Resorts expand backcountry offerings |

Resorts expand backcountry offerings

A group of skiers and snowboarders load into a snow cat to go cat skiing at Kirkwood Mountain Resort near South Lake Tahoe, California.

The draw of backcountry skiing and snowboarding has never been greater.Backcountry technology has improved dramatically in recent years and the lure of uncrowded terrain and fresh snow has driven people to look beyond liftlines for their turns.And South Shore ski resorts have taken notice.Following promising early season snowfall, both Kirkwood Mountain Resort and Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort have rolled out their backcountry offerings in recent weeks.Kirkwood’s cat tours, included under the resort’s Expedition: Kirkwood program, takes guests to Martin Point, past the northwest boundary of the resort, according to a release from the resort.New for the program this year are guided backcountry tours in the resort’s Thunder and Avy bowls, areas not included in the resort’s previous offerings. The tours include educational and backcountry safety skills and are designed for advanced riders.“Expedition: Kirkwood is all about getting you more terrain,” Jon Copeland, Kirkwood’s Ski & Ride School director, said in the statement. “Whether that’s inbounds or out, we’re going to work on off-piste skiing and riding techniques, terrain selection and management, and rescue procedures and protocols.”The resort will also hold a backcountry camp from Feb. 15 to 18. The camp is an “intense” program led by professional guides and avalanche instructors.“Students can expect to walk away with a solid understanding of developing a plan, how to travel safely and efficiently in a backcountry environment, as well as their (American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education) Level 1 Certificate with multiple tours during the course,” according to the statement.Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort has also introduced snowcat tours this year. Tours into Huckleberry Canyon, 320 acres of terrain east of the resort’s Grandview Express lift, began within the past two weeks, resort spokesman Steven Hemphill said.The resort had planned to debut the tours last winter, but a lack of snowfall scuttled the snowcat forays into the canyon, which can also be accessed through several backcountry gates at the resort. Operation of the tours is always dependent on snow conditions, Hemphill said.

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