Magazine article Sunset

Up to Your Snorkel in Snow

Magazine article Sunset

Up to Your Snorkel in Snow

Article excerpt

Bring your snorkel, they say--for skiing. Skiing in powder that's unpacked, ungroomed, and piled too deep to bother measuring.

Rooster-tailing through dry, feather-light powder is the ultimate thrill for a downhill skier or snowboarder. And Western resorts cater to these adventurers with guided excursions that go beyond the bounds of lifts and trails.

These powdery playgrounds are accessible on three types of excursions: snowcat trips, helicopter expeditions, and "off-piste" (off-trail) guided tours. Over the course of a day, snowcat or helicopter service will let you make as many as six runs, descending a thigh-burning total of 10,000 feet or more. Guided, European-style tours take you beyond resort bounds into "double black diamond" terrain of pristine slopes and bowls.

Except for introductory tours, expect these trips to be geared to expert skiers. And be prepared for the possibility of avalanche. All guides have expert avalanche training; you're provided with a rescue transceiver and, on some tours, a lightweight shovel and survival pack. Call to verify this season's prices.

Snowcat skiing

Colorado. Aspen Mountain, Box 1248, Aspen 81612; (303) 925-1220 or (800) 525-6200. Cost: $200 per person.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort, Box 3001, Mount Crested Butte 81225; (303) 349-2222 or (800) 544-8448. Tours based from nearby Irwin Lodge. Cost: $160; $262 with lodging.

Monarch Ski Resort, 1 Powder Place, Monarch 81227; (719) 539-3573. Cost (not including lift ticket): $80; $60 half-day; $20 single run.

Ski Cooper, Box 896, Leadville 80461; (719) 486-3684. Cost: $95; $50 half-day; 6 skiers minimum.

Steamboat: contact Steamboat Powder Cats, Box 772468, Steamboat Springs 80477; (303) 879-5188 or (800) 288-0543. Cost: $155; $195 with overnight at wilderness cabin.

Idaho. Brundage Mountain, Box 1062, McCall 83638; (800) 888-7544. Cost: $75, including lunch and lift ticket.

Montana. Big Mountain, Box 1400, Whitefish 59937; (406) 862-3511. Cost (not including lift ticket): $35 half-day.

Bridger Bowl: contact Montana Powder Guides, 15792 Bridger Canyon Rd., Bozeman 59715; (406) 587-3096. Guide rate for up to four people is $125, $25 per extra person; snowcat costs $300 for up to six people.

Oregon. …

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