Powderhounds Review

Powderhounds Review

Wagner Custome Skis
Keystone Cat Skiing – Kat (Keystone Adventure Tours) Pros
  • Cat skiing with Keystone is inexpensive by US standards and is absolutely all inclusive.
  • Everyone is treated like royalty and everyone gets freshies.
  • The guides are awesome – experienced, friendly, down to earth, professional and FUN.
  • The terrain is suited to all levels of skiers from high intermediate and above.
  • A flexible booking and cancellation policy allows for skiing in optimum conditions.
  • The lunch is delicious and the setting and views are stupendous.
  • The wind blows hard up the top (could be a con – wait for it!) and sucks up all the snow from the surrounding countryside, dumping it into the bowls for your skiing pleasure.
Cons
  • The area of terrain is relatively small compared to other cat skiing operations.
  • There is a dodgy incinerator toilet at the day lodge (it wouldn’t be dodgy if people followed the instructions.....). But hey at least there is a toilet – it beats trying to hide in front of the snowcat blade!
  • As with a lot of the high elevation Colorado resorts, the wind can scour the very tops of the bowls, exposing grass and rock (the fat boards aren’t yours - forget about this con!)
  • It doesn’t snow as much here as in Utah – but hey you can’t have everything!
An Adventure with Keystone Adventure Tours
Standing at the top of the ridge in Independence Bowl, the sky is crystal, the sun sits low in the south, a cold wind whips up the snow and everyone waits with baited breath as we watch our guide link graceful telemark turns in a foot of fresh snow. The snow looks tasty indeed. We are warned to take it easy at the top of the run due to some exposed rocks - hah! - they’re not my skis..... Leaping off a cornice, the landing is easy. The fat Salomon powder boards provide a very stable platform. Letting rip into some hard turns, I edge my boards close to a rocky outcrop. I take some air off a wind drift and it’s time to hook into it, dodging stunted pine trees along the way. The powder deepens further down the slope and the foot of fresh becomes two feet. Face shots and much whooping and yipping become the order of the day – welcome to KAT skiing at Keystone!

The day starts with an early get together in the River Run Village at Keystone and then a free ride up the gondola to the KAT yurt at the top of Dercum Mountain. Whilst getting to know your fellow skiers, a quick avalanche briefing and beacon lesson for the uninitiated is conducted, and the fat Salomon powder skis are distributed. I was dubious about the mega fat powder skis, but they were a lot of fun and I’m glad to have tried them. A small number of telemark skis are available also.

Our group was diverse and included some overworked professionals: a chronically hungover journo; several Aussie ski bums; a range of ski resort media and marketing types; plus the obligatory uni student – just to keep everyone on the level. All were prepared to have a crack, and that’s exactly the way we like it.

The cat is new, heated and seats 12 people comfortably in airline/coach style forward facing seating. The views are gorgeous and the anticipation is palpable as the cat breaks out of the trees and onto the ridge top. Music pumping through a stereo via an I-pod adds to the building excitement.

The first run is in Bergman Bowl and it is effectively a warm up and a chance for the guides to see whether you lied about your skiing capability. Bergman is cruisy, low angle stuff which lulls you into a false sense of security for the rest of the day.

The next few runs are in Erickson Bowl. Small cornice entries, steeper pitch, some wind drifts, jumps, the odd tree and a long run out gets everyone into the swing of it. The last run before lunch is into Independence Bowl. Assorted dwarf pines, wind lips, deep powder snow and good, steep pitch combined with everyone hucking down at the same time, makes for a great end to the morning session.

Lunch is a delicious selection of soup, sandwiches and dessert served in a brand new yurt with an expansive sundeck. From the deck there is a glorious view of the surrounding Independence Bowl. If you’re keen, and indeed some of our party were, the deck also provides a great launch platform for some somersaults into the powder several metres below.

Suitably relaxed after lunch we headed up in our shiny red chariot to the top of a huge south facing slope in Independence Bowl - the longest vertical of the day. That’d be right. A massive lunch, legs relaxed, all my blood hanging around my guts as my body tries to digest the gourmet feed, and that’s when I’ve gotta ski a million turns in one hit. I always struggle after lunch – my quaddies just don’t seem to function. But here, with our inspirational group having just got the cat rocking and bopping to some dodgy Eminem tunes, I feel fresh and invigorated.

Several more cracking runs down north facing slopes in Independence Bowl and then the day comes to an ending all too soon. The cat drops us off at the KAT yurt back in the resort on Dercum Mountain. At the end of the day you get one last run (on your own skis!). From the top of Dercum Mountain, you and your 11 new friends get to scream down Keystone’s immaculate intermediate terrain for a full 730 metres of vertical. If your thighs are shot from the cat skiing (i.e. you’re soft!), a down load is possible on the gondola.

A quick stroll across the bridge and you’re into après, Keystone style.
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