Frequently, skiers and snowboarders will find themselves lapping one chairlift for the entire day. One ski area that is built for this type of riding is Arapahoe Basin in Colorado. Arapahoe Basin, otherwise referred to as A-Basin or The Legend, receives around 350 inches of average annual snowfall and consistently has one of the longest ski seasons in the state. Some of the steepest, most extreme inbounds terrain in the country can be found at A-Basin:
- Easiest: 7%
- More difficult: 20%
- Most difficult: 49%
- Extreme: 24%
In 1978, Arapahoe Basin completed its addition of the Pallavicini, or Pali, chairlift.
“Construction wasn’t smooth, however. A group calling themselves the “Basin Liberation Organization” did not want the terrain to change, and spent the summer pulling up flags and survey stakes for the lift. Gentling, who was head of A-Basin’s ski patrol at the time, had to stay onsite at night for several weeks until the tower foundations were set.”
This chairlift allowed for a large expansion into new territory including some of the steepest chutes in the country, The Steep Gullies. Additionally, it provides access to the open Pallavicini powder fields, some of the steepest, tightest tree runs, and most famously, The Beavers. Every single run off of the Pali chair has its own memorable features, including couloirs, pillows, cliffs, and tree-drops. Speaking from experience, I can say that one day lapping Pali is simply not enough.
Pali has a vertical incline of 1,329 feet, takes about seven minutes to ride, and reaches an elevation of 12,130 feet. Riders have spectacular views of Keystone, Highway 6, and the Loveland Pass when on the lift. For instance, if a rider looks directly behind them they will see The Professor, one of the most intense backcountry chutes on the Loveland Pass. First-time riders will commonly experience goosebumps on this lift as the terrain directly under them is “rugged big-mountain terrain [and] 40-degree pitches”. Nonetheless, the Pali lift is promising of a great time and unbelievable views.
Most recently, in the summer of 2020, Arapahoe Basin completely restored the Pallavicini lift. Even though it is still a fixed-grip double, the lift received some much-needed improvements including a safety bar and a silver-steel finish that doesn’t need to be repainted every few years. Over the course of the summer, helicopters could be seen dropping new towers into the ground and the main parking lot was stocked with new chairs and terminals. Arapahoe Basin stated that:
“We thought about a detachable high-speed quad for a hot minute, then decided the Pali Lift should continue to match the Pali terrain… Your legs will appreciate the slower ride to the top and your soul will appreciate not over-crowding the terrain”.
The construction and final installation of the new Pallavacini lift were done swiftly to ensure that riders would be able to access all of its terrain for a 42nd consecutive season. In late July, by the time that the old Pali was completely out of commission, A-Basin decided to auction and sell off the old chairs. Proceeds from the four auctioned chairs all went to non-profits in Summit County, while chairs that were sold went to individual customers for $2,500 apiece. The chairs weigh 129lbs and stand up to 10 feet tall, but can be shortened to five feet by removing the hanger. Taking home a piece of Pali is one of the best ways to spice up some housing or yard decorations and immortalizes one of Colorado’s greatest experiences.
A trip to Arapahoe Basin is worth it. Riding up the Pallavicini lift to the center of the universe is an unparalleled mountain experience that every skier should have at least one time. Pali is an icon in itself and can be lapped with endless turns and without rest. It is a true thrill, adventure, and experience to ride this legendary chairlift.
**WATCH: Building the Pallavicini!