A number of Rocky Mountain resorts and companies run off-piste snowcat powder tours, and now Homewood Mountain Resort will become the first in California to haul powderhounds to their heaven.
The Lake Tahoe resort will throw an opening day bash Feb. 15 for the snowcat skiing and riding operation – the only such one in the Tahoe basin. Some 750 acres of fresh, untracked terrain will now be accessible on the flank of Ellis Peak, which looms above the inbounds portion of Homewood.
Daily tours cost $299 for passholders, and $399 for non-passholders. Groups are restricted to 10 in size for all-day powder hunting, including a guide from the resort. Terrain includes gullies, bowls and trees on more than 1,800 vertical feet that extend across the breadth of the skiing and snowboarding mountain.
Hitching a ride on a snowcat to get into the backcountry appeals because the freshies inside the ropes have been tracked up. With all the powder falling the West this season, most snowcatting operations report busy seasons, including some offbeat options:
Monarch Mountain. For $350 a person, skiers and riders can hit everything at 12,000 feet off the Continental Divide – getting 8-10 rides a day on 1,000 acres.
San Juan Untracked. Independent operator runs out of Purgatory base area, delivering skiers and riders to 35,000 acres in the San Juan Mountains – the most in the United States. Single seats run $425 with a guarantee of five runs.
Ski Cooper. Combine big pow’ with history on the Continental Divide. Ski and ride where the 10th Mountain Division trained for WWII on Chicago Ridge. For $75, you get to 12,600 feet – and a classic view of the top of the continent.
Park City Powdercats. All 43,000 acres are on the private Thousands Peak Ranch. Individuals pay $489 for all day on runs of varying difficulty.
Photos: Top -- Homewood Mountain Resort begins powder tours Feb. 15 (Homewood); Left -- A Park City Powdercat heads out for another run (Park City Powdercats/Facebook); Below -- Chicago Ridge snocat haven at Ski Cooper (Chicago Ridge Ski Cooper/Facebook)