Early snow boosts Steamboat Powdercats
Company opens season with most terrain in 29-year history
December 23, 2010
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Powdercats kicked off its 29th season Friday with the most terrain to start the year.
The record early season snowfall allowed the backcountry ski and snowboard tour operator to open its expert terrain nearly a month earlier than scheduled.
Kent Vertrees, of Steamboat Powdercats, said the deep snow — up to 73 inches at their cabin on Buffalo Pass — has opened additional inventory for backcountry skiers and riders.
He said it was the deepest National Resource and Conservation Center SNOWTEL data site in all of Colorado and arguably the deepest snowpack.
"For all the years I've been doing this, and this is my 11th season with Powdercats, it's the best start," Vertrees said.
As of Tuesday, the SNOWTEL site atop Buffalo Pass had recorded 55 inches of snow since Friday, with a snow depth of 85 inches.
According to the data, the amount of snow that has fallen represents 173 percent of the average snowpack for that site.
The amount of snow means there's a significant avalanche risk in the backcountry, Vertrees said. But he said Steamboat Powdercats checks the Colorado Avalanche Information Center every morning. And he said the company's guides have been trained to avoid unsafe areas and take steps to mitigate risks for skiers and riders.
Steamboat Powdercats operates three daily tours from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. grouped by ability levels intermediate, advanced and expert, for up to 36 skiers and riders. Vertrees said the cost is $400 per person or $4,000 for a 12-person private party in a single snowcat.
Vertrees said the fees cover breakfast, lunch, skis or snowboards, boots, poles, avalanche beacons and photos. He said skiers and riders are guaranteed eight runs but typically get 10 to 14 depending on the weather.
Steamboat Powdercats has a permit for 2,200 skier days, of which 1,600 have been reserved, Vertrees said.
He said the early snowfall set up a great base.
"Now let's just hope Mother Nature continues to kick down for the rest of the year," he said.