Snow Cat Skiing In Colorado

STORY BY Emmanuelle Châtel 8th March 2017

Cat skiing or snowcat skiing is a form of backcountry skiing and will give you access to new spaces and acres of virgin powder. But rather than using a chair lift or a helicopter, skiers and boarders are transported up the mountain in a snowcat – a grooming machine converted to carry a group of people. The machine picks up the riders at the bottom and take them up to the next run. Sometimes referred as the ‘poor man’s heli-skiing’, snowcat skiing is much cheaper but just as much fun.

Our powder day starts with an early drive to Jones Pass – about 30 miles from Winter Park in Colorado  – where PowderAddiction operates. The snow is falling, the team equipped each of us with fat skis (for powder), avalanche beacon and a backpack with a shovel and probe. 9am sharp, we are all geared up and  jump aboard the cabin at the back of the snowcat ready to start tracking the fresh powder! The ride up the mountain begins with a safety talk and avalanche transceiver practice session with the guides. A reminder that the mountain playground is always unpredictable.

After consistent snowfalls over the past few weeks, here we are, enjoying fresh snow. We start progressively with a short and gentle first run to warm up before enjoying different types of terrain throughout the day. We were able to complete nine runs between our 9am start and 3pm (probably just covering a small part in the 3,000 acres of territory accessible by snowcat here).  Each run covers up to 9000 vertical feet skiing during the day. The ski group consists of a lead guide and a tail guide who both adapt runs in Jones Pass territory accordingly to the group’s level and weather conditions. The plus side is sitting in the snow cat while driven up to the top providing an excellent breather between runs.

Cat skiing is perfect for anyone who craves face shots in deep powder and a great introduction to off piste. Half the cost of heli-skiing it still comes at a cost. But once you’ve been spoilt with snow cat skiing, you may not want to go back to resort skiing again!

Skiing virgin powder all day was such a treat and the experience of a life time!


More information

Colorado Ski Country USA –

Powder Addiction –

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