According to the reports from the Ski Company, it’s snowed the last 13 of 14 days here in Aspen yielding over 2 FEET of new snowfall. Yesterday the storm cycle broke and the sunshine and cold weather returned giving us one of the best powder days of the year. Knowing the snow was getting ready to stop, I ventured over to the Aspen Mountain Powder Tours desk two days ago and made a reservation for 1 seat in a snowcat on the backside for a powder tour. These seats are hard to come by, but if you plan in advance, you can join too.
Once signed up, you need to have a pair of fatty powder skis and some decent powder skills to negotiate the endless deep powder of the Richmond Ridge terrain. You meet your snowcat and guides (they run 3 cats per day / 12 people per) at the top around 9am for a full day of skiing. I’ve taken about 6 of these trips over the years and I’ve had as many as 14 runs and as little as 11 on a typical trip. It all depends on the strength of the group. Keep in mind each lap is over 1000 vertical feet in length so it makes for some winded runs. You will have a front guide leading the way and a tailgunner doing a sweep of each run. Safety is paramount as with any backcountry adventure. There are even areas that each skier goes one at a time to ensure group safety.
Because of the avalanche danger inherent with backcountry skiing, most of the runs are on intermediate level terrain of less than 30% in pitch. If conditions warrant, there is terrain in McFarlands and Black Diamond bowls that are much steeper and challenging for the advanced skier. The above photo was taken on the western facing slopes in the Little Annie basin. The previous nights wind made a little crust on top but I wasn’t complaining as it was still knee deep.
There is 2500 acres available to the powder tours for their exclusive use and while that seems like a lot, it does get used up in a hurry with 3 cats running. As you can see, every run is uncut bottomless powder with a sustained pitch about equal to Snowmass’ Big Burn. Some runs are steeper, but for the most part, this run is a typical example of what your on.
About mid-day you stop for lunch. Now this is not just any lunch, it’s lunch Aspen style. Yes, the cabin is rustic complete with outhouse but the lunch should have a Michelin star. It’s brought in from the Aspen Mountain Club and every bit as good as you can imagine. Now, maybe I’m biased as I was so hungry from 5 morning powder runs, I would’ve eaten Spam if asked. Even if you don’t like powder, sign up just for the snowcat ride, views and lunch. It’s that good!
The next time you’re in Aspen and want a backcountry adventure you’ll remember for a lifetime, sign up for a powder tour. Yes, it’s pricey but I guarantee you, it’s such a good time you’ll want do it again. And if you’re not sure you’ll like it, invite me along and I’ll be glad to show you the ropes.