ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREA — Arapahoe Basin Ski Area has been busy this summer with projects ranging from lift replacements to a via ferrata climbing course, but the new Aerial Adventure Course, which opened in July, provides a unique outdoor activity for residents and visitors. The park sits above 10,000 feet in a forest of engelmann spruce and subalpine fir.
Containing seven courses, a total of 70 obstacles and spanning 56 trees, the park’s courses vary in difficulty, using familiar ski run colors and shapes to distinguish an easier course from a more advanced course. Two of the courses are close to the ground and accommodate children ages 4-8.
After park visitors are outfitted in harnesses and safety gear in the base area, they are given instructions and a demonstration on how to use the gear. Participants then hike up to the park where staff members assist visitors on the first platform as they clip into wires and make their way around the park, progressing in course difficulty.
A-Basin spokesperson Katherine Fuller said that while the ski area didn’t do much marketing for the park, word has gotten out. She said people riding by the park on chairlifts were curious when staff members were trying it out for themselves before it opened to the public.
“Anecdotally, we’ve just been getting a lot of people telling us that they’re just desperate for something to do to get out, and this is completely outside, so they feel comfortable doing it,” Fuller said. “So a lot of people are just discovering it on their own and loving it.”
Fuller said she is afraid of heights but loved the experience and has been telling people with similar fears that they might also enjoy the park.
Aerial Adventure Park Manger Taylor Ratcliff explained that she has been working with ropes courses for years in the cruise ship industry but came to A-Basin this year to work at the Aerial Adventure Park. She said she had never used the clip-in system that A-Basin uses, where two devices connect to the participant’s harness and only one device can be unclipped at a time. Ratcliff said the clip-in system at the park provides additional safety.
Ratcliff said staff training for the course was a six-day process beginning with learning the basics about harnesses. She said park employees set up guests with harnesses, demonstrate the use of the equipment and help guests as they begin to move through the course.
Some park employees like Ratcliff also are trained to perform rescues as needed. A rescue might be done if a guest becomes too scared to continue moving through the course or has some sort of medical issue as well as in the event of bad weather. In these cases, employees like Ratcliff will bring guests down via ladders.
Employee Peggy Hiller, who provided a demonstration on how to use the safety and harness equipment, said the park was constructed last summer but had to go through an approval process with the U.S. Forest Service before opening. She noted that summer activities like the Aerial Adventure Park have been discussed as far back as 2012.
“Any good plan takes some good time,” Hiller joked.