Night skiing, dining at Arapahoe Basin
Summit County Correspondent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
It looked like glow worms were embedded in the Arapahoe Basin mountainside with the faint light of the glow-stick guide posts running up the mountain.
The full moon had yet to rise, but it silhouetted the Continental Divide as we strapped on our skis and snowshoes, pouring silvery light over the picturesque cluster of lit buildings at the Basin’s base. Light snow fell on our faces.
We were there for Wednesday’s inaugural full-moon randonee – a European term for free-heeled ski touring. It was the first time the Basin had opened the slopes to guests skinning up and skiing down. The rest of the year’s full-moon events are lift serviced – guests can snowshoe up, but they ride back down the Black Mountain Express.
The full-moon events started three years ago when chef Christopher Rybak came to Arapahoe Basin. They’ve since grown from one event his first year to three events last year to five this season – some are selling out months ahead of time.
The idea of skinning up the mountain at night was attractive to several of the guests out on Wednesday. Jennifer Bettridge, who had been out on her skins just twice before, had planned it as a secret date night with Chad Devitt. They’re both from Denver.
“We were looking forward to coming out and having some fun and skiing down,” she said.
Jack and Aleene Nyquist are Frisco residents who do these events regularly when they’re in town. Both older than 70, they stay active in the outdoors and socialize with friends while doing it.
“When you live here for a long time and you’re downhill (skiing) a lot, and we telemark and we backcountry, we want to do a lot of things to keep up the variety. It’s peer pressure, you get involved in all these things … We’re out somewhere almost every day,” Jack Nyquist said.
The couple looked forward to enjoying the outdoors and the food with friends.
“Everybody knows each other and we have a lot of fun,” Jack Nyquist said, adding that the randonee event took some people away who might otherwise use the lift.
“It’s such a fun group, it’s such a welcoming group, we all are so compatible,” Aleene Nyquist said.
It’s an elegant meal in a friendly environment, Black Mountain Lodge manager Meredith Smith said, adding that though the events are starting to see more out-of-town guests, it’s historically been between 50 and 100 percent locals attending. Wednesday’s feast was smaller, open to about 90 people, but other events are open to about 160.
“You’re at 11,000 feet at a time when you normally don’t get to enjoy the mountain,” Smith said.
“This building is too beautiful to not do more than burgers during the day,” Rybak said as to why the evening events began. “It’s my opportunity to do some research and do things we don’t normally do.” It’s also a chance to showcase the mountain’s potential for special events such as weddings, he added. Rybak formerly worked in Keystone’s fine dining scene.
“This is fun and refreshing,” he said. “It’s something nobody else does. I just have a ball – 16-hour day or not.”
Wednesday’s event was themed around a German feast, and the spread ranged from oxtail soup to dried meats and grilled sausages. Guests were greeted with an aperitif of Bärenjäger, a drink that’s “like honey that’s on fire,” Smith said. Other full moon dinners head to Argentina and Chile, Italy and Spain.
By the time the food had disappeared, the beer and wine had stopped flowing and guests were strapping their skis and snowshoes on for the descent – some taking the opportunity to let out a howl at the moon – the silvery orb had risen high enough over the Divide to bask the slopes in light. Guests returned to their vehicles parked next to the base, which, after the night’s setting, now looked like a tiny Bavarian town tucked into the mountains.
The next full-moon dinner is already sold out, but check online at http://www.arapahoebasin.com for future events.
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