This is Arapahoe Basin, located on the Continental Divide in Colorado. The base is at 10,700 feet and the summit is a whoozie 13,050 feet above sea level. It’s the highest skiable terrain in North America.
As World War II was winding down and the greatest generation was coming home, A-Basin was under development. That first season, 1946-47, was a little rough around the edges. A single tow line took skiers only so far and then they climbed in four-wheel drive vehicles to reach the summit.
The next year, a chair lift was installed using old mining cables and scrap metal from nearby Monarch Pass. However, it was not the first chairlift in Colorado. For that, you would have to scoot over to Crested Butte where an odd contraption was hauling folks up the mountain as early as 1939.
The Legend of Arapahoe Basin
Thanks to a nice chunk of titanium holding my spine together, I’m not much of a skier, but even I could tell there was something different about Arapahoe Basin. There was nothing fancy smancy here and the hype that emanates from many ski destination was totally absent. No one was out to impress anyone else. They were here to ski, to experience the mountain that old timers call “the legend.”
As much as the folks here worship the mountain, so do they speak with reverence about Max and Edna Dercum. They were the ones who, while living in a minimalist little shack in the early 1940s, believed there was something special about this mountain. They called in Norway Mountain back then.
Again, not being much of skier I’m not the expert on such things, but after spending some time hanging out with folks at the 6th Alley Bar and watching others come in from skiing Black Mountain, Montezuma’s Revenge and great trails, after seeing the passion in their face, I think the spirit of Max and Edna Dercum is very much alive and well on these legendary slopes.