75 years later, the mission and feel of the Arapahoe Basin ski area remains unchanged

ByDavid M. Conte

Jan 1, 2022

A group of skiers stop to pose for a photo while skiing at the Arapahoe Basin ski area. A-Basin is celebrating its 75th anniversary this 2021-22 ski season.
Colorado Snow Sports Museum / Courtesy Photo

75 years ago, the Arapahoe Basin ski area opened its inaugural season in December 1946.

While many skiers and snowboarders are familiar with today’s Pool A, which offers expert terrain and a relaxed atmosphere, what many may not know is how the ski area came into being seven years ago. decades and a half.

The founding of the area that would become Basin A began in 1945, when the Denver Chamber of Commerce formed the Winter Sports Committee to research potential sites for ski areas.

“At that time, only the Col de Berthoud, which has since been closed, was qualified as a winter sports area,” according to the Colorado Snowsports Museum.

The chamber hired two men named Laurence “Larry” Jump and Frederick “Sandy” ScHotler to explore the Summit County area for a potential new ski area.

Jump and ScHotler hunted in the mountains of Summit County, evaluating an area that would be best for a ski area, and the couple discovered an area west of Loveland Pass that they thought was perfect.

With the help of Olympic medalist Richard “Dick” Durrance, the duo formed Arapahoe Basin Inc. in May 1946, and on June 10 of the same year they applied for a special use permit to the US Forest Service.

Then, with the help of Wilfred “Slim” Davis of the Forest Service, a trail map was designed to outline the first features of the A-Basin terrain.

Larry Jump spent a day at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area in 1949. He was one of the first pioneers to help found the Summit County Ski Area in 1946. A-Basin is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season.
Colorado Snow Sports Museum / Courtesy Photo

From there, hard work began to get Pool A operational by the time the snow fell in the area for the 1946 season. According to the Colorado Snowsports Museum, estimates for the construction of the area were approximately $ 150,000.

Jump and his wife, Marnie, along with ScHotler, Thor Groswold, Durrance and Max and Edna Dercum, played a role in ensuring that A-Basin could open for its first ski season.

One of the first interactions the Dercums had with Jump came as the couple competed in the annual Mine Dump Alpine Ski Race in early spring at Loveland Pass. The Dercums had just bought new mining patents and had moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado to oversee the mines.

Jump stopped in the middle of the turn in front of the Dercums and pointed to a nearby bowl, informing them that this was where the race would be held next year.

The location Jump pointed out was precisely where the new Dercum mines were located – and also where Jump envisioned the A-Basin ski slopes one day. Shortly after this interaction with Jump, the Dercums joined in the effort to turn the mountain into a ski area. Max Dercum used his forestry knowledge as a teacher in Pennsylvania to help with the design and layout.

A-Basin opened in December 1946 with tow rope and lift tickets selling for $ 1.25. Today, lift tickets are still among the cheapest in the region, with the cheapest costing $ 69.

“The village at the foot of the slopes consisted of a shelter measuring 32 feet by 40 feet, housing a lunch counter, a ski shop and a ski school,” according to the Colorado Snowsports Museum. “A first aid patrol room was located near the base of the lower elevator, as was a row of outhouses. “

Max and Edna Dercum pose for a photo while skiing at the Arapahoe Basin ski area in 1946. The Dercums were among the area’s early ski pioneers. A-Basin is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season.
Colorado Snow Sports Museum / Courtesy Photo

A-Basin saw a total of 1,200 visitors in its first year as a ski area, but the founders must have done something right in its first year. The number of visitors jumped to 13,000 the following season.

“I think it’s kind of a story of a maverick, out-of-control founder that comes to mind,” said Jesse True, chief marketing officer of A-Basin. “What I love about this place is that kind of attitude that is going to do it. It’s skiing above the tree line; it’s really the story of making it work in an environment that isn’t always that easy to do this stuff.

Since the inception of A-Basin, the area has stayed true to its roots, even building one of the area’s first ski lifts from a cable track from a mine shaft near Monarch Pass. This is also reflected in the employees of A-Basin and in the region’s vision for the future.

Through renovations, upgrades and different owners, the ski area has retained much of the same local community-oriented feel. For many, this atmosphere is what makes A-Basin so special.

True said everyone at A-Basin is on a mission to keep this kind of mountain vibe going, from lift operators to restaurant workers, and from ski instructors to COO Alan Thereforeroth.

“Keeping the vibe alive is one of our core values ​​and our core business ethic that we try to make sure we take into account when making decisions,” True said. “Alan is the epitome of that too. His attitude is very stable, always very positive and always keen to make it the best for the ski experience. And I think that’s the most amazing part of this place.

A-Basin recently demonstrated this ideal by reducing the number of seasonal passes it sells to avoid overcrowding. True said the main reason A-Basin makes these kinds of decisions is because the region will stay true to its history.

“We really try to instill in our employees that this is an open and welcoming atmosphere, and we want to make sure that we are selling fun all the time,” True said. “History is everywhere. It’s really that kind of wild and wild place forever, and we want to embrace the parts of it that are always super open and super welcoming and engaging.

Over the next 25 years, True believes A-Basin will continue to grow, but it will be in a different way than how other ski areas can measure growth.

“It is by cultivating this feeling of welcome and trying to grow the sport that we will continue to grow,” said True. “It’s not about increasing the number of skiers. We want much more to ensure that the quality of the ski remains the paramount decision maker. “

A-Basin plans to celebrate its 75th anniversary on April 2-3. The Celebration Weekend will feature parties, groups and other events to properly commemorate the region’s 75th season.

Five of the main founders take a break from skiing to pose for a photo during the early days of the Arapahoe Basin ski area. The region was founded in 1946 and celebrates its 75th anniversary this season.
Arapahoe ski area / Courtesy photo