Frequently Asked Questions

How do I place a reservation?
6th day is FREE – Frequent Guest Program!
Am I ready for snowcat skiing in deep powder?
What is the skiing like?
Gratuities?
How many runs can I expect to make in a day of snowcat skiing?
Can I bring my own skis/snowboard?
Are snowboarders welcome?
How big is the group I will ski with?
How do you divide people into groups?
What is the weather typically like?
What happens if there is a storm on the day of my trip?
What is the best time to come snowcat skiing?
How should I dress for my day of snowcat skiing?
What should I bring for my day of powder skiing?
Are there restroom facilities?
Are there any age restrictions?
Do you offer photography or videography services on your trips?
What should I do if I require a special diet for medical reasons?
How can I have someone contact me while I am skiing?
What is our payment policy?
Does Steamboat Powdercats have a minimum guest policy?
What is your cancellation and refund policy?
Fuel Surcharge?
What happens if a snowcat has mechanical problem during my trip?

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soda mountain backountry skiing How do I place a reservation?
You will have to call us make a reservation or head to our Calendar and book via our Powder Portal.  Before any of this happens though, especially for first time guests, make sure you understand all ability levels, cancellation policies, 5-fly minimums and other details found on this website. There are many times when we are in the snow, on the hill our out, and you’ll have to leave a message or email us your thoughts. We will do our best to return your call by the end of the day. If we cannot, we will connect soon and we appreciate your patience. 800-288-0543 or locally at 970-879-5188. email us at info@steamboatpowdercats.com if need be.

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steamboat powdercat6th day is FREE – COMPLIMENTARY – ON SPC!
Yes, it is true.  After 5 days skiing with us, your sixth is free.  Well, sort of.  Every year we have guests who reach this glorious level of a complementary cat skiing trip.  It’s one of the reasons why people keep coming back.  This promotion carry’s over year to year so you don’t necessarily have to come 5 times in one year.  You can even take a year off, or two, but who would right? This promotion only applies to trips with us that are not discounted in any way, be it if you come on a private cat, have a powder pass donation, came down early for some reason or somehow received a discount from us…which typically doesn’t happen.

Our reservation system will keep track of your days.  If you are wondering how many days you have and if you as a repeat guest of ours thinks you have this magical 6th Day Free coming, just ask us.

You do not get credit for paying for others.  Each guest receives the credit when they are physically on one of our snowcats.

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Am I ready for snowcat skiing in deep powder?
powder skiing in steamboat springs colorado usaIf you are a strong intermediate skier or boarder, able to ski with confidence on blue (red in Europe) and even black runs at ski resorts in varying snow conditions (not necessarily powder), then you are ready for snowcat skiing.

Backcountry snowcat skiing is not recommended for beginner skiers, those who are still in the wedge, or snowboarders who cannot link turns. If you do not ski trees or have never been in the backcountry where it’s deep powder all day, we then urge you to sign up for our Level I – Intermediate snowcat, where your guides will be giving you as much assistance with gear, instruction and picking you up out of the snow as necessary.

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What is the skiing like?
glade skiing in steamboat backcountryOur permitted terrain on Buffalo Pass receives snowfall depths in the 500+ inch range every year, so you can expect to ski in fresh if not new powder from late December to the end of March. Buffalo Pass is actually one of the snowiest if not the deepest recorded snowpack in Colorado on an annual basis.

Runs vary in length from 500 to 1,200 vertical feet and in steepness between 15 and 40 degrees. All of our terrain is below tree line and we have north, south, east and west facing aspects which helps keep the snow fresh days and weeks after a storm.

Skiing is done on open snowfields, glades and in our world famous trees. Our goal is to put you onto a fresh turn every turn. On stormy days the skiing generally takes place in or near the trees because the visibility is much better.

You will find that our intermediate and advanced terrain is very similar to the Steamboat Ski Area with mostly black and blue type pitches, nothing crazy steep or extreme beyond measure. The runs are short and sweet and perfectly laid out in the terrain that we have access to.

Our expert terrain is very similar to the Chutes and Gates as well as the Fish Creek Canyon backcountry off the top of the Ski Area. But, our expert terrain is typically much longer than what you find at the top of the ski area.

Please have a look and bookmark our photo and video blog page where we post daily images from our trips and you see what type of terrain and conditions we are utilizing daily.

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Gratuities?


Gratuities are accepted in the guiding industry, including our snowcat skiing world. In general, a 10 – 20% gratuity is appreciated, similar to any service related industry and dependent on your budget. Guides work very hard to make sure your day is as perfect as it can be and gratuities allow them to know that you’ve enjoyed the trip. The guides will pool their tips, so by giving one of them a gratuity at the end of the day, you’ll know that all of your guides, lunch staff and photographer will be included. Thanks for your understanding.

 

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usa snowcat skiing steamboatHow many runs can I expect to make in a day of snowcat skiing?

The number of runs you can expect to ski depends on many variables: the conditions of the day, how many guests are in the cat, your guides choice of terrain and the real defining factor is how everyone’s true ability level ends up. Please once again book yourself and your group in the appropriate ability level.

We like to say that you will get 8-16 runs no matter what group you are with. One of the main factors controlling the pace of our day is the speed of the snowcat which runs at a high speed of 13-miles/hour.

Buffalo Pass Colorado Steamboat Springs USAUnlike heli skiing where there is a guarantee of a certain amount of vertical footage, we guarantee 8 runs no matter the length. Unfortunately, there are days where a cat may breakdown or the guides decide the snow is to dangerous (such as a rain crust) and we have to come off the Pass. If it is your cat that must come off the Pass, we first off appreciate your patience and understanding and secondly we will then credit or refund your trip depending on how many runs we put in prior to coming down. For instance, if we get in 6 runs, we will give a 2 run credit/refund.

Our trips run with no problems 99% of the time.

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Can I bring my own skis/snowboard?
cat skiing powder steamboat powdercatsWe recommend using our Armada specialty powder skis and/or Never Summer snowboards. We make this equipment available to you, it’s included in your trip cost.  These are the right tools for the job and we are excited to have you try our boards out whilst you are visiting. If you have your own boards there is not a discount off the daily rate.

Your “skinny” skis undoubtedly perform very well in the conditions typically found at ski resorts, however, in deep, day long, powder conditions, our wider skis and fatter and longer snowboards will typically outperform any other gear during a full day in the backcountry.

If you prefer to bring your own equipment, we strongly encourage you to at least try ours in order to judge the difference for yourself. We are not responsible for any damage to or loss of your personal equipment or gear while you are with Steamboat Powdercats.

We have a variety of sizes of skis and snowboards for you to try. We also have the ski’s set up for telemark skiers.  Please check in with us the night prior, if at all possible, this really helps us the next morning as we hope to set up all the ski’s and boards for our guests before the morning madness begins. Bring your boots with you when checking in and leave them with us over night.  This allows us to fit the ski’s or boards and speeds things up for the morning.  Thank you!

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Are snowboarders welcome?
snowboarding in steamboat springsOf course they are. There is no discrimination between skiers, snowboarders and/or teli skiers. Typically, snowboards in the length of 157 and higher are preferred to the shorter boards. On days where it hasn’t snowed in a while, your board may work fine as the boot depth snow allows for fast riding conditions.

Snowboarding can be tricky in the deep, untracked snow. If you have never experienced deep powder off of a groomed resort, you should really consider going in our intermediate level.

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How big is the group I will ski with?
cat skiing usa coloradoOur snowcats have a 12-person guest capacity. We have a 5-guest minimum for any snowcat to move, what we call the “5-Fly Rule”.

There will always be 3 guides in the group; a lead and tail guide on every run, and one snowcat driver. Also, you will have a photographer meet the cat for a few runs to document the trip, and you will meet a “lunch lady” at our cabin for a mid-day bite. Please remember to bring you own camera as there may be times when our photographer either cannot make the tour or the camera fails to operate correctly. Also, our expert cats have lunch in the cat so you will not meet up with our lunch lady.

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How do you divide people into groups?
skiing-trees-in-steamboatWith 3 snowcats in our fleet, we are one of the only backcountry operations that you will find that separates guests by their powder skiing/riding ability level. We understand that your time and money are very valuable, and when you choose to spend it with us, we want you to have the best day possible.

We separate groups by intermediate, advanced and expert ability levels and do our very best to match you with other guests who have similar skills. We will match our terrain to fit the needs of each group based on the ability level.

This separation of skills allows intermediate guests the comfort of knowing that you will not have to worry about holding up the more advanced and expert guests. On the flip side, if you are an expert, you will know that there won’t be folks in the cat who are learning how to ski powder and that the group will be capable of handling most, if not all, of our available terrain.

Of course, with any group there will be a faster and slower guest. We just try to bring the gap a bit closer by asking everyone to place themselves in the correct group.

Most anyone can do our intermediate trip. The terrain is mellow, has zero to very limited avalanche pitch, so your fears of the “extreme” nature of the trip should be put aside immediately.

Tree Skiing with Steamboat PowdercatsIf you have never skied with us before, during the reservation process (you have to call us to book your trip), we will be asking you several questions regarding you and your group’s powder and resort experience and skill levels. Please review your ability levels with your group prior to calling. If you are a repeat guest, typically you will know where you should be placed.

If you are booking a trip for a group, remember to consider the lowest skill level and pick the level in which that person will be most comfortable. Our experiences in booking by skill levels has proved that it is best if you end up in a lower ability level and be the better skill level in the group than being the slower guest or guests in the bunch.

There is a misconception that being in a higher ability level means that your day is going to be better and you will get in more runs with the other levels. This is absolutely not true.

We make it very clear that if someone overstates his or her ability level, our guides will restrict that person from skiing for certain runs or the entire day without any kind of refund. So please be very attentive to this special feature because no one wants to sit in the cat when the skiing and riding is as good as it gets.

 

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steamboat springs weather

What is the weather typically like?
Colorado is known for its relatively mild winters. Temperatures early in the morning are often around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius), while average daytime temperatures will be around 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius).

We have morphed the top Steamboat Springs weather pages for you here on our website. Click here to see our weather page and keep it bookmarked for future use.

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steamboat powdercat What happens if it storms on the day of my trip?

Unlike helicopters, snowcats can operate in any weather. Some of the very best skiing is done on the stormiest days when your tracks are completely gone by the time you get back to the top of each run. When it is foggy, windy or stormy outside, your guides will do their best to find sheltered terrain that will allow you to continue to enjoy the skiing throughout the day.

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What is the best time to come snowcat skiing?
powder face shot steamboat powdercatsObviously the main reason your are coming to visit us is for the powder. Basically, the sooner you come after a storm the deeper it is going to be. If you are one of the lucky ones who hits it right and arrives during a storm cycle, hold on tight because it could be the deepest day of your life.

If you visit us in time of drought, no worries, we will still find fresh snow for you. We like to say that 3 days after a storm, the snow settles and will be boot depth and fresh for most every turn. Come 7 days after a storm and beyond, there will be tracks at the pick ups and drop offs in most of our terrain; but, there will be plenty of freshies in the middle of the runs, providing still a solid powder tour.

We have gone 20 days with no snow before during a January drought in 2004. On that 20th day, we blew away the expectations of the guests as there was still fresh powder to be found.

We do not guarantee fresh snow but a backcountry experience. We will go no matter the conditions. If you are one of the guests who arrives during a time of drought, come with an open mind, don’t be bummed out because we are going to surprise you with the conditions and fresh snow we will find.

steamboat powdercats return guestsMost of our guests will book their trip months prior to arrival. With 70% of these guests returning back to us, they know that no matter the day, our conditions on Buffalo Pass are going to be fresher than any ski resort type skiing.

We will open our reservation system to return guests only who wish to schedule a full, private cat typically on July 1st. Come the 16th, then we open up our calendar to return guests who are booking individual or small groups. Finally, on August 1st, we open our calendar up to anyone else (some years these dates shift by a bit).

powder skier in yellow jacket steamboat powdercatsSteamboat Powdercats ski season begins in mid December. By this time, most regular ski areas in Colorado have already been open for a few weeks. The reason that we wait this long to begin our season is to be sure that a sufficient amount of snow has fallen to offer you the powder you are expecting. Some of our deepest days have been in December as the base in the snowpack can still be setting up. Also, the cold temperatures of December allow for very light powder snow conditions.

In January, we open our expert terrain typically by the 15th. We will only run 2 cats prior to this and those expert guests who wish to visit before this time need to know that our steeper terrain may not be available to you and this will be explained to you when discussing a reservation. January is typically still very cold and the powder is usually light. With cold temps, this allows our northern aspects to retain their dryness and keep very soft days after a storm.

In February, we will see 40% of our yearly clients. It is our busiest time due mostly to the travel schedules of our guests and those planning their ski trips out West. February is a great time to visit. Storms are consistent, usually, and colder, winter temperatures are often the case.

Steamboat’s famous light, deep powder generally continues to fall into March. March is actually the big air in steamboat springsdeepest, annual snow month on record for Steamboat Springs. Anytime in March, we can get hammered by snow, but also, once the sun comes out, things warm up quickly and March offers us with more spring like conditions than other months. Spring skiing offers a variety of snow conditions ranging from corn snow on south facing slopes to powder on north facing slopes.

Come the end of March, the days are long and the temperatures are warmer, generally allowing for more skiing than other times during the season.

Keep an eye on our photo and video blog as this webpage was built specifically to keep you up to date with how our skiing is like today. Also, we have the archives posted from years in the past so you can check out exactly how conditions were during the same time in years past.

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champagne-powder-steamboatHow should I dress for my day of snowcat skiing?
Dress as you would for a full day of skiing at a ski resort. Wearing several layers of insulating garments underneath a shell gives you the freedom to adjust your clothes to changing weather conditions. One-piece ski suits are a good choice for powder skiing if you have one but not necessary.

Our heated snowcats keep you out of the elements when moving to and from each pick up to drop off.

For those of you who need to bring a pack to store your layers or other essentials, we ask to pack small and light. There is room in our cats to stash items, but if all 12 of our guests brought a pack, things would get cluttered quickly.

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face shots snowboarding with steamboat powdercatsWhat should I bring for my day of powder skiing?
We will provide you with skis or a snowboard, poles and an avalanche beacon. On our expert cats we also take care of the avalanche probes and shovels. We do not provide or rent boots.

We ask you to use our poles, ones with big baskets that will not fall through our racks on the back of our cats. If you bring your own poles, we are not responsible for them (or any of your personal gear) in case they are damaged, broken or lost.

In addition we will supply you with an avalanche beacon (insurance states you must use ours – BCA Tracker DTS), a bottle of water and an energy bar. You should bring sunscreen, goggles and sunglasses. Wearing a helmet is not a bad idea and you should consider purchasing one prior to your next ski vacation, but we do not require that you wear one. As storage space in the snowcats is extremely limited, we ask you not to bring your own backpack but to share one with your group if you need to bring additional items along for the day.

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cabin in steamboat powdercatsAre there restroom facilities?
We have restrooms in our office at the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. In addition, a heated restroom is available at our mid-mountain cabin during lunch. There is a port-a-potty at the parking lot where our cats are staged at Dry Lake.

While skiing, we will make for a “ladies room” in front of the snowcat to provide necessary privacy. Though this isn’t the most glamorous of bathrooms, it is our best option and works out fine.

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kids-powder-skiingAre there any age restrictions?
Unless you are booking a private cat, where we allow all ages, then yes we do have an age limit for our non private cat groups and individuals. It is 12 years old. For all young guests who are coming solo, the age limit is 16 years old. If a minor, under 18, we will need a parent or legal guardian to sign the release form. We can email you a form if needed.

There are times that we offer Kids Cats as a special promotion.  Check out this Snowcat Skiing with Kids page here.

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ski photography steamboatDo you offer photography or videography services on your trips?
Yes, we have a photographer in our skiing terrain every day and provide you with a complimentary image disk at the end of the day. You can see some of the daily images posted here on our photo and video blog page here.

We improvise our photo shoot, trying to not slow down or interrupt the flow of your day. We attempt to get several action shots, face shots and group shots for every cat. If for some reason, we did not get a good photo of you while you were on your trip, we apologize in advance and hope you understand that not everyone will get that epic shot as we do not really set up the shots.

tele crash steamboat springsCrashes, jumps, landscape and images of our snowcats are also taken and will be included on the complimentary image disk you will receive from us at the end of your day.

We always suggest that you bring your camera just in case our photographer has to be pulled from their duty to help with a rescue or logistical situation. Also, if their camera malfunctions or images are accidentally erased, you will then have some of your own to document the trip by.

We also provide full video production service as well. This is on a reservation basis only so you must call to prearrange a videographer for this service. This is a great option for a private cat or a small group. We will provide you with a dvd of your days video with still shots intermixed. This is a very custom option.

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tree skiing in steamboat powdercatsWhat should I do if I require a special diet for medical reasons?
If you have special dietary requirements, please indicate this at the time of booking or at a latest the day prior to your trip of what your dietary needs will be. Our caterer will make every effort to accommodate your needs. We can accommodate most requirements including but not limited to vegetarian, seafood, lactose, shell fish, pork or others.

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How can I have someone contact me while I am skiing?
If you need to be contacted during your day of skiing, the office can relay messages to you via your guide’s radio. This communication channel is for emergency use only and offers no privacy. Cellular telephones do not work reliably in our terrain. But, at most of our drop offs there is cell phone coverage.

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Does Steamboat Powdercats have a minimum guest policy?
Yes. Please realize that for our cats to operate, we require a five person minimum (5-Fly Rule). When making a reservation as an individual or a group of less than five, if we do not reach the five person minimum prior to your scheduled day, we may have to switch your day, merge you into another cat or refund your moneys. Please review our real time calendar of availability on this site or contact us prior to your trip to see if there are going to be any difficulties in reaching this minimum requirement.

If for some reason we cannot accommodate your trip due to this 5-Fly Rule, we will refund all of your deposit money.

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steamboat record snow stakeWhat is our payment policy?
When making a reservation for 2 or more people, we require that the group leader pay for all those whom he or she is making the reservation for. If the group leader is not interested in paying the 50% deposit and the final payment for those in the group, then the group leader needs to have all other interested parties contact our reservation team and initiate the reservations on their own. We will not hold space for your group if everyone is booking individual seats. Group leaders may also coordinate credit cards for others in the party and provide those for our reservation team at the time of booking.

When booking a private cat, we require 1 credit card for all the billings. Thus a trip leader must be in charge and be reimbursed by those they ask to come along. If one of their guests cancels, then they must collect the cancellation fee or find another guest to fill their space and not us.

We finalize payments 72-hours to the date of your trip. You do not need to call us, we will just run the credit card on file.

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What is your cancellation and refund policy?
At the time of booking we require a 50% non refundable deposit. Final payment is taken 72-hours prior to your trip. You do not need to call us to place the final payment. Unless told otherwise, we will just place the final payment on the credit card you put the initial deposit on.

powder eights steamboat skiingIf you cancel your reservation outside of 72-hours you will forfeit the 50% deposit. If you cancel within 72-hours, you will lose the entire trip cost.

Due to this strict policy, we urge you to purchase activity insurance, available for 10% of the activity cost. This insurance protects the investment you have made into your powder skiing adventure. Our activity insurance is good for all reasons except for Mother Nature, up to 72-hours prior to your trip. Within 72-hours, this insurance will only allow you to cancel for a medical emergency. A doctor’s note will be required for all medical emergencies.

At the time of booking, we give you 24-hours to think about and to pick up the insurance. You will have the opportunity to read about this in the email confirmation that our reservation system will automatically send you. If you wish to pick up the insurance just email us back via that email confirmation. Once again, you can only pick up the insurance within 24-hrs of making the reservation.

Please understand our strict cancellation policy and respect our mutual commitment. We are reserving seats on our snowcats for you and your group; thus we are now turning away potential guests on, and you are coming on this selected day.

Your trip is 100% transferable. If you have to cancel and can find someone else who will just pay you the monies owed, we will allow for this as long as your replacement comes on the day of your reservation and in that ability level that we placed you into. If we have to refund and then take a new payment, we will do this for a 10% cancellation/transaction fee.

skiing powder in steamboat springs coloradoPlease do us all a favor and make sure you review the email confirmation that our system will generate and send to you. Double check the date, number of guests and ability level of the day as well as all of our policies and the activity insurance information.

There is no way that you can move forward in a reservation with Steamboat Powdercats and not hear us talk about these policies. So, it should come as no shock to you, when you call us to cancel your trip, that our strict cancellation policies will play into non-refundable payments and you or your group will not be getting refunded or credited any amount of money in return.

Over the years we have worked with tens of thousands of guests and we hope you understand our policies and respect the non-refundability of your deposit and final payment. If it wasn’t for these policies, our operation would be unable to thrive year after year after year.

If for some reason we have to cancel due to lack of snow or mechanical failure prior to your trip date, then we will refund you monies minus a $25 administration fee.

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Fuel Surcharge?
Please note that a fuel surcharge may be added to our published rates, at the time before your final payment, 72-hours prior to your trip. A surcharge of $10-$20, at the most, may be added if changing fuel economies dictate. You will be notified prior to final payment if this occurs. We ask for your patience and understanding if fuel costs fluctuate to the point where a fuel surcharge may be added.

 

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broken snowcatWhat happens if a snowcat breaks has mechanical problems during my trip?
If a mechanical breakdown occurs to one of our snowcats during your trip, we apologize in advance as this is never something that we wish to happen. Your patience is appreciated if this occurs to your group while on the Pass. We will do our best to fix the problem on site and may need to shuffle you and your group around with another cat while the issue is being fixed.

If we have to, we may require skiing down and off the Pass before our traditional down time.

We guarantee 8 runs per day. We average 10-14 runs, but guarantee 8 no matter the length of run. So, if your cat breaks down or the guides deem the snow to be to dangerous (think ice crust), then we will divide however many runs you completed by 8 and credit or refund you the runs that you were owed.

If for some reason we have to cancel due to lack of snow or mechanical failure before your tour ever begins then we will refund you monies minus a 5% administration fee.

 

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Frequent Guest Program
After your 5th trip with us (private cat trips do not count for this program) your 6th trip if FREE! These days carry over year to year as well so if you come once one year, twice the next then skip a year and follow it up with 2 more, the next trip is on us. We appreciate your support of SPC and the choice to come visit us over and over again. Trips are specific to each guest and there is no bonus for bringing others or paying for your group.

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