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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-27-2009, 01:01 AM Thread Starter
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Looking to go on first back country trip

I'm looking to go on my first back country trip next winter and I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions on good places to go. I'm not looking for anything too challenging or crazy, but something that would be worth my while. I live in Virginia so I don't really get any good snow here so I'd like to go out west somewhere.
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-27-2009, 09:52 AM
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I assume you are talking about a cat trip, or some sort of power assisted backcountry riding?

Monarch Ski area has a pretty good cat accessed area. It's enough off the path that earn your turns guys like me don't really go back there. I've really seen nothing but good reviews from people who have gone there.

Steamboat Powder cats is another good operation. They operate on Buffalo Pass and that place just gets pounded with snow. Where Steamboat Ski mountain gets around 400" annually, Buffalo Pass consistently gets around 800". Bring your snorkel. Sled skiers/riders are also up there, so there is some competition.

San Juan Snowcat Skiing is another operation you might look at. They have a huge expanse of terrain and no competition. The snowcat leaves from the top of Purgatory mountain (Durango Mountain) and your adventure starts from there. I believe they have over 30,000 acres to ride (6 Vail Ski areas...).

There are plenty of other snowcat operations in other states. Utah, Washington, California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, all have worthy operations. I am just not as familar with them as Colorado based ones.

Expect to pay around $300 for a day at any of these operations. Some may offer packages for multiple days, it depends on where they operate. I would also check what level of avalanche education their guides have acheived. The main guy should be level III certified and I would expect the lead guides to be at least level II. Remember this is not controlled terrain, avalanches are a very real possibility. You want to avoid them at all costs. Your guides should have the skills to make sound decisions and avoid that hazard. If you get buried, there is good chance you will get killed in the process. If you don't get killed, and are dug out quickly by a beacon search, you will most likely be all sorts of busted up. Broken arms, legs, hips, internal bleeding etc. It's not a pretty thing. All the operations I've listed have a good safety record and good guides. Keep that in mind.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-28-2009, 02:19 PM
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sorry to hijack, but im in the same boat. im looking for a easy backcountry trip around vail or beaver creek, and also would is march to late for a back country trip
post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-28-2009, 02:44 PM
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Vail Powder Guides operates on Vail Pass. Vail Pass is a rather large area and there is a ton of great stuff. South Shore, Black Lakes, Utopia are all fantastic areas. I have skinned and ridden several of them. The snowcat operation goes even further back on the pass if needed. The one thing is that Vail Pass is a sled ski area. Plenty of others on snowmobiles will be going after the same terrain the snowcat will be taking you to. On a huge powder day no worries. 4-5 days after a storm and pickings can be slim. The terrain can vary from wide open bowls, to cliffs, pillow lines, etc. Good stuff.

There is also Chicago Ridge out of Cooper Mountain. It would be about a 30 or 45 minute drive from Vail/BC area I believe. I am also pretty sure they have exclusive rights to the terrain they hit. At least no other motorized traffic in the area. The terrain isn't as varied or cliffed out as Vail pass, but I rarely hear complaints about it. Expect lots of untracked powder is all.
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 01-28-2009, 03:51 PM Thread Starter
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thats exactly what i needed to know. thanks for the help
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