A new lift in Keystone’s Bergman Bowl means guided snowcat skiing with Keystone Adventure Tours is coming to an end.
Spring 2022 will mark the end of an era at Keystone Resort, and you’ve got just a few weeks left to get one last ride on the snowcat that for nearly two decades has delivered skiers and snowboarders to Keystone’s three high alpine bowls: Bergman, Erikson, and Independence.
This summer, Keystone is installing a new high-speed six-pack chairlift up Bergman Bowl, bringing lift-served skiing and riding to both Bergman and Erikson Bowl next door.
Bergman Bowl was opened in 2003, named for Bill Bergman, one of the resort’s founding partners and Keystone’s first president. That year, the resort started running guided cat skiing trips. New lifts to previously hike-to terrain usually causes consternation among diehard skiers and riders. “Some people will be bummed about the new lift,” says Dylan Dickey, Keystone’s assistant ski patrol director and a long-time KAT guide at Keystone. “But there were just so few skiers utilizing so much terrain.”
The Keystone expansion is part of Vail Resorts’ 2022-2023, $320 million capital investment plan to invest in 19 new chairlifts across 14 resorts. It’s the company’s largest single-year investment. At Keystone, it includes the new 1,000-vertical-foot chairlift, new snowmaking infrastructure, and 16 new trails, including roughly 80 acres of slopes that will be groomed. While the nearly 300 acres in Independence Bowl will remain hike-out terrain for earn-your-turn go-getters (you can effortlessly drop into Independence, but you’ll need to hike back out after your run), the new lift will unlock lift-served access to 555 acres of intermediate and advanced terrain.
The top terminus of the chair will sit at 12,300 feet, a new ski patrol shack is in the works, and the plan also includes a 6,000-square-foot expansion to the Outpost Restaurant, with 300 more indoor seats and 75 more outdoor.
The new chair promises to change the way the Keystone skis. Currently, skier traffic tends to migrate from Dercum Mountain on the front side of the resort to The Outback. Now skiers may head straight for the bowls. “It’s going to be great for the overall circulation on the mountain,” says Dickey. With the new chair, skiers and riders will be able to make laps in Bergman Bowl or ski Erikson Bowl down to the Wayback chair and then cycle back to the new lift. Dickey also points out that existing terrain in The Outback may get blissfully neglected, increasing the likelihood of finding powder stashes long after a storm.
Keystone used to run a shuttle snowcat off of the top of the Outback Express to Keystone’s North and South bowls, and it’s possible that service may return now that those cats won’t be doing the KAT tours next season. (Stay tuned.)
Preston Burns, another ski patroller and KAT guide at Keystone points out that adding skier traffic to the bowls will likely make them ski better than they do now as solely hike-to terrain. “There are these big areas of unconsolidated snow in the bowls,” Burns says. “And we get these predominant winds out of the northwest that blow into Bergman and Erikson and blow the snow straight up the mountain. More compaction [from skier traffic] will help preserve the snow.”
Of course, the new lift eliminates the need for a snowcat haul—and the boon of having all that terrain practically to yourself—so if cat skiing at Keystone is on your bucket list, now’s the time to book. There are still spots available for KAT tours, which start at $475 for a full day of guided cat skiing and lunch. The day ends with a champagne toast at Keystone’s Mountain House base. KAT tours are slated to run through the end of March, conditions permitting. You can find more details at HERE or call 970.496.4386 to check availability and book a reservation.