Friday, December 15, 2006

Keystone's Indy Bowl: premium powder for a premium

I was lucky enough to go on a sneak peak cat tour of Keystone's new Independence Bowl today. Even though there has not been significant snowfall in a few weeks in Summit County, the northeast facing shots of Indy were knee deep in perfect powder. Wow.
Why? Well because all the snow from Keystone's other hike-to bowls gets blown over to Indy.
As one of our ski patrol guides said: Those bowls are the fetch zone, and this is where the wind drops what it fetches.
There were a couple of guys from Snowboarder and Transworld Snowboard magazines in town for the Grand Prix at Breckenridge summed it up succinctly after our second run. "It was awesome! It was ***king sick!"

Of course, the reason it's so good is because it is very hard to get to. Skiers have to either buy a guided snowcat tour for $81 on top of the regular ski pass cost or hoof it from the top of Dercum Mountain -- a 30-45 minute walk at treeline.

No wonder we didn't see any tracks -- well ok, we didn't see any tracks because it doesn't really officially open until Saturday, but still, this is way out there.

Keystone may be onto something though. It bills the area as "backcountry lite" -- all the powder and sweat of the backcountry, none of the avalanche deaths. Keystone's ski patrol does avalanche control work (i.e. bombing) to make the area safe. And for anyone who has a season pass, it's well worth the hike. Bring water and a lunch and stay all day, "Killin' it" as the snowboard writers would say.

This is just the latest phase in an ambitious plan to extend lift-free, backcoutry lite access into five more bowls extending almost to the town of Montezuma. Keystone wants to eventually offer guided backcountry tours through the area that will include staying over in remote, resort owned yurts.

More about that later, right now, I'm late for a little shindig.

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