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Tuesday, November 24,2009

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

By 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 www.BOC123.com.

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) increments.

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