Places

Cat Skiing in Colorado

Guest Author: Annabelle Cooper

A Complete Guide to Cat Skiing in Colorado.

Cat skiing is one of life’s special treats. Riding up in a glorified snowmobile with heat in the cab to ski backcountry pow—without the work. Snowcats are found prowling resorts after hours, grooming snow for fresh tracks the next day. They can also be found taking groups of skiers uphill and accessing terrain that would normally be hard to get to on two feet. Lucky for us, there are several opportunities to go cat skiing in Colorado. All the operations offer different terrain, some are easier to get to than others, and all provide some of the most epic days.

Cat skiing is a great way to ski legendary powder in a guided environment, without jumping in a heli. The terrain is often less steep (with still plenty of runs that would interest an advanced/expert rider), and doesn’t have the intensity and cost of heli-skiing. Plus you can fit a lot more buddies in a cat.

The Powder7 crew after an epic day on Steamboat Powder Cats.

If you’ve had a cat skiing trip on your bucket list for some time now, there’s no better time than the present to make it happen. Powder7 staffer Annabelle Cooper has been lucky enough to take a ride on several of the major cat operations here in Colorado and put together this guide to help you find the cat op that will help you have the best day ever.

Loveland Ski Area Snow Cat Tours

Loveland just opened their expanded cat terrain to outside their ski area last year. There is a free, unguided cat that runs off of Lift 9 to take people further down the ridge to ride inbounds terrain. This review talks about the snowcat tours that take you over to Dry Gulch.

Terrain

Ski the Continental Divide! On this snowcat tour, you will be skiing the north and south sides of Dry Gulch. This is a backcountry zone that is just east of Loveland Ski Area’s Lift 8. The cat gives you access to over 500 skiable acres of open bowls and glades with each run descending 600-800 vertical feet. At this elevation, expect snow conditions to be variable. On my trip the first few turns on each run were a bit heavy and crusty but, after that, we had great spring powder!

Flow of the Day

Plan to wake up early, since this cat only runs Friday-Sunday you will have some traffic on I-70 to navigate. You will meet with your guides to go over the details of the day as well as current weather and avalanche conditions (with coffee and pastries provided!). This is also the time that you will be provided with an avalanche beacon and lunch options to pack for the day. The cat picks up at the top of Lift 8, once you are on the cat you’ll make your way into Dry Gulch for the rest of the day. The guides will make terrain selections for the group throughout the day according to snow conditions. They’ll provide you with lunch, that you get to enjoy out in the backcountry!

loveland cat skiing guide
Photo courtesy of Loveland Ski Area

Who is it for?

This trip is great for those new to cat skiing or those skiers searching for a great backcountry experience in Colorado’s Front Range. Due to variable snow conditions and terrain, this trip is for advanced intermediate to expert-level skiers and snowboarders. If you ski Lift 4 and 9 comfortably at Loveland, all this terrain should feel comfortable for you. This operation is ideal for advanced intermediate skiers looking for their first cat skiing experience, or those expert skiers looking for a fun outing in the backcountry.

Personal Highlight

For my trip, we had ideal spring conditions! I really enjoyed the variety of terrain we skied and the guides were great at pointing out different features to go off of. It was great to not only spend time with friends on this trip but also to meet some new ski partners. We skied a total of 9 runs throughout the day.

Monarch Mountain Cat Skiing

Terrain

Monarch Cat skiing offers a wide variety of expert terrain. With over 1500 acres of open bowls, steep chutes, and steep trees there is always great snow to be found. We skied lots of trees The terrain is just outside of Monarch’s inbounds ski area. You exit at the entrance for the Mirkwood hike-to-terrain, where the cat will give you quick access to some of that hike-to skiing, and then beyond.

Flow of the day

You will start your day off in the cat skiing yurt, the guides will brief you on the day and get you set up with an avalanche beacon. From here you will head up the lift and the cat will be waiting for you at the top. Plan to ski until noon before heading back to the base for a lunch break. Gatorade and sandwiches will fuel you up to head back out for the afternoon.

monarch cat skiing in colorado terrain map
Photo courtesy Monarch Mountain’s Website

Who is it for?

This trip is for expert skiers and snowboarders looking for challenging terrain and great snow. Monarch Mountain is also a great way to avoid ski traffic on I-70. Make it a full trip with a day skiing at Monarch and the cat trip, with some hot springs available just down the valley outside of Buena Vista.

Personal Highlight

The variety and quality of terrain for this cat skiing operation was the highlight of this trip. Plenty of cliffs, chutes, and open faces. The guides are amazing and know the terrain extremely well. It was great to have someone be able to tell you what to expect with landings and run-outs. They try to pack a lot in for the day; our group got a whopping 14 runs in!

Steamboat Powdercats

Terrain

Steamboat Powdercats operate out of Buffalo Pass, which holds one of Colorado’s deepest snowpacks and is known for its Champagne Powder. Enjoy the endless glades of untracked powder.

Flow of the day

HQ for Steamboat Powdercats is located at the base of the resort, plan to boot up and get ready at the shop before loading up in vans (after your coffee and quiche of course). The drive to Buff Pass will take about 30 mins, from there it’s full steam ahead as your group and guides ski some of Colorado’s best Powder. Our lunch break was quick and in between runs but, if you are on a slower pace you can take your time. Expect a photographer to join you at some point and at the end of the day you can watch a powerpoint of your photos at HQ while enjoying an after ski bevy.

matt skiing powder at steamboat powdercats
Matt finds the deep snow on a mid-winter day at Steamboat Powdercats.

Who is it for?

Steamboat Powdercats offers trips for three ability levels! Level 1 guests need to be advanced intermediate skiers who are confident on blue and black terrain, but may still be learning how to float in powder. For the Level 2 trip, guests should be confident in their powder skills in a variety of terrains. Level 3 trips will be for expert skiers and snowboarders who are searching for steep and deep snow. The different level system works well to let you focus on the terrain you want to ski, and more of it throughout the day.

Personal Highlight

Our group was lucky enough to have a fresh 10 inches of powder. We wanted to keep the train moving to get as many laps as possible and by the end we had a whopping 14 runs under our belts.

Other Cats in Colorado

These are just the ones we’ve checked out for our own eyes. Here’s a few others to take a look at before your trip to Colorado.

Vail Powder Guides

For folks staying in the Vail area or looking to explore Vail Pass, Vail Powder Guides can help you explore. The west side of the pass is relegated to motorized travel (while the east side is human-powered only), so you get access to terrain not many folks get to. They operate on 4,000 acres of terrain, meaning loads of opportunities and plenty of powder to find.

VPG recommends being an advanced intermediate all the way to an expert rider to enjoy the terrain. Unique for cat operations, they offer free powder boards or skis to use for the day if you’re feeling a little under-skied.

Jones Pass Guides

This is a popular zone for backcountry skiing in the Front Range. Jones Pass Guides keeps a cat parked at the lot season-long and takes folks up to the Continental Divide for some proper big mountain backcountry skiing. It’s a great opportunity to ski some terrain with guides that you might not normally.

Jones Pass offers a wide variety of pricing options, with packages that include multi-day memberships, single seats, or different group sized reservations. Gift idea anybody?

matt skiing powder at jones pass
Matt finds a GS turn skiing some BC powder with Jones Pass in the background

Silverton Powdercats

Silverton Powdercats gives folks the opportunity to ski the epic snow and terrain of Silverton mountains. Powdercats operates outside of Molas Pass. This zone offers a wide range of terrain to appeal to plenty of skiers. From meadow-skipping dreamy powder to steeper faces. For those in the area for a trip and want an alternative to the ski area, this is a great way to explore more of the mountains in that zone in a guided environment.

Comments

Similar Posts