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A Legend of the Legend: The Pallavicini Lift



This is the final season for the original lift before it's replaced summer 2020. Never met the Pali Lift or just want to learn more? Read on for some history...

The Pallavicini Lift is a legend of The Legend and may be the most famous, beloved and humanized lift in Colorado. Known as "the black jewel in the crown of the Basin," Pallavicini was dedicated to the vision of Larry Jump, 10th Mountain Division soldier, co-founder and president of the original Arapahoe Basin, Inc. Locals speak of "Pali" (pronounced Pall-E) as if it is a friend. And even though there's plenty of great terrain to ski at the Basin into June, Pali's closing each spring--usually in May--is a time of wistful mourning in our community because we're really going to miss her for the next six or seven months. 

"I came off this wonderful two-man Pallavicini chair last season so enamoured that I just had to write a blog about it and ask, 'the best chairlift on earth?' If we’re picking quads or sixes I can think of a handful of high-speeds off the top of my head that are right up there. But doubles? Nothing comes close to the awesome Pali." -- Jonny Richards, Fall Line Skiing Magazine UK

The Pallavicini run and lift are named after a similarly shaped nose called the Pallavicini Couloir on Grossglockner, the highest peak in Austria (12,457 ft.). On August 18,1876, Hans Tribusser, Bauerle J. Kramser and Count Alfred Markgraf Pallavicini (that's him, below) became the first people to ascend the Grossglockner via the couloir. Supposedly, they hacked 2,500 steps in the 55 degree pitched ice making the ascent. According to A-Basin lore, a prominent person in our early days saw some similarity between Austria's Pallavicini Couloir and Arapahoe Basin's Pallavicini Trail. This is where the history gets a little murky and we don't know much else. 


Historical photos credit

A significant part of Pali's uniqueness is its ability to deliver skiers and snowboarders directly to expert and extreme terrain with a single, old-school lift ride from the base area. As you ascend 1,329 feet, look around. The awe-inspiring views are of beautiful glades, rugged big-mountain terrain, 40-degree pitches and noticeably uncrowded ski runs. You're looking at some of the steepest inbounds terrain the county and that's saying a lot considering Summit County is home to three other ski areas. In about seven minutes, you'll be delivered to the Pali Outpost at 12,130 feet, well above treeline and surrounded by breathtaking views; there's nothing but mountains as far as you can see.  

From there, you can access much of A-Basin's terrain, including the double-black/EX Pallavicini runs, The Beavers, The Steep Gullies and the front side of the mountain. If you're lucky enough to grab a spot on The Beach, the base of Pali is a very short slide from your car, your grill, your cooler and your friends. There aren't too many places where you can lap EX terrain in between charring your own hot dogs and tofu. (Side note: there are intermediate blues accessible off the top of Pali, including Grizzly Road and West Wall, which drop you down to the front side; and Davis, a "dark blue" that drops you into The Beavers.) 

One of the "5 Most Iconic 'Old School' Chair Lifts in the USA." -- Unofficial Networks

The Pali Lift is also home to one of the most insane amateur ski and snowboard events anywhere. For 30 years, the friendly competition A-Basin Enduro has hosted teams of two skiing/riding as many laps as they can off the Pali Lift in a consecutive 10-hour period. The event and after-party raise funds for a community member in need. Winners charge down so much elevation that they basically descend Mount Everest. Twice. 

The original Pali will celebrate its 42nd birthday in 2020 and as of winter 2019 has entered its final season of service. The lift was installed in 1978 and will be replaced in summer 2020 with another fixed-grip double. Yes, it will have a bar because all new lifts do. We considered a detachable high-speed quad for a hot minute, then decided the Pali Lift should continue to match the Pali terrain. Fixed double, it is!

Finally, if you have ever noticed the plaques on the chairs, those are the names of A-Basin employees who reached 25 years of service and those chairs belong to them. While most of Pali's chairs will be auctioned or sold in 2020 with some of the proceeds going to support local charities, the chairs with names on them will go directly to those who have earned more than their turns over the years. Stay tuned for info about the chair sale, Pali's "A-Basin formal" retirement party (we don't know what that means, either), and other celebration events surrounding our old friend. 

If you've got a great Pali lift story, we'd love to hear it. If you have photos from the 1970s or 1980s, we'd love to see those! Email us.

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