A-Basin, CO, May 8-9, 2015

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A-Basin, CO, May 8-9, 2015

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon May 11, 2015 3:44 pm

Winter is not over in Colorado. We read that A-Basin was getting scattered snow showers all week building up to a major storm Saturday afternoon and evening May 9. That storm dumped 2 feet of snow in the Black Hills of South Dakota, where we had been from May 4-7.

We got up to A-Basin about 9:30AM Friday, where it was snowing most of the morning after 3 inches reported overnight. Snow at the base was a bit heavy as the rain/snow line had been near there most of the week before dropping below 10,000 feet Friday morning, 9,000 feet over Friday night and all the way to Denver Saturday night. There were gusty winds at the top of Lenawee/Zuma. Our first few runs on Lenawee were in soft windblown snow occasionally using lift towers and fences as reference points in the flat light. Eventually the fog lifted a bit and we moved to Zuma. We took 5 runs there, the best of those being smooth powder/windsift on Northern Spy.

Just after noon there was an intense squall with crosswinds, so the Zuma chair inched its way up the hill and seemed likely to close once all of us returned to the front side. We skied into Black Mountain Lodge for a thaw break and ran into Paul Kulas, who had shown us around Vail in January. We skied David's Run on Pali with him as the weather cleared out.

It was now 1:30 so Liz and I went down to the Epic Forum's beach spot for lunch. It was sunny and quite warm after lunch so all of the flatter and more sun exposed areas softened as they had on April 27. I skied 3rd Alley and 2nd Alley (pic below) after lunch.

From 2nd Alley Liz was visible through trees on David's.

After skiing East Avenue we were tired so headed back to Lenawee. While riding the lift at 3PM we noticed that patrol had just opened the East Wall traverse so we headed over there for our last run.

I did the extra grunt work of the step-ups to attain the higher traverse line that yielded about 5 more fresh turns than Liz got on the lower line. I'm succumbing to a bit of admin's powder ethos in a lean snow year. :lol: I finished with 17,400 vertical, 4K of powder. Friday evening Liz and I went over to a house on Lakeside Drive for a dinner with ~25 people from the Epic Forum.

On Saturday we expected to meet Paul Kulas again, but A-Basin reported 5 inches in the past 24 hours and we thought at least half of that was what we skied Friday morning. With the warm Friday afternoon there was also concern about a possibly refrozen subsurface. So Paul decided to wait until Sunday for the big storm expected Saturday night. We were flying out early Sunday morning, so we got up early Saturday and made it into A-Basin's parking lot at 8:25AM. By the time we got on the Black Express at 8:37 the lower lot was full.

We were very pleasantly surprised by the conditions, which were almost a rerun of the previous day. The evening new snow must have bonded well to the spring surface, as there was no more hard snow in evidence than on Friday morning. The cloud layer was higher so visibility was good. With more people there on the weekend we were fortunately early enough to score fresh tracks, because the powder didn't last long in most places. With the ongoing snow A-Basin reopened a few runs that had been closed for a week with thinning coverage. One of these was Exhibition under the Black Express, where we put in 2 of the first 5 tracks. Next time up we went to Norway, where we were on the 5th chair as it opened at 9AM. Skiers reached the top of Lenawee a couple of minutes before us, so here's what we're about to ski.

And here's what it looks like on our second ride up Norway.

We moved to Lenawee as the cloud lowered and wind picked up so I had to put goggles on and we skied down the Half Moon Glades. Next ride up the cloud raised again so we moved to Zuma. Again we got lucky as Black Bear had just opened after being closed for nearly a week.

We took one more run there and a final Zuma run putting in 2 of these tracks.

We returned to the base via Dragon and Sundance and headed for Pali. Here's Liz skiing the stash Bob Seto showed me on April 27.

We also skied 4th Alley and David's before having lunch at Black Mountain Lodge at 12:30. We were pleased not to wait in line to get food there despite the busy day. Black and Lenawee occasionally ran lift lines of up 5 minutes, but we never waited more than 2-3 minutes all day. Powder competition was intense though. The East Wall traverse had not opened when we started skiing Pali at 11:30. Here's what it looked like at 12:30.

Note that even the North Pole runs above the traverse (requiring a 10-15 minute hike above the top of Lenawee) are tracked out!

It was sunny from about 11AM to 1:30PM but not as warm as Friday. We skied Land of the Giants after lunch in somewhat flat light, then down to the base for one last Pali run. I poked around to get a few last fresh tracks, then dropped into International for my final run while Liz skied the Main Street moguls, western vs. eastern mentality on display again here.

We quit at 2:30 (16,200 vertical, 5K of powder) as it started to snow. We had a standard rental car this time with not great tires, so we needed to get out of there before the snow line came down. The midday sun had cleared the snow off Loveland Pass and the new snow wasn't sticking yet by the time we got to I-70. Then the storm hit full force and it poured intense rain as we drove to our hotel near Denver airport. We hit the hot tub, then went out to dinner at 6:30. At 7PM the storm turned to snow and we got back to the hotel about 8:15. I then returned the rental car and had to get back to the hotel on 2 shuttles via the airport. By this time the snow was sticking, and it took 25 minutes for the airport to hotel shuttle drive.

The storm was over when we got up at 5AM to catch our flight. Nonetheless the plane had to be de-iced, left Denver 45 minutes late so we missed our SLC connection and wound up at LAX at noon instead of Burbank at 10:45. I don't think we missed that much in the way of skiing Sunday. There were 6 inches new at A-Basin but 10+ had been predicted so it was a real zoo. Some Epic Forum comments:
JMD wrote: By 8:30 all parking lots were completely full with a solid line of cars on Hwy6 backed up all the way back to Keystone with nowhere to go. This storm was advertised for a solid week so everyone made plans to attend.

MT Skull wrote: I got there at 8, couldn't find my buddy who was supposed to hook me up with a cheap ticket, saw the 40 deep line at the ticket window, and bailed. Having lunch w/mom, which I probably should have planned on in the first place.

Philpug wrote: It was crazy there today, reports say there were over 5400 people on the hill. People were parking over a mile down the road and walking up.

UGASkiDawg wrote:There were hundreds of people going up to the upper east wall at 2:00. I stopped counting the number of people at the top and along the ridge at 35 and I wasn't but about half way through them. The line going up was face to ass. The lift line at Pali was 20-25 minutes till about 1:30 when it started to go down. I've been skiing the Basin for 25 years and I've never seen a day even close to as crowded as today.

Joel at OpenSnow says there will likely be fresh snow the next 2 weekends in May also.
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
Posts: 10031
Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2004 10:37 am
Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

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