The Ultimate Guide to Cat Skiing

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Are you looking to experience a unique skiing adventure in untouched powder, without the crowds of a ski resort? Welcome to the world of cat skiing, an unparalleled backcountry journey across mountains and slopes! Cat skiing is taking amazing backcountry skiing options and opening them up to so many people who don’t have the money (or skills in some cases), to go heli-skiing. With breathtaking views and unforgettable memories, this exciting getaway promises thrill-seeking skiers endless memories and a fantastic skiing experience.

What is Cat Skiing?

Snowcat skiing is an off-trail, downhill skiing experience that takes place in backcountry or untracked terrain, distinct from typical lift-accessed skiing at ski resorts. Instead of using ski lifts or hiking, skiers and snowboarders are transported to the top of remote slopes in a snowcat, a large, tracked vehicle designed for snow travel, similar to a groomer but equipped to carry passengers.

Advantages of Cat Skiing

Cat skiing provides a great way to experience remote areas due to the snowcat vehicles which gives you an opportunity to ski unique terrain. It is usually more cost-effective than heli-skiing and this, combined with small groups for personalized attention, offers many advantages on exploring mountains covered in powdery snow. Not only can you benefit from improved safety, but also much greater freedom when it comes to covering terrain that would otherwise be off-limits. Of course, the real reason that I love Cat Skiing is because it gives you access to amazing terrain and great powder skiing. At a ski resort, the powder is often tracked out in under an hour, but with cat skiing, you can ski fresh powder all day long.

Top Cat Skiing Destinations Around the World

townhall kids ski coat

If you’re ready to give cat skiing a try, you’ll find amazing options near most bigger ski areas. Powder Mountain in Utah provides its own unique terrain, and charm, and we love the luxury experience at Eleven Catskiing located near Crested Butte in Colorado. Aspen Powder Tours can boast being one of the best spots for such an adventure while if you head into the Canadian Rockies, you’ll have a really unique and extreme cat skiing adventure.

Aspen Powder Tours, Colorado

Cost: Starting at $750

Aspen Mountain is home to an incredible 1,500 acres of pristine backcountry terrain. The world-renowned ski destination boasts a record 368 inches of snow each year! Skiers can take advantage of the unique steep landscapes that feature vast fields perfect for powder skiing and thrilling cliff drops or couloirs ideal for more experienced skiers. The average skiier gets 10,000 feet of vertical skiing in one day!!

Eleven Catskiing at Irwin, Crested Butte

Cost: Customized per group

For a truly luxurious ski vacation, Eleven Catskiing at Irwin in Colorado’s Crested Butte is the place to be. With top-of-the-line gear for guests, a gourmet chef preparing your meals, and an apres ski spa treatment, you’ll get the best of a luxury experience and adventure in one. It offers exclusive access to huge backcountry terrain – over 1,000 acres of pristine powder snow! With an incredible average annual accumulation of 450 inches and its status as the largest cat skiing operation around, this resort guarantees endless hours on diverse snowy trails sure to excite any skier or boarder alike.

Man skiing at Solitude Mountain Resort, Utah, USA

Selkirk Snowcat Skiing British Columbia

Cost: $2900 for 5 days Sold out for 2023/24

Located in the majestic Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia offers some of the best snowcat skiing experiences on earth. Blessed with an annual average snowfall reaching 546 inches and crystal-like powdery goodness, ski lovers will be amazed by what cat skiing here has to offer. Packages here include food and loading at one of their fantastic backcountry destinations.

Colorado’s Steamboat Powdercats in Steamboat Springs: Tree Skiing Paradise

COST: $950/day

Steamboat Springs, Colorado is a popular spot among skiers for its challenging tree skiing conditions. Known to hold some of the most concentrated snowpack levels in the state, Steamboat is an excellent choice for cat skiing in Colorado. With Steamboat Powdercats, every Cat has 3 guides to support guests, and on an average day, guests will ski between 8,000-14,000 vertical feet. We also love that there is a trip photographer there to capture pictures of you while snowcat skiing, which helps make this one of the most memorable ski experiences. We put together great places to stay at Steamboat Springs.

Skis in the mountains

Utah’s Powder Mountain Cat Skiing: Most Affordable Cat Skiing

Cost: $29/run

If you’re looking for a cat skiing experience in a more controlled environment, check out the inbounds cat skiing at Powder Mountain Utah. The cats will take you up to one of three different areas, but the most popular is Lightning Ridge, where you’ll get access to some of the best expert terrain on the mountain. Best of all, since it’s inbounds, the resort works to control the area for avalanches, so this might also be one of the safest cat skiing operations.

Powder Mountain also has 3 all-day cat excursions so you can find the cat skiing option that works best for you. However, if you want to give it a try, adding a snowcat run onto your lift ticket is such a deal at Powder Mountain that it would almost be a shame NOT to try the cat skiing there with these amazing budget cat rides!

Pacific Crest Snowcats, Lake Tahoe, California

tahoe in winter

Cost: $549/person

Lake Tahoe’s majestic landscape, with its wide-open alpine bowls and tree-lined chutes, is a deep powder skiing paradise thanks to the abundant 300 inches of snowfall. Pacific Crest Snowcats provides an unforgettable experience for skiers seeking adventure by guiding them through 3000 acres of diverse terrain. The ultimate ski trip awaits those looking to explore Lake Tahoe’s vast opportunities in deep powder cat skiing!

Preparing for Your Cat Skiing Trip

Before beginning a cat skiing trip, it is important to ensure that you are well-prepared. Your first preparation comes with your fitness. Cat skiing is usually much more difficult than resort skiing since there are no groomed runs. Make sure you’re in great shape and that your legs can handle skiing the potentially deep powder you’ll encounter.

The next preparation you’ll need is for safety. This includes carrying the necessary avalanche equipment and familiarizing yourself with prevailing weather conditions, as well as mastering ski techniques so you can ski deep powder.

Being properly equipped will equip you to meet any challenges in the backcountry and allow your time on the slopes of fresh pow more enjoyable!

best ski backpacks

Required Avalanche Gear and Safety Equipment for Cat Skiing

Essential avalanche gear is imperative for a safe cat skiing outing. Most cat skiing operations have all of this safety equipment available to guests, but it’s always a good idea to double-check. This entails an avalanche beacon, probe and shovel and in many cases an airbag backpack which all help safeguard against the potential perils of an avalanche and help to ensure your quick recovery.

Assessing Weather Conditions and Snow Quality

It is important to be aware of weather conditions and snow quality for a successful cat skiing experience. Water content, alterations in the snow due to climate changes, as well as surface textures should all be taken into account when planning your adventure. Weather such as temperature, rainfall, and wind speed must also be considered for the safest ski experience.

snowbasin family skiing

Tips for Skiing in Waist Deep Powder While Cat Skiing

Deep powder skiing can be thrilling if you have the right technique. Staying balanced with your weight centered and slightly forward. It’s really easy to get into the backseat while skiing powder, but this is a great time to practice being aggressive with your skiing and getting your weight down the mountain since the consequences of falling aren’t too bad in most cases. Make sure to use wide skis to help you float on top of the snow. If you don’t own powder skis, ask your guide in advance if they have some you can rent since many cat ski operations have a quiver of skis that are perfectly suited to the conditions you’ll encounter.

Cat Ski Operations: What to Expect

When planning for your cat skiing experience, it is necessary to be knowledgeable of the operator’s policies. This could include: selecting between a private snowcat or group outing, being familiar with their booking and cancellation terms, as well as preparing yourself for the particular feeling that comes from riding in a snowcat.

Skiing powder

Booking Your Trip and Cancellation Policies

Planning a cat skiing adventure in advance is essential to secure your place. It’s important to review the cancellation procedures of each operator, as these can differ from one company to another. Some may refund you within certain time limits if canceled, while others might require payment of an upfront deposit or percentage fee prior to that. Some companies have refund allowances for weather or poor conditions and others don’t, so make sure to read the fine print.

Private Snowcats vs. Group Trips

For those looking for a more intimate experience, private snowcat trips are the way to go. This type of trip will provide exclusive access to terrain and offer you greater flexibility with your route than would be available on group adventures. I you want to make it more affordable, book the whole snowcat and invite all of your ski buddies to come along and split the cost with you.

group ski trip

If budget is an issue or if you’d like to share in the excitement with other powder enthusiasts, then signing up for one of these larger outings could be ideal as they typically cost less money overall while still delivering plenty of thrills. Consider what fits best into both your lifestyle and finances before deciding between either option – don’t forget about all that fresh pow waiting out there!

Navigating the Backcountry: Safety and Terrain Challenges

Backcountry skiing requires more awareness of your surroundings and the conditions than the lift lines that accompany resort skiing. Here are some tips to help you prepare for skiing untracked powder on your cat skiing trip.

Avalanche Safety and Awareness

To ensure a safe experience while skiing in the backcountry, it is essential to prioritize avalanche safety. This includes taking an appropriate course on avalanches, equipping yourself with necessary gadgets such as probes, shovels, and beacons as well undertaking trips only under the watchful eye of a ski cat guide or someone else who has had thorough avalanche safety training.

kids snowboard coat

Adapting to Changing Skiing Conditions

For a successful cat skiing experience, the ability to adapt to changing ski conditions is essential. Adjust your technique and gear in response to varying snowfalls, weather patterns and the terrain you’ll be skiing. Having an open attitude and being flexible will not only keep you as safe as possible but will let you experience the best terrain available at the time.

Cliff drop skiing in powder

Summary

If you’re ready for an unparalleled skiing experience, grab your equipment and take off to explore untouched backcountry terrain away from the hustle of ski resorts. Cat skiing allows access to fresh powdery mountains that cannot be experienced anywhere else, just ensure that safety is a priority before starting this unforgettable adventure!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can kids go cat skiing?

Yes, kids can go cat skiing at many places. Some companies have a minimum age around 12, but others just have a minimum ski ability. If you’re taking kids snowcat skiing, make sure that they’re used to skiing expert terrain and that they are pretty independent skiers. If you do plan to take your kids cat skiing, it’s a good idea to call the company first to discuss the terrain you’ll be asking and your child’s abilities.

What skill level is required for cat skiing?

Cat skiing requires intermediate or advanced skiing or snowboarding skills. All of the terrain you encounter will be off-piste, so make sure you have experience in that type of terrain.

How does cat skiing differ from heli-skiing?

For those looking to explore the powdery, fresh terrain but don’t want to spend too much money, cat skiing is a great solution. Skiing using snowcats instead of helicopters can provide all of this and more at a much more budget-friendly price.

What essential avalanche gear is needed for cat skiing?

When it comes to safety when cat skiing, one must make sure they are equipped with an avalanche beacon, a probe, a shovel and often an airbag backpack. These items are essential for optimal protection in case of emergency situation or avalanches in the wilderness. Don’t forget a helmet!

What are the best weather conditions for cat skiing?

The best weather conditions for snowcat skiing are shortly after a big storm. Obviously, that can be hard to predict months in advance. Generally, the best conditions are in late January and February when there is a solid base of snow, and also when several storms have accumulated (without warm spring temperatures to make it unstable).

How can I prepare for skiing in waist-deep powder?

Get in great shape. If you want to make powder skiing easier, have good cardio fitness and work as much as possible on your leg strength. Strong quads, glutes, and hamstrings will help a lot for long ski days.

Written by Jessica Averett

Hi, I'm Jessica! After meeting my husband on a chairlift, we now live in the mountains of Utah with our 5 kids. As a former ski instructor and mom, I'm here to help you make your family ski trips as easy, and FUN, as possible!