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6 Places to Go Snowcat Skiing and Snowboarding

Snowcats Rides Are the Easy Way to Reach Pristine Snow

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Snowcat skiing in Colorado with Steamboat Powdercats

Snowcat skiing in Colorado with Steamboat Powdercats

Kent Vertrees, Steamboat Powdercats
You can argue about who first started snowcat skiing operations in the 70s, but it really doesn't make a difference. All you need to know is that riding uphill in a snowcat to ski or snowboard on pristine snow is an easy way to get into the backcountry. And, it costs so much less than heli-skiing.

Today, there are many companies offering snowcat skiing and snowboarding multi-day packages, and single day trips, throughout North America.

Steamboat Powdercats

Steamboat Resort in Colorado is one of our favorite ski towns and the ski area has some of the best glade skiing anywhere. If you really like skiing the trees and finding those stashes of powder spend a day with Steamboat Powdercats. You'll be joining the thousands of skiers who've crawled up the snowfields of Colorado's Buffalo Pass in one of Steamboat Powdercats machines during the company's 30 years of operation. (The company boasts an 80 percent return guest rate.)

Skiers and snowboarders are taken to prime backcountry terrain on the nearly 10,000 acres within Steamboat Powdercats' permitted territory. With three heated snowcats, the company is able to split guests into groups of three different ability levels. The snowcats are waiting for guests a 20-minute van ride from downtown Steamboat Springs. Rates range from $375 to $450 a day through the winter.

Selkirk Wilderness Skiing

A trip with Selkirk Wilderness Skiing starts with a snowcat ride to the company's lodge in the Purcell Mountain Range in the southeast corner of British Colombia, Canada. The company, which has been in operation since 1975, offers three- and five-day packages. Packages range from CS2580 to C$4800.

Day Skiing Near Crested Butte, Colorado

My husband and I used to stay at the Irwin Lodge, approximately 10 miles from Crested Butte, Colorado, before it closed. Irwin get tons of powder and we loved the skiing there.

Now, CS Irwin provides single day trips of snowcat skiing/boarding in the West Elk Mountains near Crested Butte. They offer trips for advanced and expert skiers and riders. Expect about 10,000 feet of vertical daily. Fees range between $350 and $500 per day and includes skis.

Ski & Ride Extreme Steeps at Silverton, Colorado

The word is for some of the best extreme snowcat skiing in the country book with Silverton Powdercats. They say there are trail choices for advanced intermediates, but all I hear from expert skiers who've been there is that they've gone down some of the steepest terrain in their lives. Most of the skiers stay in Durango, a town that still reflects its Wild West roots, or in Durango Ski Resort. A day costs $335 a person for 10 to 12 runs.

Crawl Up the Backside of the Tetons

I was dragging after cat skiing on Peaked Mountain at Grand Targhee but you couldn't get the smile off my face. Powder is king on the 600 acres in the permitted area, and you can get up to 20,000 vertical feet in a day in bowls, glades and steep tree pitches. A half-day is $199 and a full day is $399.

How About 20,000 Vertical Feet a Day in the Monashees?

Can you handle up to 20,000 vertical feet of glade and bowl skiing in a day? The Monashees in British Columbia have some of the best powder skiing in the world. Big Red Cats, located 10 minutes from Red Mountain Resort in British Columbia can guarantee a total leg burn on more than 19,000 acres of skiable terrain. They have single and multi-day packages ranging from C$2990-C$430 per day.

Check How Well Guides & Cat Drivers Are Trained

Before booking a single day or a snowcat vacation, always ask where and how the guides were accredited and their depth of experience leading snowcat groups. The best snowcat ski and snowboard operations have guides with extensive training and experience in recognizing snow conditions, snow stability and avalanche conditions. The guides lead the group and direct skiers and riders where to go, exactly which lines to take (or not take), and how many guests may go at one time.

Is Snowcat Skiing for You?

Snowcat skiing and riding is strenuous, requires the ability to ski or ride on ungroomed terrain, and is an incredible amount of fun. Ask yourself if you're in shape to ski or ride for a full day, which may include between 10,000 and 20,000 vertical feet. Will you be comfortable spending a full day outdoors? (Some snowcat operations can take you back to lodge mid-day, while others bring lunch on the cat. Or, you may be able to stay in the cat with the drive for a run or two.)

If you think snowcat skiing is something you want to try but not sure if your skills are good enough, have a long conversation with a guide or a person at the company you are considering booking to see it it's right for you. Lodges offering multi-day packages often put novices together in one group, and more skilled backcountry skiers in another.

Heliskiing Gets You to Mountaintops Faster

If you want to reach isolated areas atop mountains even faster, go heli-skiing. (Some companies also offer a blend of both, especially on days when rough weather keeps the helicopters on the ground.) CMH - Canadian Mountain Heliskiing - has lodges in several remotes areas of Canada's Rockies. Heli-skiing in the Monashes, we cruised down mix of open slopes and bowls, then went into gladed terrain. Mike Wiegele Heliskiing gives guests the option to ride in heated snowcat for runs on groomed slopes on Saddle Mountain.

Avalanche Dangers

The guides leading snowcat skiing and riding groups are trained not to take guests into areas where the snow may slide, but it never hurts to get a bit of personal knowledge about playing in the backcountry. Here are sources for information about avalanche awareness and safety.

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