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Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

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Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby Admin » Thu Feb 24, 2011 9:57 pm

Day 54: Didn't cross any tracks other than our own.

I went up to Powder Mountain today to do their all-day snowcat safari with mbaydala, his friend George, Tim Roberts from Ski Utah and two-time Olympian and former U.S. Downhill champion Holly Flanders. Joining us for the day were Powder Mountain CEO Greg Greer, Marketing/PR Director Patrick Lundin, and a few others including their web designer, three patrollers/guides and Greg from Arnette Snowboarding. Holly's son, X Games Champion/Slopestyle World Champion/Snowbasin Dew Tour slopestyle winner Alex Schlopy was supposed to join us but Matchstick Productions called him over to Silverton for a film shoot. Dew Tour halfpipe winner Louie Vito was also supposed to be with us but ended up shuttling on a snowmobile for a film shoot instead.

Powder Mountain's cat skiing area encompasses 3,000 acres, including 1,000 acres added this season that they've leased from the La Plata ranch that sits to the east of Cobabe Canyon. They get $375 per person during the prime winter season for an all-day excursion including lunch and guides. You get your money's worth, for honestly the only tracks we saw all day were our own. And that figures when you realize that a cat holds 12 and 3,000 acres is bigger than Snowbird.

After orientation and waiver signing at the yurt in Powder Mountain's primary parking lot we boarded the cat and headed up to Hidden Lake's summit.

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Our chariot awaits


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In our guide Butch's own words, "Last night was a little rough..."


From there we pushed off into Lefty's Canyon, so named because it lies to looker's left of the Powder Country runs. This was south facing, and conditions varied from spectacular to somewhat crusty. It was, however, merely a means to access the north-facing runs on the other side of the canyon. They were divine, but short 600-vert shots through the trees from Bobcat Ridge to the canyon floor that we lapped for a half dozen runs. Each time we'd just move further left to escape our tracks from the run before.

Which leads me to an important point: Powder Mountain's Snowcat Safaris are the most laid-back all-day cats I've ever experienced. I'm used to a guide going first, having to farm my turns right next to the guide's, and another guide pulling sweep duty. Not here. Powder Mountain is more of a "Here's the fall line, stop when you hit the cat road...now go have fun" type of operation. We were given reasonably free reign of the lines we wanted to ski. We didn't have to stay behind the guides. In short, we simply had fun.

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A pickup in Lefty's


We planned to spend the afternoon in the new sector, in an area known as Thunder Dome where the runs are longer and far, far steeper. Rather than burn time eating lunch, we opted to eat in the cat as it rumbled over to Thunder Dome from Lefty's, passing an impressive looking Mary's Bowl en route.

Reaching Thunder Dome our guide Roger, who's also Pow Mow's Snow Safety Director, was a bit concerned about sloughing below a hanging cornice on the steepest line, so we started off more gently and worked our way to steeper lines. These are 1,400-vert north-facing shots that are consistent in pitch through a mix of open areas and tight trees. Vito and the photogs were running snowmobiles here.

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Louie Vito


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Holly Flanders


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Patrick Lundin is in there somewhere...


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Guides John and Roger


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Roger


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Riding up the cat road in La Plata Ranch


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mbaydala


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mbaydala


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Greg


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Greg


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Holly


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George


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Patrick


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Greg


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Roger


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Roger


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John


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John


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John


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mbaydala hits the High West


On our second run, which upped the ante a bit over the first, Roger was explaining our line. "So, straight down the fall line from here?" I asked.

"Yup, down to the cat road in the drainage," Roger answered.

Everybody was still standing there. No one was going.

"So, OK to go?" I asked.

"Yup."

Everyone's was still standing there. "OK, you don't have to ask me twice."

Astounding. Not a track in front of me through thigh-deep pow. It just kept going, and going, and going...it was the run of the day. It was, at least, until the next run, where I worked my way to the ridge separating the two bowls and found wide open untracked that dropped in a series of stairs down to the canyon floor. Like I said, amazing, and well worth the price of admission.

As mbaydala pointed out, with this much terrain Powder Mountain offers an experience akin to a remote snowcat operation, yet it's still adjacent to a resort, accommodating families or groups where some members want to ride the lifts while others do the BC thing. It's a terrific setup.

Here's our GPS track, which gives you a sense of orientation of these runs in the context of Powder Mountain's in-bounds terrain:
http://www.mountaindynamics.com/en/sdmap.php?tid=16646

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A group shot
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby rsmith » Thu Feb 24, 2011 11:17 pm

Nice report, Admin.

Are there still plans to build out additional lifts and lodging at PowMow? I specifically wonder about this since a lot of times peripheral cat operations are a precursor to lift expansion.

I would be curious to know the # of outings an operation like PowMow or the Alta snowcats supports. Seems like somewhat of a difficult sell - if conditions are good at the resort it would be hard to justify the extra expense for the cat rides, as opposed to a cat-only operation where you're a captive audience. I would imagine Utah locals would only rarely pay the money for the cats since they have unlimited access to powder over the course of a season for the cost of a lift ride or season pass. The PowMow cats are tempting as a destination skier, however - the price per untracked powder vertical is pretty compelling assuming you get the right conditions (though 3000 acres isn't very much for a cat operation). But still, I've had several great days at PowMow with essentially untracked conditions via the lifts, bus and cheap single-pass cat rides. Utah just has too many great options... I'll definitely keep the PowMow Safari option in my back pocket for those times when it hasn't snowed in a few days and the resorts are tracked out.
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby mbaydala » Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:16 am

[facebookvideo]http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=1887963678744[/facebookvideo]
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby Admin » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:02 am

Nicely done on the video, Matt! I was wondering if you'd use Spirit In The Sky for a soundtrack! :lol:

rsmith wrote:Are there still plans to build out additional lifts and lodging at PowMow? I specifically wonder about this since a lot of times peripheral cat operations are a precursor to lift expansion.


Not really, at least at the moment. They perceive the hassles they encountered in permitting as perhaps a blessing in disguise, given the downturn that took place immediately after they had hoped to start on developing the real estate, etc. They are, however, still working with Weber County on the resort's master plan.

rsmith wrote:I would be curious to know the # of outings an operation like PowMow or the Alta snowcats supports. Seems like somewhat of a difficult sell - if conditions are good at the resort it would be hard to justify the extra expense for the cat rides, as opposed to a cat-only operation where you're a captive audience.


I can tell you that the cat recently generated $40,000 in sales just in one week.

rsmith wrote:(though 3000 acres isn't very much for a cat operation).


It's actually very impressive for a resort-based U.S. cat operation.
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby mbaydala » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:15 am

Marc you like that crash at the end? I think that may have been the one that took you down as well.
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby Admin » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:19 am

mbaydala wrote:Marc you like that crash at the end? I think that may have been the one that took you down as well.


Loved it! I was skiing behind you at that point but managed to keep the P-tex side down.

Not so earlier on an adjacent run when I unexpectedly hit an old logging road that I never saw coming. Suddenly and without warning I was airborn. It's amazing how quickly your brain processes info, for I immediately realized that I was not going to clear the opposite side of the road and curled up into a fetal position mid-air so that I wouldn't auger into the opposite side. Too funny!
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby jamesdeluxe » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:36 am

rsmith wrote:(though 3000 acres isn't very much for a cat operation).

I understand that on an absolute basis, 3,000 acres is "small" compared to many that have 10,000+ and heli ops with even more than that.

But isn't 3,000 acres an acceptable amount of terrain?
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby yak » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:36 am

Great report Marc. PowMow is one of my favorite places, precisely because of all the terrain and options available. Back in the days when resort management was a little more laissez faire, we used to take sleds out in that area and lapped some of those same shots. We had to build our own snow roads so it was slower going, and we had to leave a sled overnight once when it got stuck in a drainage trying to turn around.
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby rsmith » Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:21 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:
rsmith wrote:(though 3000 acres isn't very much for a cat operation).

I understand that on an absolute basis, 3,000 acres is "small" compared to many that have 10,000+ and heli ops with even more than that.

But isn't 3,000 acres an acceptable amount of terrain?


Ya, I was probably off-base with an implication that it's not enough terrain. With Powder Mountain's refresh rate I would imagine that the cat operation would nearly always be able to find untracked with 3000 acres in play. The only exceptions would be when the northern Wasatch in general is in poor shape (several weeks without significant snow and/or heavy wind/sun damage). The $375 rate is very competitive with other cat operations, and certainly much cheaper than heli. It may well be the cheapest cost per untracked run available (other than hiking, of course), especially when you consider the ease of travel to SLC.
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby schubwa » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:40 pm

Funny, whenever you see pics of mixed groups the snowboarders always seem to get the best face shots and are having more fun!
:-D
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby kingslug » Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:14 am

Awesome..I was hoping to catch a few cat rides when I was there but no vis prevented it...I definitely want to check this out though..and the price is reasonable..hoping to come out in march...
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby Marc_C » Sat Feb 26, 2011 11:16 am

kingslug wrote:Awesome..I was hoping to catch a few cat rides when I was there but no vis prevented it...I definitely want to check this out though..and the price is reasonable..hoping to come out in march...

Powder Mtn + March + cost of cat skiing + assumption you want light powder = trip should be as early as possible in March and certainly not the latter half. Remember the elevation and aspects of Powder Mtn. Fortunately most of the cat skiing terrain is N/NE.
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby longshanks » Sat Feb 26, 2011 12:59 pm

schubwa wrote:Funny, whenever you see pics of mixed groups the snowboarders always seem to get the best face shots and are having more fun!
:-D

Word!

great vid btw Matt - that terrain looks very very good. @ $375 may be one of the price/value equations. Do they have stand by rates for last minute walk up?
Or are they always full? One cat or 2?
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby Admin » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:23 am

I get the impression that they run largely like a walk-up operation anyway, i.e. if you show up and there's room you're in, so I don't believe that there's a standby rate. They have a second cat to run on busy days, but they were only running one cat on Thursday.
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Re: Powder Mountain cat skiing, UT 2/24/11

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Feb 27, 2011 4:19 pm

jamesdeluxe wrote:But isn't 3,000 acres an acceptable amount of terrain?

That depends upon many factors.
1. Refresh rate, not only quantity but variability. Targhee's consistency of snowfall is what makes it viable on a very small IMHO 1,000 acres. Powder Mt. averages about 375 inches, and Utah is less consistent than Targhee but more than some other places. Within the snowcat ski universe I'd say average for snowfall.
2. How many cats? Powder Mt. nearly always has just one, and sometimes that one is not full, so definitely a point in its favor.
3. Snow preservation, meaning mainly altitude/exposure. Altitude is somewhat on the low side for the region. The choicest fall lines pictured in this thread are north facing, and much better than what's lift served at Powder Mt. However, not all of the 3,000 acres is north facing, maybe half of it?

The bottom line, as with most resort adjacent cat skiing, is that I'd want my reservation to be fairly short notice, not months or even weeks in advance. I think demand is at a level where that can usually be arranged, but anyone who knows more is free to correct that assumption.
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