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Aspen powder tours on record pace

Skiers on a guided tour with Aspen Mountain Powder Tours leave behind tracks on the back of Aspen Mountain. (Contributed photo)
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ASPEN ” Near-record snowfall this winter is putting the Aspen Skiing Co.’s backcountry powder operation on a record pace for business.

Aspen Mountain Powder Tours ran snowcats onto Richmond Ridge on 39 days during the first half of the season in December and January. It typically offers guided powder tours on an average of 55 days over an entire season, co-manager Bob Perlmutter said.

The operation has three snowcats available and so far has used the cats a combined 79 times over the 39 days.

The powder tour’s season record for skier days is about 1,450. Perlmutter estimated the operation already has topped 700 skier days this season. Since February and March are traditionally two of the snowiest months in Colorado’s mountains, the operation appears poised for a record.

Powder hounds apparently can’t get enough of the deep white stuff in the ski areas. Many also want to venture into the backcountry in this season of record snowfall at Snowmass and near-record snowfall at Aspen Mountain.

“Our bookings for this year ” I don’t know how to explain it,” Perlmutter said. “We can’t beat them off with a stick.”

The trips have attracted a combination of locals and tourists.

“It’s not all the same names and faces. Some of the Dogs came out in the cat. They never do that,” Perlmutter said, referring to a longtime, informal ski group in Aspen.

The tour leads skiers and riders onto hundreds of acres of national forest and private land on either side of Richmond Ridge. They are treated to untracked runs down slopes in the Difficult Creek and Little Annie Basin areas. The cost is $350 per person, or $300 if all 12 spaces in a snowcat are reserved.

Even though the skiing is so good at the resorts, Perlmutter said the powder tour is alluring because it offers such a different experience. The solitude and sense of isolation are unparalleled. Fabulous powder this season is the final ingredient in a winning recipe.

“Unless the bottom drops out, this is likely to be the biggest winter I’ll ever see,” said Perlmutter, who has been with the powder operation for 24 years and skied locally for 30 years.

He noted that the snow is so high this winter that he ducks under branches he never had to avoid before on traverses at the bottom of the backcountry slopes. The premium conditions also have allowed the powder tours to use areas like Hurricane Gulch and McFarlane’s Bowl more often.

The powder guides have worked more than usual, but they haven’t complained yet.

“Unlike jobs that get stressful during heavy snow, we’re not experiencing a lot of burnout, yet,” Perlmutter said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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