Who says kids skiing has to be confined to chairlifts at resorts? Certainly not Steamboat Powder Cats, which recently ran its first ever kids cat skiing trip atop Buff Pass in Steamboat Springs, Co.
Joining our two daughters, Casey, 7, and Brooke, 12, piling in snowcat named “Tigger” were five other kids aged 2-7, all offspring of the cat skiing guides who were about to see what their parents went through at work all day.
“This will either be the shortest powdercat trip we’ve ever taken, or one of the best,” said lead guide Eric Deering as we shuffled skis, poles, food and other gear inside for the day. Gear secured, the kids went marching one by one inside, including Jojo, Sophie, Freja, Matteus, Gavin, Ella, Casey and Brooke.
It didn’t take long for it to hit us that this trip would be a little different than most. First came the incessant whistle blowing, led by five-year-old Sophie. The whistles were located on the strap of their BCA Tracker avalanche beacons, inviting their lips like lolly-pops. What self-respecting kid wouldn’t give it a blow? Soon the sounds of ear-piercing tweets filled the cabin.
Next, Eric had the great idea of showing his daughter, Freja, how to switch her beacon from transmit to receive. Two seconds later she went around the snowcat cabin holding it up to everyone’s chest, invoking a cacophony of high-pitched beep-beep-beeps to add to the tweets.
Then came the teeny-bop music blasting over the speakers, courtesy of Brooke’s iPod. This added more mayhem to the tweets and the beeps. Soon everyone, parents included, was shaking their torsos and signing “Daisy Duke bikinis on top!” at the top of their lungs.
“Well, I can say that this is probably the loudest cat I’ve ever been in,” said guide Murph, watching his son, Gavin, join in.
Soon – after an entire bag of Doritos and package of mini-Snickers — we were up top readying for our first run, the kids marching out in single file while we grabbed poles and skis of all sizes from the racks. Skis fastened, Eric gave them a few safety tips – “Stay together, watch out for each other and have fun!” – and, more importantly, showed them how to test the snow with their pole tips like the late, great Shane McConkey. Pointing out where to go, he then ushered us off, the kids leading the charge. Naturally, the kids sought out any jump they could find, soaring off wind lips and other humps and landing in every crash position imaginable…head first, side first, butt first and sometimes, miraculously, feet first.
“Dad, on a scale of one to ten, how was that one?” asked a beaming Casey after a particularly good jump.
“Nine point five,” I answered, not wanting her head to swell the size of the cat.
Then we’d re-group and the bottom, pile back in, crank the Justin Bieber and do it all over again.
Our solace from the sounds came at the cabin for lunch when the whistles, beacons and stereo speakers were left back in the cat and homemade chili and mac and cheese refueled everyone for round two in the afternoon. Then it was more of the same, the kids as enthusiastic as any clients the guides had all year.
“This is even better than a conventional trip,” said guide Kyle. “Plus, we’re their parents, so they have to listen to us.”
Before any of us wanted it to end, the trip came to a close with one last run – a secret passage through an aspen grove to a series of, what else?, but perfectly sized jumps. Then everyone piled back in for a final ride to the parking lot and, unfortunately, a Sunday night of homework, making school lunches and rest. But before we parted ways, Jojo summed up all the kids’ sentiments. “Can we do that again next year?” she asked. “I want to do more jumps.”
Info: www.steamboatpowdercats.com, (800) 288-0543