Cat Skiing: Your Guide to Backcountry Powder Adventure
For avid snow enthusiasts, exploring untouched powder through pristine backcountry is a dream come true. And while heli-skiing may seem like the ultimate way to achieve that, there’s a cheaper and equally thrilling alternative: cat skiing. Here’s everything you need to know about this form of guided backcountry exploration.
What is Cat Skiing?
Cat skiing is a way of exploring the backcountry by being transported up the mountain in a snowcat instead of a helicopter.
The snowcat will take you up on purpose-built snow roads to reach the top of the mountain, where you’ll be guided on a descent through virgin snow, and picked up at the bottom for another run. This form of skiing is more affordable than heli-skiing and offers an equally thrilling experience.
A Day in the Life of a Cat Skier
A typical day of cat skiing starts early around 8 am, where you’ll meet your guides in the snowcat cabin for a safety briefing and a warm cup of tea. Once you’ve loaded your equipment onto the snowcat, you’ll join your 12-person group for the journey up the mountain. The ride is an exhilarating experience, surrounded by nothing but mountains, blue skies, and miles of untouched powder. Over the course of the day, you’ll likely complete 8-12 runs, ending exhausted but buzzing from the excitement.
What Equipment Do You Need?
You’ll be provided with all the necessary avalanche gear, including a transceiver, probe, and shovel. You’ll also have the option to rent additional equipment like ABS and powder skis. If you’re new to backcountry equipment, your guides will show you the basics before heading off.
Getting Ready for Cat Skiing
At Nonstop programs, preparing you technically for the demands of cat skiing is a top priority. Many participants have little or no prior off-piste experience, but by the end of the program, you’ll be fully prepared for the backcountry.
Top Cat Skiing Locations
British Columbia in Canada is the home of cat skiing, offering the best range of snow-cat opportunities in the world. Other top locations include Fernie, Copper Mountain in Colorado, Chugach Mountains in Alaska, and Queenstown Snowcats in New Zealand. Each location offers a unique backcountry experience, from steep chutes and powder bowls to gladed meadows and ridges.
British Columbia, Canada
With its vast and varied terrain, British Columbia is home to some of the best cat skiing in the world. Notable cat ski operators include Island Lake Lodge, CMH Galena, and Selkirk Tangiers.
The powder-filled slopes of Hokkaido have been attracting cat skiers for years. Notable operators include Elite Powder and Niseko Powder Guides.
Alaska, United States
Alaska is well-known for its big mountains and deep powder. Notable cat skiing operators in Alaska include Tordrillo Mountain Lodge and Chugach Powder Guides.
With its remote and rugged terrain, Patagonia offers a unique cat skiing experience. Notable cat skiing operators in Patagonia include Valle Nevado and Patagonia Adventure Expeditions.
Caucasus Mountains, Russia
The Caucasus Mountains offer some of the best and least crowded cat skiing in the world. Notable operators include Elbrus Cat Skiing and Caucasus Mountains Ski Resort.
These are just a few of the many cat skiing destinations around the world. Each location offers a unique experience and varies in terms of terrain, snow conditions, and difficulty level.