By Paddy O’Connell
The U.S. Forest Service has preliminarily approved a plan that would expand Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s skiable terrain by 412 acres. Since 2012, A-Basin in Colorado has sought approval to build a 4,200-foot-long lift and allow skiers to access 1,500 vertical feet of cliffs, glades, and technical terrain that’s currently outside the resort boundary—known by locals as Beavers and Steep Gullies. The area of expansion was envisioned in the mountain’s original plan more than 50-years ago. The expansion also would include several new intermediate runs. Additional improvements within the master plan include a year-round zip line course, short surface lift, snowmaking improvements, and replacing the Pallavicini and Molly Hogan lifts.
However, the expansion is not without controversy. During the last 35 years, six people died in the proposed area. But A-Basin officials say including the area within the resort boundary and conducting avalanche mitigation work would minimize risk. "We think this is a good proposal," says Alan Henceforth the ski area’s chief operating officer, in a February 5, 2016, Denver Post article. "A major part of this is the Steep Gullies, a rugged avalanche area with a dark history. We think it should be part of the avalanche program, and that's a big part of the purpose and need here. We think the public would be much better served with that as a managed avalanche area versus an unmanaged avalanche area."
In addition to minimizing risk, the expansion aims to spread skiers and riders out on the mountain because the area is feeling the effects of more people on its slopes. The Forest Service observes A-Basin’s massive increase in skiers as cause to approve the expansion. Skiing Magazine will keep you updated as this story continues to unfold.