Try your hand at a number of winter sports from Boulder Outdoor Center

Ryan Casey

Eric Bader’s phone starts to ring more around this time of
the year, seemingly linked to each inch of snow that sticks on the ground.

Late October’s 20-inch pounding over two days around Boulder
County was no different. Boulder Outdoor Center, which is in its 29th year of
booking outdoor adventure trips according to season, saw a spike in its
reservations for snow-based trips and classes.

“Just like the ski areas see it, as soon as we get snow
around here, people start thinking about winter and then the phone rings and
the reservations come in,” says Bader, the company’s president.

This winter, Boulder Outdoor Center (BOC) is booking four
snow-based trips and two classes. Which means that rafting is probably out.

“Rafting’s not so popular right now,” Bader says with a
laugh. “In the winter, our avalanche classes have been just booking up like
crazy. I’m guessing there’s going to be a lot of folks up into the backcountry
this winter.”

Snowmobile tours have also been a hot item, because drivers
need only be 16 years old, as have BOC’s snowcat skiing trips, which allow
skiers and snowboarders to plow through eight to 12 runs in backcountry powder.

“It’s like a moving living room,” Bader says of the snowcat
trips. “You’d think, ‘Oh, it’s rough.’ No, it’s not. There are captain’s
chairs, and of course you’re looking out the window at a fantastic scene, and
then you’ve got piped-in stereo music, heat — it beats a chairlift any day. The
ski areas don’t have anything to compare to it. It’s just awesome.”

Relatively new to the outdoor sport scene is snowkiting,
where participants use a two- to five-meter kite to propel themselves across
the countryside. BOC offers an instructional course.

“It’s definitely catching on this year more than ever,”
Bader says. “It rocks.”

Book online at

Trips available include:

Snowmobile tours.
These guided trips are offered in the Breckenridge, Dillon, Frisco, Copper
Mountain, Keystone, Silverthorne and Vail areas. There are three areas of
expertise: the standard two-hour tour, a two-hour advanced tour and a
three-hour trip. Rates vary per trip. Must be 16 to drive the snowmobile, 18 to
carry a passenger. Kids ages 3 to 6 ride free.

Avalanche safety. A
great introduction to snow safety, this class is taught on snowshoes. You’ll
learn about the factors involved in an avalanche, how to analyze snow and
proper avalanche beacon techniques. The class is separated into two sessions:
an evening in a classroom and a day on the snow, which includes the use of
beacons, digging snow pits and even mock rescues. Cost is $119, with gear
rentals offered at an additional $20.

Snowshoeing. This
class includes a two-hour classroom session followed by a day of snowshoeing at
Rocky Mountain National Park. Included are discussions of proper clothing,
hydration, route-finding and the use of GPS. Cost is $79, with rental packages
costing an additional $10.

Snowcat skiing.
These trips offer intermediate, advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders a
chance to explore backcountry terrain in the West San Juan Mountains. Average
vertical run is 800 feet, but runs range from 400 to 2,000 feet. Each snowcat
ride takes 15 to 30 minutes between runs. Cost is $290 per person or $2,500 to
rent a private snowcat. Prices include lunch, K2 or Black Diamond powder skis,
and avalanche beacon rental. Season runs Dec. 1-May 7.

Hut trips. Tucked
away in the Elk Mountains, these trips give you the opportunity to ski or ride
at your leisure during the day, retreat to a backcountry hut, and then do it
all over again when you wake up. Trips range from two to five days, and prices
are tiered accordingly.

Snowkite instruction.
All the expansiveness of cross-country skiing at your fingertips, only faster.
Speeds can reach up to 45 miles an hour when skiing or snowboarding with the
two- to five-meter kite you’ll be provided with. Most people can learn to
snowkite within a day. Beginning lessons are $249, and private/advanced
instruction is available in half-hour ($40 each) and hour-long ($75 each)