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A-Basin  4/5/99

Lift Ticket - $31 (Saved 9 bucks by buying it at King Soopers grocery
store)



     My first day skiing in Colorado took my breath away. Arapahoe
Basin is a colossal, wild behemoth. When I excitedly scurried into
the base lodge to get a handful of trail maps, my head started
spinning and my face tingled. I got goose bumps at an altitude of
10,800' - at the base.

      I rode the Exhibition Lift first, my mouth watering over the
huge, steep bumps and the inviting trees on either side. Snow was
falling hard, completing the magnificent first impression. It hadn't
been snowing like this for very long - there was about 3" new, and
when it stopped coming down at 10:30ish, there was about 4-5" fresh
on top of firm but edgeable snow down "low". At the top, this new
snow was covering very forgiving windblown, chalky powder. I skied
like a hero in those bumps for half a run, then wandered into the
trees and savored every moment. There was none of that underlying
brush that we deal with so often here in the east. Just BIG trees
spaced evenly apart with many steep options to choose from.

     My next several lift rides were on the Palivacinni Chair. I
gawked at the cornice to the right (skiers left) and made personal
history. These cornice jumps were the first that I had ever
experienced. I would land, then cut hard to the left and back upwards
onto the knoll, careening toward the tree line and into the 1st, 2nd
and 3rd Alleys and everything between. These are awesome, steep
chutes with several HUGE snow - covered rocks and big air potential.
I took full advantage of this potential a few times - my heart was
racing. I then decided to scope out the East Wall. This large, steep
and wide peak is FAR above the tree line. It is cluttered with many
hefty rock formations that compose an abundance of very, very steep
chutes. Just 3 of them have names, but there are far more than those
to choose from. I took the Lenawee Lift and did the East Wall
Traverse to get a good look up and pick out my first route to
conquer. After looking at them all, I decided upon one of the first
that I had passed - The North Pole. I got off the Lenawee Lift again
and discovered that the easiest route up (the North Pole Hiking Gate)
was closed. The boot ladder that led straight up from the bottom of
the chute was open, and this is the route that I took. There were a
few skiers coming down from above, and I snapped several excellent
pictures of them tackling this truly extreme terrain.

     When I was about one-third of the way up, I was beginning to
fatigue very quickly. I had to stop often to catch my breath from
here on. The elevation was taking it's toll. When I was two-thirds of
the way there, the boot ladder ended. No one had recently hiked
beyond this point. I was really feeling drained. I knew that my
original plan to climb the wall again had already been nixed. This
would be it. This was most likely my going to be my only day at
Arapahoe. I didn't know when I would ever be back, which was the
deciding factor in my debate to go for it all. I pushed on. This last
stretch was grueling. With no one else's steps to follow, I struggled
to the top in snow that was over my knees and almost up to my waist
at some points. I let my poles dangle and used my skis to help pull
myself up. It was much like making the ascent up the headwall at
Tuck's - only this time it was in powder.

     I made it to the top and was greeted with a biting wind coming
from the backside. I dropped my skis and just flopped to the ground.
I laid there for several minutes to recover. When I caught my breath,
I got up and looked around. This quickly took my breath away again.
The view at 13,000' was astounding. There were numerous peaks with
giant white powder curtains as far as I could see. I took a lot of
pictures that all look like postcards.

     The run was heart - stopping. Turn after high speed turn, the
powder was fantastic. I continued on far down the Lower East Wall,
over a couple of big snowy boulders, and finally on into Wrangler - a
wide green (ha!) trail that would be considered blue where I come
from. This was the run of the day, but only by a surprisingly slim
margin.

     I took another run of the Pavi Lift - Timber Glades to Rock
Garden. To enter the Garden, I dropped in from the right sidewall. It
was a terrifying leap, but I made it and continued down the steep
chute. It had big long rocks on either side, forming a tube-like run
that was loads of fun. After that, I headed back to the Lenawee Lift
for my last run. This one rivaled the North Pole for run-of-the-day
status.

     This was the first lift ride all day with another person. It was
with a guy named Ryan, who was from BC, and a frequent visitor of
Fernie. He wanted to ski some OB run that someone told him about, and
was very glad to finally find someone who would be up for making the
trek. We got off the lift and went straight up & over a small
cornice.  We passed through a backcountry access gate that was not
visible from the ski area. From here we traversed past a small shack
that was labeled "Danger. Explosives. Keep Out" We took our skis off
and walked along the ridge to another separate ridge that was hardly
touched and very pristine looking. We were far, far to the skiers
left of the main ski area. By this time, it was 4:20.

     We made a whole bunch of fast turns on this above tree line
ridge before finally descending into the woods. It was a vast
wilderness area with many sets of tracks made by people who traversed
in from somewhere just above the trees. We followed them, more or
less, for a steep happy-go-lucky adventure that seemed to go on
forever. We finally popped out somewhere about 3 or 4 miles down the
road from the base lodge. After climbing up a steep bank to the road,
we began hoofing it back to the ski area. After about a mile, I was
ready to drop. It was at about this time that we finally thumbed a
ride to the parking lot. I was dog tired. It was a full and very
remarkable day. At this point in time, it was my greatest skiing
experience ever.

   But by the end of the week, it would only prove to finish 3rd.


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