Why Arapahoe Basin’s Pallavicini chair might just be the best in Colorado

Small but mighty, like its hugely underrated mother resort, Arapahoe Basin, you just have to ride this legendary double that locals simply call… Pali

I came off this wonderful two-man Pallavicini chair  last season so enamoured that I just had to write a blog about it. And ask, “The best chairlift on earth?”.

It had been a long day, and I may have had a refreshing lager or two by the time I finally got it posted around 10pm. So, with the benefit of more than a few months to cool off, do I stand by this rather bold question? And even bolder answer? Which was an emphatic “Yes!”.

Of course not. I always get far too excited by a great day’s skiing. But that can’t be a bad thing, right? That’s why we all go skiing isn’t it? And what I should have asked, with the benefit of hindsight, is “The best two-man chairlift on earth?”.

If we’re picking quads or sixes I can think of a handful of high-speeds off the top of my head that are right up there. But doubles? Nothing comes close to the awesome Pali.

Legendary springtime in the Rockies. 📷: @toriware22

Why do I love it so? Well, this lift doesn’t so much punch above its weight, as operate in a whole different stratosphere. With the key being a brilliant 3:1 return if you choose wisely on famous north-facing runs like Turbo, Spine and Rock Garden. Do this and seven minutes up old and faithful Pali (built and installed in 1978) means 20 minutes plus picking your way down some of North America’s finest and most challenging terrain. (And it’s right up there with Jackson in terms of tough but rewarding stuff in my opinion.)

Think I’m getting a bit over-excited again? Pah! It’s so good that on a powder day there can be a hound rush of 100 people waiting for the line to start moving at 9am, or half an hour earlier at weekends. With everyone hoping for a Pallavicini special, when good snow and wind combine to make six inches of fresh more like three times that, thanks to the often perfect local blow.
A blast of a morning on the #Pali today. Even with only 2″, there was plenty of snow to play around with (11″ in three days). Groomers are buttery, and look for the buffed stuff like The Spine. Snow’s let up for now so keep those dances going…

When this happens, nothing in Colorado is better. And that’s why on a good snow day, you get plenty of Breck’s best skiers driving the 45 minutes for fresh tracks. Balls to the fact they’ve got a handful of the world’s best-known mountains on their doorstep.

If you happen to be lucky enough to be in town on a day like this, best start with Grizz (or Grizzly Road to give its full name). Not too steep (so a perfect warm-up) it often has a good wind aspect, and will be nice and quiet first thing for freshies, with most skiers going for the more obvious cornice and Pali bowl. Pick off Standard and 13 Cornices (dipping in and out the trees) before boosting across International to finish your lap.

Always fun to see sun poking out on the Pali. #abasin

Once up top again, head skier’s left for goodies like Spine, which again often catches the wind just right. They’ll be good lines in here all day if you choose well, with options like jumping across Main Street into Rock Garden for the excellent trees.

If the weather closes in, and you need to stick in this sort of terrain to give you some definition, you’ve got solid options in runs like Radical and No Name too.

My favourite? It’s got to be Gauthier. At a shade shy of 40° it’s pushed right up against the ski boundary, steep and packed with nasty-ass moguls. The day I rode it, conditions were far from historic – well, it was March – but it was still a lot of fun. So much so, looking back in my notes I’ve simply written ‘Best run of two-week trip’. Which says it all.

Come ski here and ride Pali. It’s a brilliant, unexpected, and a happy revelation. FL

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