Small Group Colorado Cat Skiing Might Be The Ticket For This Ski Season

Small Group Colorado Cat Skiing Might Be The Ticket For This Ski Season

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Small Group Colorado Cat Skiing Might Be The Ticket For This Ski Season

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This post was originally posted on ELEVEN EXPERIENCE’s Blog.

By: JON DONALDSON
DIRECTOR OF GUIDING OPERATIONS

The immense beauty and sheer wonder of cat skiing at Irwin is an experience not to be missed. As someone who has explored the world on skis, I can truly attest that this slice of Colorado’s West Elk range is something special. For those of you who have not yet experienced a day out on the cat with us, I’m conducting a little Irwin 101 here. Step into my office.

Irwin, Colorado is located about 13 miles west of the town of Crested Butte, where Eleven’s Scarp Ridge Lodge and Sopris House are located. It is here that Eleven chose to base its catskiing operation. And with good reason – at over 10,000 feet above sea level in the Elk Mountains, this ski terrain is situated in the “snow shadow” of the Ruby range, which means it is orographically favored to receive copious amounts of snow from December through April. Here, we are spoiled by light, low density powder due to our high altitude and prime location. Irwin’s geography has gained it the well-earned reputation for averaging 450 inches of snow a season – often twice that of the town of Crested Butte. Eleven has exclusive access to the 1000-plus acres at Irwin and two on-mountain outposts, the Cat Barn and the Movie Cabin for guests to enjoy lunch and après. Simply put, for skiers of all ability levels, this is crème de la crème. Fantastic snow, exclusive use, private groups, delicious food, premium accommodations at Scarp Ridge Lodge or Sopris House, and, of course, zero lift lines.

Irwin Catskiing

While it’s no secret that Irwin boasts an impressive snowpack record, this is not the only draw enticing both hard-charging skiers and intermediate cruisers alike to the area’s bountiful slopes. Our program is highly customizable, and we can truly cater each experience to meet your unique expectations. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is YOUR trip with YOUR friends. You will not interact with any other groups during your ski day. Snowcats will not be mixed, so you will only share space with those in your own private group. Each morning, our Tucker will pick you up at Scarp Ridge Lodge or Sopris House to deliver you to the powder playground that is Irwin, Colorado. In times like these, this is the lowest-risk way to get your turns in this season.

On to the terrain. Here, we’ve got it all – from wide open powder-filled bowls to tight trees and steep chutes. We usually start the day with a mellow run like “Dan’s Delight” or “Barkmarker Glades” so that everyone can get their ski legs. There are many approachable, low angle runs for your crew to warm up on or spend the entire day exploring. Then, depending on your group’s level, we will pick it up a notch and head over to something a little steeper on Westwall and as we get comfortable, we may even hit the Upper Westwall, with lines like “Far Out” or “Thorton”s Rock”. Hard chargers can take on the gnarlier lines in the Upper Upper Westwall such as “Field of Screams” or “Ski Heros”. When conditions are right, stepping into the New World and skiing the “Needle” or “Thread” is another possibility. If getting air is your thing, we’ve got drops for days. Our guides are expert powder chasers and will have you skiing on untouched lines all day long.

Irwin Catskiing

Despite the countless hours I have spent skiing, conducting avalanche mitigation, and guiding guests at Irwin, putting this place into words is something that continues to challenge me. When it comes down to it, Irwin is not just a place, it’s an experience. You can feel its power in the moments of silence on the top of Scarp Ridge after the cat has pulled away and before you begin your first descent of the day. In the ear-to-ear smiles and shouts of pure joy as your crew enters the white room. In the clink of a glass in toast to celebrate another unforgettable day on the slopes. Here, ‘Best Day Ever’ is not an exaggeration, it is a common refrain.

 

By: JON DONALDSON
DIRECTOR OF GUIDING OPERATIONS

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