2011 Freeskier All-Mountain Ski Test: Cat Skiing In The BC, Testing Powder Skis With CS Irwin

2011 Freeskier All-Mountain Ski Test: Cat Skiing In The BC, Testing Powder Skis With CS Irwin


After 10 days of ski-testing in Aspen, we headed down to Crested Butte, where the fun was slated to continue. Zach Berman and Nicole Birkhold (both members of the Freeskier Sales team), a small crew of testers, along with myself, made the trek; and boy-oh-boy did we have a good time.

'Tis a rather frustrating drive, as Crested Butte is located just a few miles away from Aspen as the crow flies… but in winter, the mountain passes shut down leaving you with one hell of a drive; 4 1/2 hours to be exact.

Being the road-warriers that we are, we busted 'er out without complaint (scratch that, let's say minimal complaint), and arrived just in time to check out the Big Air on Elk. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it's a big air event in the middle of Main Street (a.k.a. Elk Ave), in downtown CB.

Chris Tatsuno & Pat Sewell Sledding Adventure: Raw Footage

While the rest of us idiots drove the long way to CB, these two stooges took a little shortcut.

Approximately twenty local skiers and riders were on hand to wow the massive crowd that had assembled. Spectators lined up along the fences, and even piled up onto the rooftops to catch a glimpse of the action; it seemed the entire town had come out to support the event.

Music blaring, snowmobiles rippin', skiers flying, people partyin'… it was the ultimate Saturday night in CB, and a fantastic way to kick off our time in town. Big thanks to Colorado FreeSkier for throwing down to make it all happen; it was certainly one of the most unique ski events we'd all been a part of. Also, props to Aaron Blunck who took the win with a cork 10 tail.


Check out the full Big Air on Elk gallery.

When it was all said and done, we checked ourselves right on in to the Purple Mountain Lodge B&B, located conveniently downtown. Upon entering, we knew that we were in for the ultimate pampering; Chris, the owner, was quick to offer us some of his own home-brewed beer, and toured us around the super-cozy homestead.

The rooms were awesome, the kitchen was breathtaking, and the living and dining rooms made you feel you were sitting at grandma's house (which, for some of you, I'm sure, might be a bad thing, in which case, just pretend you were at my grandmother's place instead, because it's awesome). The spa, including full massage room and hot tub, were also a nice bonus.

pml_1.jpgWhen we awoke in the morning, our bodies ached from the rigors of ski-testing, and we opted for a down-day. After a gourmet breakfast at the PML, courtesy of Chris (who is a brilliant chef), we explored downtown Crested Butte, and also the base area of the ski resort. We poked in to some of the shops, checked out some of the dining options (go to the Secret Stash for the best pizza ever), and familiarized ourselves with the famed ski-town.

I'd been to Crested Butte in the summertime, but never before in the winter, and all I can say is that it's a pretty special place. It's got an old fashioned, sort of hippie vibe, but it's quite clearly comprised entirely of people who simply love the mountains. As it's slightly off the beaten path, I imagine things will remain the same around there for quite some time.

The next day, we awoke bright dark and early (4:45 AM), and made our way downstairs for another fancy meal. Big thanks to Chris for waking up at that insane hour to accommodate us! Fueled-up and ready to rock, we drove down to the office of CS Irwin.

For the days leading up to our cat skiing adventure, we'd been muttering to many of the locals that we were booked for a trip with CS Irwin. Time and again, the response was, "ooo, no way? They're so legit, you guys are going to have the best time." Needless to say, our curiosity was piqued; with all this raving-madness going on, it had to be good.

tucker_1.jpgWe parked outside of the offices, and admired the pink and purple morning sky. The calm was interrupted not long after by the sound, and then the sight, of the most insane looking snowcat we'd ever laid eyes on. The Tucker, as it is called, pulled right up alongside of us, and we all looked at each other in astonishment; it was on.

It was so good, we had to laugh. If the looks of the Tucker on the outside weren't enough to write home about, we stepped into the cab to find a fancy leather interior, complete with flatscreen TV, and mini kitchen. They'd queued up The Hangover for us, and before we knew it, we were rolling up the hills, livin' large, admiring Allen's (Zach Galifinakis') good looks.

If it weren't for a casual bump on the shoulder, and a beckoning hand out towards the distance, it was a little too easy to forget that we were cruising through some of the most beautiful terrain in all of Colorado. And after forty-five minutes of zooming along, we arrived at CS Irwin Lodge, nestled quaintly in the vast expanse that is the Irwin backcountry.

Check out the full CS Irwin photo gallery.

We met our guides Billy and Allen, in addition to some other staffers, and gathered inside for a safety briefing. The interior of the lodge is exactly what you'd expect from a ski cabin in the middle of the wilderness, except it's retrofitted with some crazy-cool metal work, and equipped with modern appliances which are all neatly disguised by beautiful wood work. It's packed with all the trinkets and wall-art that make a ski cabin, well, a ski cabin, and the only true way to describe it is, "utterly badass."


CS Irwin Lodge

Once we'd all fastened our beacons and buckled our helmets, we piled into the Bison – yet another snowcat equipped with leather seating, fancy wood-trim along the windows, retractable TV's, and a booming sound-system. Once we'd all been seated, the driver inquired as to what XM Radio station we'd like to listen to.

"Metallica only!" was the quick response, and for the rest of the day it was a pure rock and roll fest. "Is this real life?"


Lots of goodies. p: Alex Fenlon

We'd brought with us quite the quiver of skis, so with every lap, we'd swap out and try something new. Mind you, as fun as it all sounds, it was still part of the 2011 All-Mountain Ski Test. That being said, we had 1,000 acres of terrain at our disposal; within that space there are an assortment of drop-points, thus ensuring we'd be shredding untracked snow all day long.


Grant Savidge gettin' er done. p: Alex Fenlon

Check out the full CS Irwin photo gallery.

After a fun-filled morning, we made our way back to the Lodge for lunch. While we'd been out rippin' around, some of the CS Irwin staff had been hard at work preparing a scrumptious meal; the food was much needed after a grueling morning, and it provided us with the energy we needed to continue shredding in the afternoon.

bison_1_copy_0.jpgBilly and Allen continued to show us around to all the best zones. They, like all the other guides, spend a great deal of time familiarizing themselves with the terrain and the conditions, so they were able to provide us with the best possible skiing experience, and keep us safe at the same time. Kudos, gents!

They certainly encourage you to push yourself, however, and they were always quick to point out both mellow and extreme routes down the fall line. With the likes of Chris Tatsuno, Pat Sewell, Grant Savidge, Scott Kramer, Josh Bishop, and Zach Berman in our group, you can rest assured, the extreme route was taken more often than not.

Once we'd had our fill, we regrouped at the lodge, signed the guest-book (the coolest looking guest book I've ever seen, I might add. Complete with custom branding in some fine-ass leather), and climbed on up into the Tucker again. We picked up where we'd left off with the movie, and finished it just about the time that we arrived back in town. Hmm, think they planned that?

Of course they did. CS Irwin has it got it totally dialed when it comes to providing the best damn cat skiing experience one could ask for; they've truly got every angle covered. Thanks so very much to Kyra Martin for taking such great care of the Freeskier crew, and for making our dream a reality. If it's OK with you, we'd like to make the CS Irwin trip a Freeskier annual event.

Raw Footage from Our Adventure To CB

A bunch of random footage from the Freeskier adventure to Crested Butte. We traveled from the All-Mountain Ski Test at Aspen/Snowmass down to CB, where we checked out the Big Air on Elk, and tested more skis in the backcountry; thanks to CS Irwin for the epic-day of cat-skiing.

And with that, our Web coverage of the 2011 All-Mountain Ski Test comes to an end. Lucky for us, we've got another week of ski testing to look forward to, as the 2011 Terrain Park Ski Test at Breckenridge is right around the corner. Join us April 4-8 as we'll be bringing you tons of updates, videos, photos, and sneak peaks at next year's gear! 


Thank you, CS Irwin! p: Alex Fenlon

Check out the full CS Irwin photo gallery.

Check out a full recap of the 2011 All-Mountain Ski Test at Aspen/Snowmass.


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