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A-Basin Ski Resort Profile
Summary: The legendary Arapahoe Basin is one of the first resorts in North America to open in the fall, and often remains open for some slushy skiing into July. 1946 saw the mountain's first season, when skiers road a rope tow for $3 a day. It is still one of the least expensive options in Summit County. During the 2008-2009 season, A-Basin offered free lift tickets for kids under 15 with each adult pass, making it a very affordable family choice.

A-Basin manages to deliver a home town feeling along with enough trail and terrain to keep the family happy for a day or a season. The lifts are often populated by locals, many of whom will hit the basin's infamous "beach" below the bunny slope for BBQ after taking their last run. The beach is prime territory, and you have to get there early to reserve a picnic spot and parking space. However, even late comers who walk through the pedestrian tunnel to the base are welcome to hangout after skiing and enjoy the alpine glow as it shifts over the BBQ smoke and friendly conversation. Dogs and kids run through the birthday parties and the occasionally costumed gatherings giving the beach a neighborly, laid-back feel all day long.

The front side of the mountain at A-Basin boasts trails and terrain for every boarder and skier. Take the Exhibition Lift to midway, and then you'll find The Norway and Lenawee lifts' shorter lines to the top with access the upper terrain park and blue runs. From the top of Lenawee, plunge onto Lenawee Face or Dercum's Gulch, and on to Wrangler to stay on the top half. To continue down to the base, pass the lift on Wrangler to the lower terrain park and base, or trace Sundance down to the bottom for an easy wide-open ride.

If you have some true beginners with you, consider the cheap passes just for the Molly Hogan lift on the bunny hill at the base. Most novice skiers will also enjoy the green runs on Dercum, especially the slow school zone trails like Schoolmarm, with very little stress. For more formal instruction, A-Basin offers group and individual lessons for adults and children. "Basin Racin' Kids" is a multi-week racing school for 8-14 year old intermediate skiers. Adult clinics range from beginner lessons to nordic and extreme skiing and boarding, with some classes offering a girl-power experience tailored especially for women.

There is plenty of expert terrain as well, especially with Montezuma Bowl, which opened up the backside of the mountain to open bowl skiing, expert, and intermediate trails, in the 2008-2009 season. Access it from the top of the Norway or Lenawee Lifts, or take the Pallavicini Lift on the front side for expert skiing above the bunny hill.

While the beach is the preferred location for an after ski drink or dinner, A-Basin also offers convenient access to Dylan, Frisco, Silverthorn and Breckenridge. Pick up some pizza at Jersey Boys, Peppinos or Bootleggers. Check out the outlet shops in Silverthorn, or catch a movie. Dillon boasts the only bowling alley in Summit County, if you can handle even more family fun!

Lodging in the area runs the gamut from the posh vacation home to rustic condos, with everything in between. The resorts at Keystone and Breckenridge can be convenient options for making the short trip to A-Basin. Check Craig's List Denver for privately held vacation rentals, or look into the cabins at Wildernest.com and vacationroost.com. Basic hotels in the area include Super 8 and La Quinta, along with Comfort Suites and the Dillon Inn. Pets are welcome at La Quinta, with the nearby Dillon Dog Den for additional pet care while you hit the slopes. For a memorable family experience, Riverside Lodge, across from the recreation center in Silverthorn, is a small, clean hostel that offers family rates, dorm style and private rooms, along with a large kitchen for preparing meals, an outdoor deck, hot tub, and view of the mountains.

While many of the Summit County resorts are larger and more famous, A-Basin is a local favorite that will spoil you with her down-home feel. Bring the whole family for a day of skiing followed by a wintery beach bar-b-q and you will wonder why you haven't come before.

By Jamie Paul