Outdoors: A-Basin Beach Party

March 2012

Why we love it: Sunshine, tailgating, barbecues galore, the giddiness of spring skiing, and good company. What’s not to love?

When to go: Any balmy spring Saturday—this year, we were blessed with beach-party weather in March—but call way ahead (1-888-272-7246) to reserve your spot: $175/weekend day, $150/weekday (a nominal fee if split amongst a group of, say, 10 or 15). Note: April and May are already filling up fast. A-Basin’s closing date is projected for the first week of June, pending any major late-season blizzards.

What to bring: SUNSCREEN, camp chairs, music, snacks, a grill, and a cooler full of cold ones. Picnic table provided. Oh, and your skis.

It had been several years since I’d found myself at Arapahoe Basin’s legendary “beach” at the base of the mountain—until this past weekend. When some friends snagged some primo beach real estate for Saturday, and the forecast predicted 60 degrees and sunny, we loaded up on burgers and beverages, threw our folding chairs in the car with our ski boots, and happily joined the crowd of costumed revelers, grillers, pooches, and those guys who insist on skiing shirtless at the first indication that the thermometer might rise a degree above 50.

The “beach” spots at the edge of the Early Riser parking lot at the base have easy access to three lifts, come with picnic tables, and easily fit two SUVs for tailgating purposes. As many people as can fit in the space can plop down with whatever chairs they can carry. We parked in the shuttle lot up the road and walked our gear in. Parents bring foldable playpens and umbrellas, puppies roam around to oohs and aahs from other beachgoers, and skiers skid lazily in and out. After a stint in the sunshine and some sizzling goodies from the grill, we headed up for a few afternoon runs, no jacket required. The usual crowd-favorite Montezuma Bowl was bare (at best), and the expected frontside mashed potatoes made for some slow turns, but excellent conditions aren’t the point of a beach party at the Basin—and we left with the suntans and full bellies to prove it.

Getting there: I-70 west to Exit 216. Follow U.S. 6 West toward Loveland Pass for 7.5 miles. Arrive at the Basin, pull into the Early Riser parking lot, back into your beach spot along the slope-side perimeter, and settle in to work on your tan.