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A-Basin set to open Thursday
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A-Basin set to open Thursday

Coming off a record-setting season that lasted through early July, Arapahoe Basin announced it will open for the 2011-2012 season this Thursday, Oct. 13.

Before firing up the lifts, Summit County's oldest ski area will pay tribute to two of its founders, Marnie Jump and Max Dercum, who both passed away this year.

Last season, A-Basin set a new record for skier visits, passing 450,000 by the time the lifts stopped on July 4, and topping the previous record, set three years earlier, by about 20,000.

“Snowfall was above average every single month for eight months in a row,” said A-Basin chief Alan Henceroth, recalling some phenomenal late-May powder days and looking back at a 253-day season that started Oct. 25 and ran through July 4.

Snowfall last season was the second-best on record, at 473 inches, and April’s 87 inches was a record for that month. The base reached 100 inches on March 16 and stayed near or above that level for many days after that.

This past summer, A-Basin finished the final piece of its planned parking lot expansion by adding another 225 spaces in the Last Chance lot and finish up the hiking and biking trail from the base area up to Black Mountain Lodge.

Last winter's business was up and down, according to Greg Finch, president of  Dundee Resort Development, the Avon-based company that owns A-Basin.

“We got to April and we were a little worried. Everyone had snow and a lot of other resorts were open late (due to a late-falling Easter holiday), so we missed our usual migration up to the Basin,” Finch said.

That followed a statewide trend that may have been influenced by a couple of mid-season cold snaps and by weather-related travel woes along I-70, he said. But the surge of visits in May and the first half of June easily compensated for any temporary dips, he added.

Both Finch and Henceroth said the ski area is looking at ways to reinforce the healthy trend of more family skiing at A-Basin, and some sort of children’s center may be the next big capital improvement project sometime in the next two to three years.

“Our kids business has really grown over the past few years,” Henceroth said. Despite a reputation as an expert’s playground, More Colorado skiers are bringing their families to A-Basin and finding that, especially with the addition of Montezuma Bowl, the area offers good family style terrain. In contrast to some of the mega-resorts, the layout of A-Basin is also family friendly, with all the runs on the front side funneling down to a central base area.

A-Basin wants to continue growing that part of its business, which will also help ensure future customers for the area, Finch and Henceroth said.

A-Basin chief Alan Henceroth announced this season's opening on his blog Wednesday morning:

“I have received a few good questions over the last 24 hours. We will be open 7 days a week until June. This is going to be an extremely good opening. I walked High Noon this morning (I should have skied it and will ski it this afternoon). The coverage is really good. We are pulling about half of the fan guns and moving them to Ramrod. We will make a little bit more snow on High Noon. Year after year we track quantitative snowmaking metrics and have a very good sense of how to correlate that data and apply it to opening decisions. So.. in addition to thinking the trail looks good, we know we have made the amount of snow required for a good opening. Not just a good opening, but a great opening that will last. Come on up. You’ll love it. We are already talking about working on Ramrod.”

In addition to  snowmaking, Ullr pitched in with about 8 inches of natural snow during the past few days. The A-Basin website is reporting an 18-inch base.  With the snowmaking now focusing on Ramrod, more terrain could open soon.

Opening day adult lift tickets will be available for $59, youth tickets age 15 – 18 will be $49 and child tickets age 6-14 will be $30.  The ski and snowboard rental shop, tune shop, food and beverage service, the 6th Alley bar and retail shop will be open to the public.  Snowsports lessons will be available on a limited basis.

Local radio station, KYSL will be doing a live morning show and giving away lift tickets on-air.  KSMT will also be on site in the base area with a live remote, playing music and handing out give-aways.
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