gain access to until you actually get up there. Few places in North America, let alone in the world, have avalanche-controlled terrain within a fifteen minute hike like Arapahoe Basin’s East Wall.
Image Credit: Arapahoe Basin, Nolan Deck