Skiing: Kirkwood launches snowcat tours for the season

Out-of-bounds treks focus on backcountry education

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Kirkwood guests experience some sweet Sierra backcountry with a snowcat tour. Photo courtesy Kirkwood Mountain Resort.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — After picking up more than 260 inches of snow this season, Kirkwood Mountain Resort says its ready to launch its out-of-bounds cat-skiing trips for the late winter and spring season, with E:K Cat Tours taking advanced skiers and riders on an adventure to hunt down fresh turns with a focus on backcountry education and safety.

“Expedition:Kirkwood is the West Coast’s largest avalanche awareness and backcountry certification program, but what we’re really known for are the cat tours,” said Casey Blann, Kirkwood’s general manager. “This program is for the advanced skiers and riders who are looking for a completely unique resort experience. Not only gaining the skills for skiing and riding steep terrain, but hang on as your cat operator navigates his way up a road that’s not for the faint of heart.”

The E:K Cat Tours take powder hounds out to Martin Point, past the northwestern boundary of the resort. Martin Point hosts a variety of diverse terrain with a 2,000-foot vertical drop, and the northerly aspect makes for the best out-of-bounds snow conditions in the area. The four-run sessions are led by Expedition Guides and Kirkwood Patrollers. These popular tours book quickly and guests are advised to contact Expedition:Kirkwood to get their spot on the snow cat.

“Expedition:Kirkwood is all about getting you more terrain,” said Jon Copeland, Kirkwood’s Ski & Ride School director. “Whether that’s inbounds or out, we’re going to work on off-piste skiing and riding techniques, terrain selection and management, and rescue procedures and protocols.”

E:K Cat Tours to the Martin Point area are $225 per person for four runs. The price includes the use of a shovel, backpack, beacon and probe, as well as a brief introduction to avalanche and weather report reading, proper gear usage and maintenance, and general out of bounds and mechanized machine protocols. Tours are scheduled daily, weather, conditions and operations permitting.

Two new programs are part of the cat-skiing operation this year: Guided Backcountry Tours and the Backcountry Camp.  Guided Backcountry Tours access areas such as Thunder Bowl and Avy Bowl, which were not included in previous E:K programs. These specialty tours will open up some exciting terrain and combine the thrill of skiing or riding more advanced terrain with education and safety skills in the backcountry.

The Backcountry Camp (February 15th – 18th) is an intense four day camp led by professional guides and avalanche instructors which covers the American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) Level 1 curriculum. Students can expect to walk away with a solid understanding of developing a plan, how to travel safely and efficiently in a backcountry environment, as well as their AIARE Level 1 Certificate with multiple tours during the course.

To celebrate the expansion of their guiding programs, Expedition:Kirkwood has teamed up with Freeskier Magazine and the Swatch Freeride World Tour to put together the competition of a lifetime. From now until January 31, 2013, guests have the opportunity to win a trip to Kirkwood to be on the first Expedition:Kirkwood guided tour of the infamous “Cirque.” The winner will also be treated to airfares, accommodation, VIP treatment at Freeride World Tour and complimentary AIARE Level 1 Course. Visit and “like” Kirkwood’s Facebook page for full competition details.

Guests can find out more about Expedition:Kirkwood programs or register for camps and clinics at www.expedition.kirkwood.com.

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