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Crested Butte - Irwin cat skiing - anybody do this?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

I'm doing the annual man-cation at Crested Butte, and we're looking at the Irwin snowcat day trip.  I was wondering if anybody had any feedback on this operation recently.  A search of Irwin lodge turned up some mentions of crappy southern exposures, but I would think there's got to be more to the story.  We're headed there the first week of March, and it seems to be a good snow year for Crested Butte so far.  At $450 a head for the cat skiing, half our group is dragging their feet.  Any personal observations would be welcomed.

post #2 of 15
Well dang, I'm glad to hear they're back in operation. I was hoping they'd be back in business last year when I was at CB, but that didn't happen. I heard the terrain and snow are great there, but I could be wrong. We ended up doing a cat ski day at Monarch though which was excellent.

You might want to consider Monarch for a day or two if guys are skeptical on Irwin. Monarch was very reasonably priced too. Nice operation - I'd go back there anytime, although the drive to Monarch pass can be a tough in bad weather from CB.
post #3 of 15

I haven't sampled the goods myself yet but know quite a few folks who have. The beta thus far:

 

1. As an operation, it has received nothing but high marks. They have all new cats/equipment and it is very posh.

2. The guys who run it are all long time locals so they know the terrain like the back of their hand

3. The terrain is great but it is predominantly south facing. If you don't get a recent dump of snow and if there is a decent amount of sun it can become a crust factory until it warms up. Since you are going in March and we're having a great year, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Even if we don't get a storm during your stay it should be softened up for most of the day. February during a low snow year is where I would be more concerned

4. The operation's "rental" skis are all custom made boards by Wagner. Yes, that's Wagner of the $2,000 skis Wagner. So I would be sure to sample those goods as well.

 

If you are looking to spice up the trip, another option would be to book a day with CB Mountain Guides and go hit the BC the old fashioned way. You'll get one maybe two descents depending on where you go but will be able to call your aspect based on the snow conditions, have a great experience and burn some calories to boot.

post #4 of 15

I haven't been with the new operation.  But I knew a bunch of the original "Irwin ten", that owned the previous operation.  Irwin gets a lot more snow than CB.

 

Que:  I know there are a lot of sled skiers in the Irwin area.  Does that new cat operation hold an exclusive permit area?

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

Ah, thanks for the feedback.  They mentioned the Wagner skis when I called them, and they are part of the cost of the day, so it's like a free demo day in a roundabout way.  Plus, if for some reason the Wagners don't rub me the right way, they said they have enough room to pack my own skis too.  They're throwing in breakfast, lunch, and some apre'ski goodies too.

 

Carvemeister - some of the guys coming in from Denver are going to hit Monarch first.  The ski area, not the cat operation.  I'll throw that option out there, although getting a group decision made is like herding cats.

post #6 of 15

I used to do a lot of snowmobiling at Irwin pretty cool it was like a biker bar for snowmobile's at 10,000+ ft. I hadn't realized they were open again. If you are willing to swing the payment do it! a year of snowfall like this year (if it holds up through March, which it should) will make for awesome snow and if it's sunny great a blubird day. They do get more snow than CB a lot more just look at the snowfall already.

post #7 of 15

Ya, Irwin usually gets 2X to 3X the snow of CB. It is an odd little micro climate that fleeces the storms as they head over Kebler.

 

Shread: My gut says they don't hold an exclusive permit so those lines can be poached by sled skiers. I haven't heard any complaints about it so far and the permit area is pretty big so tough to ski out. That and most sled skiers are hitting different aspects in the Anthracites. I do know that some folks like to traverse the ridge from Red Lady and hit The Shield/etc on far looker's right.

 

One question: I know that Irwin CS does a bunch of avy control and bombing work up there. Is that normal for a cat skiing operation? I've heard of the Pow Birds chucking bombs out of helis in Utah (and the resulting backlash against it) but wasn't sure if avy control work of that magnitude is something usually done by cat ops.

post #8 of 15

I did a 3 day cat trip to Irwin about 8 or 9 years ago, in February.  The terrain was great.  The snow was great, way more than town.  The operation was great.  I' d definitely go if you can swing it.  $450 seems about right, assuming you get at least 8 or 9 runs.

post #9 of 15
My husband did Irwin about 7 years ago when it was not so posh and loved the terrain. But if your buds are dragging their feet at the $450, why not consider the Monarch cat skiing at $275?
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Que View Post

I haven't sampled the goods myself yet but know quite a few folks who have. The beta thus far:

 

1. As an operation, it has received nothing but high marks. They have all new cats/equipment and it is very posh.

2. The guys who run it are all long time locals so they know the terrain like the back of their hand

3. The terrain is great but it is predominantly south facing. If you don't get a recent dump of snow and if there is a decent amount of sun it can become a crust factory until it warms up. Since you are going in March and we're having a great year, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Even if we don't get a storm during your stay it should be softened up for most of the day. February during a low snow year is where I would be more concerned

4. The operation's "rental" skis are all custom made boards by Wagner. Yes, that's Wagner of the $2,000 skis Wagner. So I would be sure to sample those goods as well.

 

If you are looking to spice up the trip, another option would be to book a day with CB Mountain Guides and go hit the BC the old fashioned way. You'll get one maybe two descents depending on where you go but will be able to call your aspect based on the snow conditions, have a great experience and burn some calories to boot.


How true Que, you nailed all 4 comments.  It snowed Feb 27-28, then two days of solid sun before I got my chance on March 3rd.  Breakable crust was the name of the game all morning, then just when it was starting to soften up, the clouds came in and we dropped about 10 degrees.  The Wagners were fine, just tough conditions no matter what was on your feet.

 

SAM_0114small.JPG

SAM_0117small.JPG

 

The operation was first class, and we got in 12 runs.  One comment by the guide sorta baffled me however.  I had brought all my own avy gear, and he commented that by my bringing my own shovel/probe, I was implying to him a lack of confidence in his guiding abilities.  Think he was just jerking my chain, but still.....weird.
 

 

post #11 of 15

Dude, was thinking about you. Sorry to hear about your crusty experience. I hope you were able to get a few softer turns in.

 

One quick question on the avy gear. I would have to concur with you that he was yanking your chain but I have to ask, was every member of your party outfitted with avy gear (their own or provided by the operation)?

 

The have a ton of snow up there don't they?

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

Everybody had beacons, mostly provided by the guides.  The guides had sizeable backpacks, and one other skier had a small backpack.  So I'm guessing only 3 of us had shovels/probes.

 

Yes, a ton of snow seemed to be available, and even after 3 days of little to no snow, I saw hardly any other tracks up there.  Lots of snowmobiles parked lower down the pass.  The old Irwin lodge had snow up to the roof - with a metal roof, it all slides off easily and piles up on the sides.  The old lodge is huge, but the way; at least 2 1/2 stories high.

 

Best day of the week was Friday - powder day at Crested Butte.  By then we knew the mountain pretty well, and followed the general herd instinct to start at the Headwall and travel Northeast from there.

post #13 of 15

The temperatures this year all over the mountains of Colorado have been extremely polarized (either way colder than usual, or way warmer than usual). This month has been pretty warm, and it looks to be staying that way. Considering their terrain is south facing, I'd probably avoid Irwin. Monarch is a good suggestion, I believe it's by far the lowest price for cat skiing in the state. Unfortunately, I don't know anything else about their outfit. Honestly, for those prices ($450), if your skills are up to snuff, I'd make the 3+ hour drive to Silverton, instead, and pay for 3 heli drops. The guys that don't want to spend as much can just opt out of additional heli drops.

post #14 of 15

How cool, ^^^, my son is just arriving there (Silverton) now. It looks awesome. think the north facing peaks will rock?

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by davluri View Post

How cool, ^^^, my son is just arriving there (Silverton) now. It looks awesome. think the north facing peaks will rock?

 

It'll be f'ing awesome. They just received a 28" dump about 3 days ago. Since they're only open Thu-Sun, today is an awesome day to be down there - second best storm cycle for them of the season. I'd be there right now if I wasn't leaving for Switzerland on Saturday. Wish I didn't have a great job... haha

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