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TR:Steamboat Powder Cats 12/30/07 TOO MUCH SNOW

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
BACKGROUND: I'm a fifty-something skiing for 30+ years who like most of you can't get enough pow. I decided to give my son Sam, a 15 tear old who can really rip the groomers but needed more off-piste experience, a cat powder day for Christmas. I chose Steamboat Powder Cats as they were pretty close to to us and of course Steamboat is famous for it's great powder. Barrettscv recently posted an excellent TR from the 17th here:


SPC offers three levels of tours and to be safe I chose level one. MIchael's trip was a level two.

Steamboat had been getting snow in small doses almost every day for the last week and a half so I wasn't worried about conditions. We awoke to overcast skies with just a flake or two in the air. As we drove to the meeting place the snow began to fall a little harder. The ski area was reporting 11" new, yea haw it's going to be good. As we gear up Sam grabs a pair of Guns in 185 from SPC and I'm on my Elan 999s. I'm a little concerned with the group as we're two of only four out of twelve wearing helmets.

THE DAY: We head up to the cat and it's snowing hard now. After making the transition from van to cat we learn from our guide Kevin that there's been 30" in the last 20 hours. It's going to be interesting. We stop for the first run at the top of an open glade about 400 yards long. It's got an decent blue pitch to it.

Kevin breaks a trail and we start down, but wait, I can't move. The snow is crotch high and there's not enough pitch to get going. The only way to ski it is to get in the guides track, pick up speed, and then swing into the pow for a couple of turns until you stall out, hoping to cut back to the track just before you stop. We all make it to the cat without falling. The group is actually pretty close in ability. We all cry for more pitch on the next run so off we go. It takes some traversing to get to the top of a steeper glade where we find deeper snow with some windblown drifts. Visibility is not good and the drifts are about chest high so it gets a little tricky. At least there's enough pitch to go downhill. Now I've heard of snorkel skiing and I'll tell you honestly if I had one I would have used it. Every time I started down by the second turn I was gulping snow, totally enveloped. You can't breathe or see. The pictures show this well. They were taken on this run mostly. The trick turns out to be to time the bounce. As you rise in the pow you look, breathe, and then go back down. Doing this I can manage to link 10-12 turns before I have to stop to see again. We have a few crashes on this run but we all manage our way to the cat where we are given a battlefield promotion to level two. We repeat this run and then...

Off to the trees. Now we go to an aspen glade with a lot of pitch. I would have not thought it possible but the snow here is even deeper. Sam finds a hidden bush and crashes on a steep face (see crash pix). It takes a good ten minutes to get all his gear out of the snow and going again. He struggles the rest of the way through the trees and I'm getting concerned for the rest of the day. This is no level one skiing. Another tree run and it's off to lunch. SPC has a cabin in the woods where they serve you a great hot meal. Dessert was Rice Krispy Treats with M&Ms buried inside. I'm not sure anyone appreciated the symbolism of the small colorful pieces trapped in a blob of white stuff but it worked for me.

Lunch over we go back outside and are greeted by 30 mph wind. Visibility is dropping and sometimes I can only see 50 feet. I am not one to completely turn over my safety to any one else's judgment and I'm starting to have doubts as to why we are continuing to ski. We make our way down an open treed run where I mostly follow my son to be sure he's ok. He crashes again, lots of struggle to get back up. Others are starting to go down with more frequency. It's pretty much pure survival skiing at this point. Next ride Sam decides he's had enough and stays in the cat. I take the next run but visibility is so bad it's not fun either. Back to the cat and I sit one out. We then go for a long drive to the other side of the mountain to get out of the wind. Kevin takes Sam so that I can get some turns and I manage a couple of decent 15 turn pitches with tons of face shots. Sam survives this run fine. Kevin says only one more run to go. When the cat stops we're told to check out the conditions before deciding to take this run. Sam sits out but I go outside. It's blowing at least 50 mph, snow going straight sideways. After a couple of minutes I actually take my skis back off and go inside the cat. My day is done.

Final thoughts: This was a totally unique experience. I'm glad we went. The guides did a pretty good job of making the best of a bad situation. I guess I need to think about the issue of signing up for an easier group, having most of the people be pretty good, and having the guides take us to much more difficult places. It pretty much ruined the afternoon for Sam and impacted my enjoyment as I spent a lot of time following him to be sure he was ok.

To a person no one in the cat had ever skied deeper snow. Kevin our guide said he had about 800 days of guiding on this mountain and this was in the top five for snow depth. How deep was it? Our traverse track would leave walls three feet high. You could crash and put a pole straight down and never hit anything. Even a 3 mph descent straight down the fall line would cause snow to build up in front of chest high. There was one snowboader on the trip. He rode two runs and gave up. It just didn't work.

The pictures: SBC has a photographer who spend a couple of runs with the group, He was with us for our second and third runs. We hadn't gone into the trees yet. These were both runs of advanced blue pitch. These shots involved no bashing of drifts, no speeds over 10mph. This was just how it was everywhere. I am the one in the gray helmet and blue jacket. Sam's in green with a red helmet.

The pix:

Sam dropping in:

Sam I can see:

Sam up for air:

Sam face shot:

Sam crash. He's here look close:

Steve dropping in:

Steve coming at you:

Steve look out:

Steve face shot:
post #2 of 19
That's just tremendous!

(I edited the post to put the photos in-line...)
post #3 of 19
Sorry you got in over your heads (literally) and suffered through an adventure that you will remember for the rest of your lives. Sorry it was you and not me.

Did they supply you with fat skis?

Pictures are sick. You rock!
post #4 of 19
One of the Best TRs I have see on here. Good on you.

Got bigger pics?
post #5 of 19
Thread Starter 
If they had had more pitch to ski it could have been even more amazing. I left out the shots of getting stuck, hiking through waist deep.

SPC has Pocket Rockets for everyone up to 175s. They also had 185 Guns which my son took. I thought my 999s which are 99 underfoot worked as well as anything they had to offer.

Before I saw the pictures I would have said I got all the really good face shots in the afternoon. These were taken in the morning. I would have said I didn't get much then. The files they supplied are pretty hi-res, near 2MB. I'm thinking of having some blown up large. I've got a lifetime of desktop wallpaper.
post #6 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by tief schnee View Post
One of the Best TRs I have see on here. Good on you.

Got bigger pics?
They're all on flickr open to everyone:


I only uploaded 640x480.

If someone really wants a hi-res copy mail me, they're all about 1.8M full size.

post #7 of 19
awesome shots, sick.
post #8 of 19
Thanks for the link to bigger pictures, looks sweet.
post #9 of 19
Thread Starter 
This was my favorite:

post #10 of 19
Awesome, wish I was there!

Thanks for sharing,

post #11 of 19
Originally Posted by stevesmith7 View Post

SPC has Pocket Rockets for everyone up to 175s. They also had 185 Guns which my son took. I thought my 999s which are 99 underfoot worked as well as anything they had to offer.
Actually, I think it looks pretty cool. I'm sure over time, the nifty parts will be the ones that stick out in everyone's memory!

FWIW, I'd say in today's world the skis they have are silly small for that kind of powder skiing. Or even for more modest depths. Esp., lower pitch stuff for relative newbs. Trust me on this, I've been playing with a pretty decent range of fatter skis over the past year - as a very middle of the road skier - and if you are a novice in this space, the two skis that will really, really, really be your pals are a K2 Pontoon or a Praxis Powder. Get your hands on one of these for your first time adventure of this sort. I admit this may be easier said than done in some places --- but find a way. You'll thank me. (or, more likely, the folks who designed and built the skis! )

I should probably spin up a separate thread on the Pontoon being the most under-appreciated ski on the planet relative to its merits. You almost can't get them to misbehave in soft snow. And based on one day, I have to say the Praxis is a braindead easy & fun hi-float ride in fresh soft snow. Both skis float like crazy. They turn easily. Unless you slam into a wall of snow, you can't bury the tip of a Pontoon. And the Praxis mounted pretty center will still surface quite reliably carrying a pretty heavy payload. And, because of that tendency to rise (esp at the tips) IMO both reduce the odds of hidden brush/branch trip-ups. Finally, both skis are very un-demanding wrt to speed. Ski them fast or ski them slow, they still perform great -- in contrast to skis that demand speed to perform. Perfect for new forays into this kind of skiing.
post #12 of 19
Thread Starter 
I was thinking about the wide vs narrow pow ski thing and on this trip there were times that I was wishing I had a narrower ski just so that when I was stuck in a flat spot with three feet of snow on my skis I could have kicked out a little easier. On the other hand if I would have been on a 69 vs 99 ski I might have been under four feet of snow.
post #13 of 19
SAWEETTTT!!! YEEEE F'ng Haaaa baby!! They do a great job. BTW, Kevin is a sick skier, good fun. Glad I didn't tear my groin that day!
post #14 of 19
wow - great. It's like you were in powder purgatory
post #15 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by ct55 View Post
wow - great. It's like you were in powder purgatory
I likened it to a starving man who was promised a trip to the Country Buffet but instead ended up at the five star fine dining place. The few bites he got tasted great, but no where near enough.
post #16 of 19
That there is some nice work. . . if you can get it.

post #17 of 19
You actually could have used a snorkel!
post #18 of 19
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Finndog View Post
You actually could have used a snorkel!
Several times I stopped a good line in order to get the snow out. Holding your breath doesn't work for long either. Plus a snorkel in those pix would have looked so cool.
post #19 of 19
So cool, All I can think about is the scene from Waiting game when they're at the Canyons and it's waiste high..... I am so glad you got to experience that.
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