We decided to make some hot laps on the groomers until everything warmed up; skiing the front side, and then making our way back to Montezuma Bowl (which faces South). Nothing was soft yet, and the bacon bloody marys were calling our name. So, at a measly 9:45am, we set off to the 6th Alley Bar for a world-famous bloody! “Let’s have a beer and a bloody while the snow softens up a bit!”
About an hour later, we decided to head back out. Sun was shining through the clouds and the snow was just about prime! I looked at Scott and said, “I’m going to take you on a long tour of the East Wall, but I’m not telling you what we’re going to do.” He knew North Pole would be on the docket, but what’s to follow was a mystery.
The hike starts at the top gate near the Lenawee Lift, heading up the Lenawee Mountain ridgeline, then across past the Hidden Chute, 1st and 2nd Notches, and all the way over to the top of North Pole. We took a short break to take in the views before dropping into the wind-buffed and cold-snow chute. About half way down, the snow was still frozen from being sun-baked the day before and it got a bit interesting to say the least. A dozen more turns down and we’ve made it to the traverse to make our way over to the next gate at Willie’s Wide Staircase.
Willie’s Wide Staircase is a boot pack at about 35-40 degrees, with what seems like 1,000 steps! I think the official count is about 800, but it feels like it will never end. From there you can stop at Arizona Rock to take a break and ski down, or continue up another 100 or so steps to the top of Snorkel Door. This is the gateway to my most favorite run at Arapahoe Basin; Snorkel Nose.
Snorkel Nose is a consistent pitch from top to traverse and what seems like about 1,000 vertical feet; even longer if you ski it directly to the lift. I dropped in with about five great, cold-snow turns and then it turned to crust. This is the snow that nightmares are made of. Frozen, chunky, yesterday’s turns are frozen in time, above the normal surface. By this time, my legs are toast and the turns get interesting. I finally make it to the traverse and have to take a break. Scott was filming from below as he took the run down from Arizona Rock to save his legs for the next hike. Now, onto the final hike and chutes which I haven’t skied since back in my College years at MTU (2000-2004).
From the bottom of Snorkel Nose, you traverse all the way to the Tree Chutes. The 7th Chute has a boot pack up to the ridgeline. The snow at this time was mushy and much like mashed potatoes. It’s more exposed to the sun, and a lot lower elevation than the previous terrain. As we’re hiking up the boot pack, our boots are hitting dirt and rocks underneath the snow. There was even a section of mud we hiked through just to get to the ridge. Once on the ridge you can see back into Marjorie Bowl which has an amazing amount of backcountry terrain, easily accessed by a hike off the top of the lift.
We finally reached the top of the resort area boundary where you can access the 8th Tree Chute and Y Chutes. The North Y Chute has the best snow and pitch, so we step into our bindings and start traversing to the entrance. Once we slid into the chute, it was very clear the snow was still frozen and cold; not like what we just hiked up. So, now, legs are toast and we have more challenging snow to ski down. Fun. I make a handful of turns down into the throat of the chute and stop to watch Scott make his way down. His legs shot, snow tough, and turns are getting sketchy. One fall, and you’ll slide all the way to the bottom of the terrain, across chunder and rocks. He finally gets lower into the chute where the snow turns for the better and we rip (as confidently as we can given our sore muscles) down to the bottom of the chute.
We did it! We hiked and skied three different chutes on the East Wall at Arapahoe Basin with variable conditions and strength. Something we’ve both never done and just after ten weeks of skiing intermediate terrain as we volunteered at Winter Park. HI-FIVES all around then we made our descent down a groomer, directly to the 6th Alley Bar again! Time for lunch and celebratory beers. I look over at Scott as we’re exhausted and ready for a brew, and say, ‘well that was a fun adventure, and pretty quick’. Then I look at the clock and it’s already 2:00pm. WHAT?! We just skied and hiked for three hours. Time seemed to fly by as we were on the adventure, but apparently the whole shebang took three hours to execute. Holy whuh, eh!?
If you ever get to Arapahoe Basin, check out this amazing expert terrain and pick a trifecta of runs to ski, it’ll be worth it.
Check out some of the photos from the trip and hit up my Vimeo page to see some GoPro footage.