From the top of the International run, looking down over the A-Basin Beach—the Weber-filled strip of parking lot on the lip of the snow—we can hear the speakers echo up the mountain. A voice booms over the bass: "Do you, Jenny, take…" If I squint, I can make out a bride and groom standing in the back of a truck on the beach. Towing a hot tub on a trailer behind the truck, a passel of friends hula hooping in tutus and circling around them, it appears that this couple is for real getting married. I don't think they're drunk, but I'm sure they are very much in love.
Welcome to the end of spring. Things have gotten a little bit loose.
Like many of the finest ski area parking lots, Arapahoe Basin's Beach is known for things like impromptu weddings/raves. After April, dance parties happen on the regular and costumes are more common than not. One group shows up every year for a redneck party with a disembowled washing machine to put the keg in. The Beach is, in my completely biased opinion, the best, but that's because I'm completely biased. Everyone thinks their game is the best in town.
And it's obviously not the only game. Stowe, Alta, Smuggs—plenty of places have their own vein of lot life. It will range a little—maybe you can sleep in your van in the lot, maybe you have to keep your dog on a leash—but, however you do it, at the kinds of ski areas where you can drive right up to the hill, parking lot culture is pervasive.
This is the point in the season when your less dedicated friends are gardening or riding their bikes. They've given up on skiing, maybe because they don't realize that skiing is only a part of the experience. Once Beach season starts, I know people who enforce a minimum of skiing 10 laps—or one—to hold them accountable before they can loosen their boots for the day. I get that. It's kind of like a football tailgate. I like tailgating more than sports, but you can't have one without the other. The game is ostensibly the reason you came, so you should probably watch a down or three.
That's the best thing about the mountain parking lot: You don't have to watch the game because you are the game. You're on your own team and so is everyone else there. Outside of the slim chance of something going awry (a poorly placed nail in a game of stump, an errant grill burn) you are going to win.
And it doesn't take a lot to win. The bar is low. This is the end of FOMO. Maybe, somewhere else, the snow is better, but who cares. At this point in the year it has been swirled together. On parking lot time, skiing and après-ski (mid-ski, whatever-ski) are one and the same. You're probably not crossing your fingers for powder days, or getting up particularly early. It's all sunburns, slushy snow, friend, and long days. Your boots stink, warm and flexy from the rising temps. It stays light for a long time.
Parking lot sessions mean that the seasons are turning. It's officially summer now, even though it's still snowing in the Rockies. In August, I'm going to a (planned) wedding at the Basin, because skiers don't stray far from the mountains, no matter the season. As far as I know, there's no hot tub on wheels coming, and I'll probably wear a dress instead of ski pants, but we will be pre-gaming—and probably ending the night—in the parking lot.
Lift tickets: $38.99
Snowpack Base: 61 inches
The Good News: A-Basin (and its beach) extended its season to June 22nd.