Some legendary terrain, parties and fun, opens early
Smaller resort, few amenities, regular mountain is bland
Arapahoe Basin is a non-glitzy, regular old place that is still a major player in terms of resort visibility and amount of terrain, but more reserved and with considerably few amenities. There is no overnight lodging facilities at Arapahoe Basin. Three large gravel parking lots, no gondolas, no valet or VIP service. However, parking is free.
Arapahoe Basin has several crown jewels: Pallavicini, East Wall and the back bowls of the mountain service by the Zuma lift. The rest of A-Basin is relatively bland, nothing too exciting. However the crown jewels are worth checking out and exploring. Arapahoe Basin is known more for its advanced terrain and as a locals laid back hangout. Pallavicini is a steep and a legendary ski run, that it makes the top ten list of must-ski runs in North America.
Upper East Wall rarely opens, leaving Lower East Wall still a cool bowl to ski around boulders and off an occasional small cliff or two, but offers enough flexibility to take easier routes down too. Some of Arapahoe Basin requires hiking, including Upper East Wall. A-Basin has one of the highest elevation of any ski area.
Arapahoe Basin (and Loveland) are the first to open in North American for the season and last to close for the ski season. It has been reported that A-Basin has been open for skiing as late as the 4th of July for some seasons.
The parking lot at Arapahoe Basin can be very festive, like a football tailgate party with an area known as "The Beach", where skier/sunbathers tailgate, eat, listen to music and watch people ski down the mountain. Even more festive are the pond skimming days in May, where participants attempt to ski from snow to water across a small pond, with many actually making it all the way across, while some have hilliarious crashes that make for many youtube videos and cheers. This is the party-place, especially for locals and hard-core skiers.
With the exception of next-door neighbor Loveland, Arapahoe Basin is the closest major ski resort to the Denver area, as Echo mountain severely pales in comparison and Eldora is closer to Boulder. Black Mountain lodge at mid-mountain is a nice stop for lunch or to warm up with a hot drink.
A-Basin is the place to get your skiing fix, when all the other resorts have closed for the season, or if you hear that they opened up Upper East Wall.