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Snowcat Tours Expand Terrain At Smaller Colorado Resorts

Cat-Monarch-Cover Hop a snowcat at one of Colorado day-trip mountains and discover new terrain --- and untracked snow. (Monarch/Facebook)

At a trio of Colorado mountains, snowcat tours take skiers and snowboarders beyond the ropes to track up the untouched Alpine terrain -- instantly enlarging and enhancing their day in the high country.

These tours are designed for the advanced and expert skier or rider, both because of the steepness of the terrain and the variable snow conditions. Avalanche equipment may be required for no charge and, as always in the Rockies, the weather is the ultimate determinant

Monarch began running 'cats north along the Continental Divide ridge into Milkwood Basin 1990. Over the years, tours have gone farther up the Divide, and on both sides.

Just this season, new glade terrain called Hall of Kings comes on and gives Monarch 1,650 acres of backcountry skiing and riding. 'Cats run up to 12,000-plus ridge from top of Breezeway chair. Most runs start short and steep, then level out with plenty of the trees.

Day trips only at Monarch, but they include lunch back at the base and the 'cat holds 10. Online reservations are required, and a quick call to Monarch to check on conditions is suggested. Milkwood Basin remains a short hike-to locale off the top of Breezeway chair.

Always true to its historic setting, Cooper/Chicago Ridge snowcat tours head into the training terrain of the Snow Troops of World War II. Since 1988, 'cats have crawled up above the treeline to drop skiers off at above 12,000 feet along famed Chicago Ridge along the Continental Divide. Some 2,600 alpine acres can be tracked up to 12 runs per day.

Snowcats with 12 seats run three times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Skiers and riders get two rides per $59 charge -- including a hot yurt lunch -- as an add-on to the daily or season pass.

It's first-come-first-served, so early queuing up at the base of Piney Basin chair is recommended. This season, Cooper has made it so those add-ons can be used at any time until the end of the season.

Loveland's Ridge Cat Tours do not cost anything except for what you paid for a day or season pass. A 12-seat snowcat parks at the top of Lift 9 -- the mountain's highest lift -- and heads out when it's full.

Two drop-off points along the 13,000-foot high ridge open up cliffs and bowls. Skiers and riders finish on in-bounds trails and can ride the lifts back up to line up for another tour.

Before heading out, all with a day lift ticket must show it at the base area and get a free Ridge Cat Access Pass. Season pass holders don't need an access pass. 'Cats run 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. first-come-first-served.



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