Friday, December 23, 2011

65 Years at A-Basin

This season, it seems ski areas are just bustin' at the seams with birthdays. One week after Breck celebrated its big bash, the Basin is right on its heels, 15 years wiser, with its 65th year of turns.

Rather than recite some boring timeline, we're including some fun quiz facts to keep aging brains sharp, as well as a look back at ski business notes. But before we do, here are a couple things you need to keep in the forefront of your mind:

Saturday: From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Santa and his elf will hang out in the Basin's base area surrounded by the music of the Summit Chorale Society. At 1 p.m., swing by for free birthday cake and wassail.

Now, a glimpse at highlights from the Basin's 1946 annual report:

The first line of the 1946-47 “Annual Report of Arapahoe Basin, Inc.” reads: “The first year of the corporate existence of Arapahoe Basin, Inc. has been a difficult one at times and only now after twelve months is the picture considerably brighter.” It built its assets from “nothing to over $117,897.45 as of April 30, 1947; by selling 113,388 shares of stock ... and by operating on a small scale during the past winter.”

The best part about owning stock: If you made a $500-$1,000 investment, you got a “life pass on lifts and tows and a $1 reduction on lift tickets for family members, as well as reduced waiting time on crowded days.” More than $1,000 earned a free life pass for an individual and immediate family members plus the opportunity to purchase private land and build a cabin in the basin. However, below the benefit list it reads: “The details of some of the before-mentioned benefits have yet to be definitely decided.”

Ironically, the annual report reads: “Luckily, the December and January snows were light ...” Huh? Seems the lack of snow saved on costs; it “permitted operation of a truck service into the basin at no great expense.” The truck actually served as a substitute for a chairlift.

The report points to a day where people didn't take debt so lightly. It says: “It can be seen that despite the continuing stock sales the corporation has been seriously hampered by having tied so much money up in materials ...” and talks about people like Max Dercum making trips back East to sell stocks — resulting in $59,657 and “a vast amount of fine publicity ...” making the Basin “already well-known in the skiing world.”

But already, resort owners compared the numbers Loveland. “Some 2,500 people visited Arapahoe Basin this ski season — small in comparison to the estimated 20,000 at Loveland Pass, but gratifying nevertheless. The general impression created has been most favorable. The skiing is constantly being compared to that at Aspen and Sun Valley and never to our disadvantage.”

Interestingly enough, groups and individuals already were asking to build homes in the basin, and in the annual report it reads: “This possibility still exists although it is now felt that the price of the land is too high for the corporation to consider taking up its option to buy at this time.” If they only knew ...

Now for a little quiz:

• What year did A-Basin open?

If you can't get this one, you either a) smoke way too much “medical marijuana,” or b) need to go back to first-grade math, c) completely missed the big, fat headline on the top of the page, or d) all of the above.

• How did people get up the mountain?

Skiers were transported to the base of the tow rope, situated midway up the mountain, in an Army weapons carrier pulled by a 4-wheel-drive vehicle.

• How do you really spell Pallavicini?

We at the Summit Daily toiled over this question for years so rigorously, it pained us to no end. We found ourselves tossing and turning at night, shouting in the newsroom, getting into such embroiled, passionate arguments that one, if not all of us, had to immediately grab our gear, drive up to the Basin and head to said lift to memorize the exact spelling of the double-seater. And, once there, it was not enough to merely jot down the spelling at the base of the lift. No, we were deeply committed to our journalistic duty. We rode up the lift to ensure mountain operations spelled it the same way at the top as they did at the bottom.

Then, of course, we had to double check the spelling at the bottom, and then again at the top. Then, after triple and quadruple checking, we'd return to the office, only to check the ski area map we stashed at the office and see that, indeed the map spelled it differently than the sign at the chairlift. So, the next day, we began our quest for the truth. And on it went, day after endless day, season after long season.

So, finally, as the intrepid A&E editor, on this 65th anniversary, I asked — through email — the great communications coordinator Leigh Hierholzer if she remembered the debacle, because over the years, after diligent research, I have noticed A-Basin, has, indeed, resolved the inaccuracy.

“Yes, of course I remember it,” she replied, immediately. “We sometimes have people write in and tell us what the correct spelling is and why, that's why it has changed occasionally. We finally decided on ‘Pallavicini' a few years ago, and we're sticking to it. ... Sometimes it takes a while to make the full transition with all of the signage, trail maps, etc. We hope we are getting closer to completing that transition.”

So there.

And, now, back to the mind-bending quiz:

• How much did a lift ticket cost in 1946?

$1.25; in 1974, a ticket set skiers back $7.50.

• In 1945, a development team estimated construction of A-Basin would cost about $150,000. In 1972 a ski patroller, Joe Jankovsky bought it for how much?

It all depends who you talk to. The Ten Mile Times reported in 1997 that he bought it for $400,000, while says he paid $850,000 — quite a discrepancy. Still, if you look what the Ten Mile Times says it sold for six years later, Jankovsky didn't do too poorly, no matter who's right.

• The first season, 2,500 skiers visited the Basin, according to the annual report. How many came the second season?


• And these days?

More than 425,000

• (Put your second-grade silly joke brain on for this one) Why did dogs fall in love with the Basin in 1978?

Because Ralston-Purina bought it. Arf, arf, arf! OK, ya might've found that one funnier if you were on “medical marijuana,” because if you're in second-grade, you probably don't know the brand Ralston-Purina and wouldn't get the joke. (Here's a stat to feed a bit of your brain: The dog-food company purchased it for about $1 million, according to a 1997 Ten Mile Times report; now that's the way to be a ski patroller.)

Sad but true: We've used all our brain cells on that last one, so we're out to make some turns and eat some cake. Maybe afterward, we'll crash into our Corporate Suites (which, during this holiday season is turning into corporate sweets, where readers drop off snowflake cupcakes and cases of Strawberry Crush (who knew such a drink even existed), and hijack a Summit Up writer, or something). Happy holidays!

Courtesy of  Summit Daily News