This post could alternatively be titled “Amygdala Overload” because it was that kind of epic day. It snowed overnight, and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area (better known as A-Basin or simply the Basin) received at least 9″ of fresh snow. Coupled with sunshine and blue skies, skiing conditions don’t get much better. But first we had to get there. Since it was Saturday, the perfect conditions meant that the entire population of strong skiers in Denver would be descending on the ski areas along I-70 West. We were staying at Vail and had no intention of standing around in epic lift lines all day, so we woke up early and started the drive towards the Continental Divide. I-70 wasn’t totally clear of snow, but it was not a big deal for the Raptor. Unfortunately, most people don’t drive extremely capable 4WD vehicles and the rush to get on the slopes meant that there was a lot of bad driving on display. As on most days of my road trip, I had my Garmin Virb set to take a picture every second, so the entire drive looks like it is in fast-forward. Check out 1:36-1:38 in this time lapse:
The car in front of me had to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid the guy trying to turn left across two lanes of flowing traffic. He was extremely fortunate to avoid the accident — all the more because he was going more than 40mph (45mph speed limit). The bigger mystery though is why the guy trying to pull out thought it wise to keep pulling out after nearly being killed. He turned left into my right front bumper. Lucky for him, I was also able to swerve so the only impact was against his bumper, which fell off. Thankfully, everyone was fine. The guy who barely avoided the collision commented that he was unlikely to receive as much of an adrenaline pump regardless of what he skied that day. There isn’t even a scratch on the Raptor. After exchanging info (I cut this part out of the time lapse to spare you a few boring minutes), we headed on to A-Basin. The ridiculous driving wasn’t finished. As I was putting my boots on by the truck, the guy manning the parking lot walked towards me yelling “Are you KIDDING?” I thought that was a strong reaction to me putting my ski boots on in the parking lot of a ski area, but then he pointed to this scene at the entrance to the parking lot:
I was grateful to be off the roads and to start skiing. Allison and I hadn’t been to A-Basin in a long time. For me, it had been at least 15yrs. In the intervening period, A-Basin opened a bunch of awesome terrain off the backside of the mountain. We headed there first to dive into the fresh powder.
Here’s a pano of what you see after making a few turns through the wonderful snow in the bowl:
We had a blast exploring the new (to us) terrain. We hit the far right side and far left side of the bowl looking for fresh tracks and found some fun steeps and trees. Here we are standing on the top of the right side before dropping off a run called Jump:
We had to pause amidst the trees (visible in the middle of the panorama above) to admire their snow-covered beauty.
We had heard rumors that the entire East Wall would be open for the first time in a few years, so we kept checking the gate that guards the hiking access at the top of the mountain. It opened around 11 and dozens of brave people started the lung and leg-busting hike up. We took advantage of the migration of experts to the East Wall to ski the empty runs off the Pallavacini lift. It was as steep as we remembered.
We spent lunch eyeing the East Wall and after we were refueled, we decided to do it. The high altitude (13,000ft) made our vision a bit foggy as we slogged up.
It was a proper workout. This guy was climbing up behind us and decided to take a rest in the snow before continuing up the ridge:
The views from the ridge were spectacular.
You can see tracks from where people had skied down different chutes. The pucker factor at the top was as intense as the views.
The entries into the chutes were narrow, rocky, and steep, with no margin for error. No photo of that — real concentration required! Here’s a shot looking back up after skiing about 1/3rd of the North Pole:
It was seriously steep; easily the toughest line we’ve skied anywhere. There were many rocks that were only partially covered, so our skis took a beating. We paused once more to admire the views:
We made it down with little drama and plenty of adrenaline. It was a serious challenge, but we were pleased to have done it.
With our legs completely shelled, we made a scenic detour up over the Continental Divide and then drove, incident free, back to Vail.