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Thursday, April 16, 2015
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opens new kids center
Arapahoe Basin, Colorado.
Bill Linfield / Special to the Daily
One of the oldest ski areas in Colorado has joined the rest in adding a center for its ski and ride school.
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area opened its $2.3 million kids center in early March.
“With more families choosing to ski the Basin, we wanted kids to have the same positive and fun experiences that their parents have here,” said Alan Henceroth, A-Basin COO. “This new space not only allows us to improve our kids lesson offerings, but lets kids feel like this is their mountain too.”
A-Basin has been known for decades as a locals mountain with challenging terrain and not necessarily as somewhere to learn to ski, said Peggy Hiller, the ski area’s assistant general manager.
“In the last 10 years we’ve really changed that perception,” she said, and families have been taking advantage of A-Basin’s easy-access parking and one base area.
The ski area has seen a substantial increases in its kids lesson programs and the number of skiers ages 3 to 6, Hiller said.
Staff talked about creating a ski school facility for at least the last seven years, she added, and the change came partly in response to the success of the Kids Club Arapahoe program, which allows children to take a weekend lesson for four or eight weeks in January and February with the same instructor and same group of kids.
Plus, A-Basin hopes the kids center will help children bond with snowsports and the ski area.
“It’s the future of our sport,” Hiller said. “We certainly believe that people have a special connection with their home mountain — the place they learn to ski and ride.”
However, she said A-Basin doesn’t want to hurt its laidback vibe or popularity among often expert-level High Country and Front Range skiers and snowboarders.
“We’re not trying to change that at all. We just want those local, better skiers to be able to bring their kids to learn here,” she said.
JUST FOR KIDS
The 7,000-square-foot, three-story building has replaced a small ski patrol hut built more than 50 years ago at the base area, which still has five buildings.
Lessons usually start at 10 a.m., and now parents will be able to drop their kids off as early as 8 and go ski while ski school staff handle kids’ rentals and snacks and supervise and play with the children.
Until now, Hiller said, “we’ve never had a place where people can drop off their kids before the lesson starts.”
Instead of sitting and waiting for a lesson to begin, kids can get active on soft, low-to-the-ground balance beams, obstacle courses and other fun equipment that tests skills they’ll use on the mountain.
Television screens at kid-level show video of activities at A-Basin, from meeting avalanche dog Rio to skiing deep powder.
The designated space for all kids lessons, programs, rentals and dining helps alleviate crowding in the rental shop, restaurants and other areas, Hiller said.
Staff can help children gear up with Rossignol skis, Burton snowboards and Giro helmets, and a retail space at check-in lets parents purchase anything they may have forgotten.
The dining area features kid-sized furniture and fresh, kid-friendly food, Hiller said.
“It’s not your run-of-the-mill chicken nuggets and French fries,” she said. “We don’t even have a fryer in there.”
The kitchen has been serving kids foods like pasta, grilled cheese with tomatoes, and fruit.
ENERGY, SKI PATROL UPGRADES
As part of A-Basin’s commitment to sustainability and energy savings, the ski area installed LED and low-wattage lighting system with occupancy and daylight sensors as well as a ventilation system designed to recover energy normally lost in typical systems.
The solar panel on the center’s roof offsets a majority of the building’s electricity use and can produce about 15 megawatt-hours of energy per year, or the equivalent of planting 260 trees or driving a car that gets 20 mpg about 17,000 miles.
Hiller said the center’s interior incorporates environmental education elements.
For example, a height chart that helps staff fit kids with rental gear lets children compare their own heights with that of animals like a weasel, lynx, bear and moose.
The lower level of the center also houses ski patrol offices and a first aid room with private waiting and treatment areas and modern medical equipment.
“The ski patrol facility is a huge upgrade,” she said. “It’s really state of the art. It came a long way from where it was.”
The kids center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. seven days a week through April 26. Kids lessons will still be offered later in the season, and the center will reopen in November.