Your Resource For the Best Skiing in Canada- Let’s Hit the Slopes
In 2021, there were over 59 million visits to ski resorts in the U.S. That’s a lot of people going down the mountains and skiing away all the good snow. So where do you go to get the good powder?
The best way to get to the best snow and unskied slopes on a mountain is through cat skiing. If you’re wondering what cat skiing is and how you can do it, you’ve come to the right place!
You don’t have to be an expert skier to find the good powder. Keep reading to find out how.
While the vast majority of people ski on well-groomed slopes that are maintained and established by a ski resort, some experienced skiers prefer to go out to the untrampled ground to find fresh snow and amazing terrain.
For those experienced skiers who want something a little more exciting, there’s always the option of exploring backcountry skiing. Backcountry skiing is any skiing that takes place in unpatrolled and unmarked areas outside of a resort’s marked boundaries.
There are a few ways to get to backcountry skiing areas. You can cross-country ski or hike to them, take a helicopter, or ride in a snowcat. After your journey, you’ll find fresh powder that hasn’t been scraped away from other skiers and the best ski conditions of your life.
Some resorts offer both helicopters and snowcats for guided backcountry skiing. So why should you choose the snowcat?
A heli ride can be quite expensive – snowcats are usually more cost-effective and are sometimes even free to people staying at the ski resort! – but still quite a bit more expensive than regular lift tix.
A ski guide can come with you up the mountain to show you all the best areas with the least ski traffic. Plus, having that guide with you is a great way to make sure that you stay safe.
Snowcats tend to hold more people than a helicopter which means that you can take this adventure with a group of ten of your friends!
Once you get off the helicopter, you’re left to your own devices for heliskiing. It’s your job to get down to the bottom of the mountain without a place to rest from the outdoors. The snowcat can come with you for backcountry skiing, and you can use it to take rests and eat meals.
In a worst-case scenario, such as an injury, a snowcat can get you safely down the mountain without having to wait for ski patrol or figuring out how to get yourself down.
Best of all, when you get to the bottom of the mountain you can have the snowcat waiting right down there for you to go up and take another run. It’s surprising but I’ve often had the cat beat us down the mountain.
While snowcats can bring a guide up with you, you still shouldn’t go cat skiing unless you’re a confident skier.
You don’t need to be an expert to go out cat skiing, but an intermediate knowledge of skiing and confidence are key to making short work of technical terrain and navigating the powder. Most of all, it’s important to be honest with your guide about your skill level.
Best to choose ski mates at your same skill level so you are not stuck waiting or worse; holding up others. Your reward – lots of deep powder and off-piste terrain.
They may ask to take you out on easier terrain first to see how you handle it, and then they’ll make the choice about taking you out to more difficult terrain.
There are some places that offer family-friendly backcountry skiing, so be sure to check in with your resort. They may be able to accommodate you no matter what your skill level.
There is an element of risk to any cat skiing excursion (just like most outdoor activities). You’re performing a physically demanding task out in the elements.
Some things that can occur are physical injury, being stranded or lost, hypothermia, and avalanche.
However, you always go cat skiing with a highly trained guide who will make sure to the best of their ability that everyone stays safe. They have emergency gear in the cats, have a great understanding of mountain conditions, and will make sure that you are properly dressed and prepared for the adventure.
When you book a cat skiing adventure, you should expect to be out all day. You’ll start early in the morning to meet your guide, and then spend the whole day out in the backcountry. Remember, you can bring snacks to have on the cat to keep yourself going during the day of hard skiing. Every place I have ever cat skied provided lunch in the cat.
Before you head out, your guide will familiarize you with avalanche safety procedures. It’s unlikely that you’ll encounter one, but it’s always better to play things on the safe side.
Before each run, your guide will show you the runs that you’re going to take, potential hazards to look out for, and the steeper drops. He or she will also show you the best places to rest, regroup, and meet back up.
Wear multiple layers and dress for the cold. However, make sure that all of the materials you wear wick away sweat and won’t let you overheat. Remember, cotton kills. If you start to feel hot during a run, unzip to let out some heat.
Bring your usual ski gear with you. It’s important that you’re comfortable with the materials you’re using. You may choose to rent skis from the resort that are more suited for backcountry skiing, but in that case, you should still use your own boots and poles. One of my first times cat skiing I came underprepared with a heavy pair of Machetes the guides lent me a pair of proper powder skies to handle the heavy interior BC snow.
You need full avalanche gear for cat skiing. Mountain conditions are not always perfectly predictable outside of the resort’s boundaries. Backcountry always has a risk of avalanche.
You’ll need a transceiver, a probe and shovel to dig yourself or someone else out of a snowbank, and an avalanche airbag system to protect you from hard impacts. If you don’t own this equipment personally, you can usually rent it specifically for your cat skiing excursion.
It’s also smart to bring anything else you’d want on a typical ski day such as sunscreen, lip balm, water, lunch, and quick snacks.
Is all of this sounding like a lot of fun? That’s cause it is! Cat skiing is one of the coolest things you can do on your mountain winter vacation. It brings your ski experience up to a whole new level of fun and adventure.
Now that you’re adequately enticed, you’re probably wondering where to go to do it! Check out these popular cat skiing locations. Don’t worry, just cause they’re popular doesn’t mean they’ll get over-skied. That’s the whole benefit of cat skiing!
Powder Mountain is best known for its convenience as a cat skiing location. It’s just an hour outside of Salt Lake City so a flight to this destination shouldn’t be hard to come by.
The snowcat powder safari picks up twenty guests each day in two ten-person snowcats. Don’t worry about the number of people who are eager to use the snowcats though. There are 3,000 miles of backcountry terrain to explore all season long. It won’t get skied off.
The average snowfall at this resort per year is 500 inches, so you’re guaranteed to have amazing knee-deep powder to ski through.
They’ll take you for about nine to fifteen runs for $425. This price includes avalanche safety gear and packed lunch provided by the resort.
Are you more of an adrenaline junkie when it comes to your backcountry skiing adventures? In that case, you have to check out Baldface Mountain in British Columbia.
It boasts 50-degree pitches and 3,000-vertical-foot runs. Its incredible terrain brings in all kinds of expert skiers looking for the run of their life including the Teton Gravity Research filmmakers. Of course, that means you really have to be in excellent shape to do it (the resort requires it.)
If you can handle it, it’ll be the most incredible ski experience of your life. There are 32,000 acres of terrain which means that skiers are regularly christening runs and getting to name them. It’s like discovering a new species with an adrenaline rush attached.
When you finish your day, you get to watch a 20-minute video of your best runs and chow down on the resort’s amazing cornbread stuffed pork.
This is a pricier trip at $2,549 for three days, but that does include lodging, meals, and avalanche equipment.
Sometimes you want to find the best slopes on the mountain, but you have your kids and family to worry about too. You could stick them in ski school for the day, but wouldn’t you rather take them on the adventure on your Colorado vacation?
As long as your kids are at least intermediate skiers, they can participate in cat skiing at Aspen Mountain Colorado.
Certified ski instructors lead tours that last from 8:15 am to 3:30 pm with a luxurious stop for lunch inside of a heated cabin. The fare ranges from a leg of lamb to a delicious enchilada.
This family-friendly ski adventure is $419 including the warm lunch and avalanche gear rental.
While you may be most interested in the exciting venture of backcountry skiing, other people in your cohort may have other priorities for their ski vacation. Luckily at Island Lake Lodge, you can get everything for everyone.
For $730 a day you get lodging, meals, avalanche gear, and access to 7,000 acres of terrain. And that isn’t all.
While you ski other members of your party can enjoy the full spa with massage therapists, bedrooms with soaker tubs, breweries and bars with local beers, and incredible restaurants slopeside.
If all of this is starting to sound out of your budget, have no fear! There are absolutely budget options for expert skiers who want to experience the wonders of cat skiing.
So long as you purchase a lift ticket at Copper Mountain, expert skiers can take a trip up the mountain in a snowcat for free. A lunch and rented avalanche gear may not be provided, but you will get several thousands of acres of treeless runs filled with powder and steep tree chutes.
Alaska is an incredible destination for cat skiing. On average, an Alaskan mountain offers 10,00 feet of vertical runs, and the Chugach Mountains are no different.
You’ll find every kind of terrain here from super powdery, large bowls, to sheer steep spines, to some of the best glade skiing of your life in the Sitka spruce. There are 4,000 acres of tree runs alone.
You can spend multiple days out cat skiing this mountain without hitting all of the terrains and getting to try out every kind of run.
This resort also uses cats to subsidize its heliskiing ventures. You can get the best of both worlds by heliskiing to the best spots and having the cat meet you for lunch or at the bottom of the mountain to take you home at the end of the long day.
For more Utah cat skiing, you can’t beat Park Cit Powder Cats for amazing cat skiing tours. This cat skiing tour company doesn’t function out of a resort but instead starts out from Thousand Peaks Ranch.
This is the largest cat skiing operation in Utah with 40,000 acres of terrain to explore with the cats. In fact, Park City Powder Cats offers more terrain than all the rest of the Utah resort skiing combined.
Consider this adventure as a day excursion during a trip to the Park City ski resort when you get tired of the groomed trails.
It’s time to stop grumbling about over-skied runs and boredom with the resort slopes. Instead, take your first step into the amazing territory of backcountry skiing with cat skiing. There are luxury options, budget options, expert options, and intermediate options for every kind of ski fanatic.
Are you curious about more of the best cat skiing? Check out our blog for more articles like this one.