I'm taking a business trip to Denver May 11th and thinking about going out a day early. Looking around, it looks like A-basin has the best chance of being open that time of year. I could rent a car for a day from Denver and drive up.
Never been skiing in CO before, trying to decide if it's worth my while. I consider myself a good intermediate skier, but I don't do bumps. Will I be in over my head? Anybody ski there in May?
I skied out west for the first time at A-basin in May 6 years ago. Had a few inches of fresh snow too. Unless you're in very good shape, you may be in over your head. The base elevation is 10,780', so if you've never been that high, expect to feel it. I was in college, so I was in decent shape. However, I got a bit dehydrated and had to sit on the side of the trail for 10 minutes waiting for leg cramps to ease up. A-basin is a steep mountain, but they groom trails from the top of the Lenawee lift. I would recommend you give it a go. It'll be a worthwile experience.
I hope to visit it in mid-April. I'll let you know how it is. Never been there before. About three years ago DCSki columnist Connie Lawn did a story on a visit she made to Arapahoe Basin and addressed some of your same questions about the intimidation factor and how good it can be in late, late spring:http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=818&mode=search
Of course I'm a little ski-crazy, but IMHO it is very much worth the effort to visit. While known for steeps, it certainly has a day worth of fun for intermediates. Just the scenic drive over 11990' Loveland Pass is a special treat for us lowlanders. In fact, I'd suggest you try to get up there for both Sat and Sun because you will adjust to the elevation and enjoy the second day better on the slopes. Another great late season option with even more intermediate terrain is nearby Loveland ski area.
I did a quick Google search and found this report that has some good photos of the Arapahoe Basin area including wide open intermediate terrain: http://kit_b.home.att.net/summit/index.html
I have been a few times in a similar situation to yours.
Most of the time, I spend a 5 days in Denver and on my 6th day I go to A-basin. The altitude affects me quite a bit so I try to acclimatize anyway I can.
If you are a solid intermediate, you will be have fine at A-basin. There is a real nice blue (intermediate) bowl at the top, on the right as you go up. It is a little steep but if it is open, it is a blast. It does involve a a very short hike uphill.
The food is very reasonably priced for a ski resort. You can buy discounted lift tickets in one of those rental shops off 70. Maybe also at some ski shop, Colorado something I think or at some supermarket. Google might find some more info
You have to pay attention when you drive to and from A-basin.
As Jim mentioned, Loveland Ski is another option. You will be passing it as you go up the mountain.
I personally prefer A-basin over other areas as I like its rustic and non-glitzy atmosphere
Drive time from North Denver is about 1.5 hrs.
Good luck and let us know how it went
I should add a few more things: not sure if Loveland has set a closing date, but they sometimes close on the first Sunday in May (even with tons of snow) which would rule them out for you.
Probably only want to try the gorgeous drive over Loveland Pass to or from A-basin on a clear day (when it is typically in good shape), otherwise stick to I-70 thru Eisenhower tunnel. Looks like A-basin will be open at least to May 24.
It's not been a banner spring out there, but believe those areas are gonna get a good snow dump over the next week to ten days :-)
I've skied there in late may before there runs you can ski but I went from plane to slopes and the altitude had me out of breath and in pain quickly if you can ski a day or so after arrival it would be better. If you are looking for a place to stay keystone is on the way and the rates are usually much cheaper after skiing closes and before memorial day and some neat restaurants in that area too
Thanks for all of the information. I'll try to get a place to stay on the way to the resort to get a little higher in elevation than Denver. And I'll load up on plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
Could driving really be an issue in May? It's a different world out there...
freak things with the weather can happen but i wouldn't worry about it too much 4 wheel drive rentals are common and they even can come with chains if you tell them you are going to a ski area
I've skied A basin in May following business trips the last 3 years. It's a great place, one of the classics of American skiing. While it has more than its share of steeps and bumps it has wonderful blue terrain as well. I've also skied Loveland Pass by traversing out the ridge at the top of the pass, picking a line and skiing down. Unless you go way out under a giant cornice, known as Idiot's Cornice, all lines lead to a streambed that ends near a large parking "turnout" at a switchback on the road. You park there and hitch rides up. The locals are mostly skiers who have hitched rides themselves and want to put some good karma in their tank. As a caution, one should be a solid expert on lift served terrain before doing this. I know you said you were intermediate, but others read this forum too. Even if you didn't ski, it is well worth getting out of your car at the pass for pictures and perhaps a short walk along the ridge. I stayed in nearby Dillon on my trips at the Best Western Ptarmigan Lodge. It is clean, quiet (in May) and reasonably priced. There is a great breakfast restaurant right beside it and a great steakhouse/brewpub a couple of blocks away.