Oct 22, 2017
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Founded by five pioneers of skiing, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opened in December of 1946 with one tow rope and a $1.25 lift ticket. Since then, Arapahoe Basin has undergone two terrain expansions and several renovations and upgrades, but the ski area has maintained the same local, laid-back vibe. The vision for A-Basin began with Larry Jump (and his wife, Marnie), Thor Groswold, Sandy Schauffler, Dick Durrance and the legendary Max and Edna Dercum. You can find runs named for these pioneers on "Founders' Ridge" in west Montezuma Bowl.
How a Legend was Born
In 1945-1946, the Winter Sports Committee from Denver's Chamber of Commerce hired two men to make a statewide survey of potential ski area sites – Laurence "Larry" Jump, a Dartmouth grad and 10th Mountain Division veteran, and Frederick "Sandy" Schauffler, Amherst grad and member of the 1940 Olympic ski team. At the time, only Berthoud Pass (which has since closed) qualified as a winter sports area.
After surveying the area, Jump and Schauffler's site recommendation was the west side of Loveland Pass. When they learned that the U.S. Forest Service was issuing a prospectus for bids on the Arapahoe Basin site, the two pioneers recruited Olympic medalist Richard "Dick" Durrance for credibility. The three men formed Arapahoe Basin, Inc on May 14, 1946. On June 10, 1946, they submitted an application for a special use permit to the USFS. Eleven days later, the plan was approved. Wilfred "Slim" Davis, a ranger with the USFS, designed the trail layout; the run "Davis" in The Beavers is named for him.
Larry met Max Dercum, a local resident and forestry professor from Pennsylvania, who owned several mining patents on the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area site. Larry immediately hired Max to work on the mountain to utilize his forestry background.
Arapahoe's directors had an initial plan for the ski area: stocks were sold for $1.00 but not enough shares were sold to develop the group's initial plan. Arapahoe Basin opened for its inaugural 1946-1947 season with just a rope tow, which was located at midway and moved skiers several hundred feet up the mountain. Skiers were transported to the base of the tow in an Army weapons carrier pulled by a four-wheel drive vehicle.
During the first season the skier-day count was 1200. Skier-day visits jumped to more than 13,000 during A-Basin's second season. The area's gross income in 1947-1948 was reported at $30,000.
According to Larry Jump, Arapahoe's first single chairlifts incorporated some military surplus 'tinker toy' tows along with steel structures. These were the first post-war lifts ordered in Colorado. A 100 kilowatt army surplus generator and electric motors powered all of the lifts.
The "village" at the foot of the slopes consisted of a 32 by 40 foot shelter, housing a lunch counter, ski shop and ski school. A first aid patrol room was near the base of the lower lift, as were a row of outhouses.
Changes in ownership
Larry Jump sold the ski area in the mid-1970s to ski patroller Joe Jankovsky. In 1978, Ralston Purina purchased the ski area and made several capital improvements, including the installation of the Pallavicini Lift. Vail Resorts briefly owned A-Basin until it was forced by the federal government to divest its ownership in the Basin in August 1997. Dundee Resort Development, a subsidiary of Dream Unlimited Corporation ("Dream") of Toronto, Canada, acquired A-Basin later that year.
The Dream years
Over the 20 years of its ownership, Dream has made improvements to the ski area, keeping its technology up-to-date without compromising the local vibe. A snowmaking system was installed in 2002, making A-Basin a prominent contender in Colorado's race to open. The chairlift at Lenawee was replaced in 2001, and the Black Mountain Express high-speed quad lift was installed in 2010. The mid-mountain restaurant and event space, Black Mountain Lodge, was opened in the spring of 2007 and new deck was added in the summer of 2008. A $1.2 million parking expansion and reconfiguration took place in the summer of 2008 which included a pedestrian tunnel under Highway 6, 300 additional parking spaces and a new shuttle bus system to transport guests from the upper parking lot to the base area.
Dream has invested millions of dollars into A-Basin's skier services since 2013. That year saw a $1 million renovation of the popular 6th Alley Bar & Grill. In 2015, the Kids Center, a new snowsports building was constructed in the base area, housing kids lessons and rentals, as well as a state-of-the-art First Aid room. The next projects included an overhaul of the Season Pass Office and Mountain Goat Plaza stage. The Arapahoe Sports Retail Shop underwent a $2.3 million renovation and expansion in the summer of 2016.
In January of 2008, Arapahoe Basin expanded its acreage by 80 percent with the addition of Montezuma Bowl on the backside of the mountain. This 400-acre expansion was the biggest terrain expansion in North America in 2008, constructed with minimal environmental impact. Montezuma Bowl features groomers, glades and rolling terrain for intermediate through expert skiers and riders, serviced by a fixed-grip quad lift.
In its 71st year, Arapahoe Basin will add another terrain expansion - The Beavers & The Steep Gullies. Opening for a preview season in 2017-18, this terrain features rolling trails, open bowls, gladed tree skiing, and steep, rocky chutes. Approximately 371 acres of skiing will open in 2017-18, including the extreme terrain of The Steep Gullies. The terrain will remain hike back until the construction of a fixed-grip quad lift in summer 2018. Another 97 acres of tree skiing will be added for the 2018-19 season, along with two groomed "more difficult" runs, bringing the total acreage of Arapahoe Basin to 1,428 acres.