The urge to go beyond the ropes and track up virgin powder often plagues the skier or snowboarder. So one of the best ways to satisfy an off-piste jones is snowcat powder skiing.
“Powdercat” operations typically run out of a resort or from a nearby location. Daily trips usually include heated transport, safety training, guides, lunch and powder-specific equipment rentals. Most operations offer custom trips, group deals and advance sale discounts.
SnoCountry.com took a look at what’s out there and came up with this list of bests to consider (prices for single person, one day):
Monarch. ‘Cats head north into 1,000 acres in No Name Bowl and environs for $300 a day, and 10-12 runs for 10,000-plus vertical feet total. Trips leave from base of Monarch Mountain ski area.
Powder Mountain. A snowcat as just another lift at this aptly named Utah resort. Pay $18 for a single ride from the resort into Cobabe Canyon or Lightning Ridge for 700 acres and 2,100-foot vertical.
Silverton Powdercats. Snowcats supplement guided service at Silverton Mountain with “thousands of acres” up to 12,500 feet elevation off Molas Pass. A $375 day pass yields 10-12 runs (more than 12,000 vertical).
San Juan Untracked. One of the largest operations in the U.S. has 35,000 acres on south side of Molas Pass. For $285-385, powder freaks get six to 12 runs for 8,000-12,000 vertical. Office is at Durango Mountain Resort.
Pacific Crest. California’s only snowcat operation work 3,000 acres between Squaw Valley and Sugar Bowl, east of the Pacific Crest at about 8,000 feet. Full day costs $350, with advance purchase discount, and gets 8-10 runs (12,000-14,000 vertical).
Park City Powdercats. For $399-475 (depending on date), powderhounds hit the private 40,000-acre Thousand Peaks Ranch, 25 miles south of Park City. Rising to 11,000 feet, a day produces 8-2 runs (10,000 vertical).
Steamboat. ‘Cats deliver to Buffalo Pass at 10,800 feet, about 25 north of the town of Steamboat, for 10,000 acres of powder terrain. Eight to 16 runs (12,000 vertical) a day can be had for $475-500, depending on time of season.
Photos: Top -- Park City Powdercats; left -- Monarch snowcats; Right -- Pacific Crest Snocats; Bottom -- San Juan Untracked