Where to go now

The Go List

The 6 Best Cat Skiing Companies in the Lower 48

No, you don't need to be in Canada or Alaska to go cat skiing. And yes, it’s really good down here.

No, you don't need to be in Canada or Alaska to go cat skiing. And yes, it’s really good down here.

Cat skiing is considerably less expensive than a chopper, but it can be just as good, with deep, plentiful snow and a wide variety of terrain. Most people think you have to travel to Canada, Alaska, or Europe to get the crème de la crème of cat and heli skiing, but the truth is, you can stay right here in the Lower 48 and ride to distant powder stashes all day long. Here’s where to go.

Eleven Catskiing at Irwin, Crested Butte, Colorado 

Irwin Guides
Click to enlarge. (Irwin Guides)

Best for: Finding Deep Powder

Ten miles outside of Crested Butte, you’ll find the base of Irwin Guides, a remote mountain outpost that gets 600 inches of dry, light snow each year. From Irwin’s mid-mountain chalet, you’ll ride a snowcat to high-elevation lines off Scarp Ridge, offering everything from steep couloirs to low-angle glades. Expert-level groups can amass up to 15,000 vertical feet in a day. Don’t have fat skis? You can demo a pair of Colorado-made Wagner Custom powder skis for the day. $650.

Cascade Powder Cats, Scenic, Washington 

Best for: Multi-Day Trips

Located 75 miles from Seattle deep in the Cascade Mountains, Cascade Powder Cats feels more like Switzerland than Washington. From the snowcat, you’ll have access to 1,500 acres of varied terrain. Timing is everything here: they only run trips around 20 days a season in order to ensure ideal snow and weather conditions, so plan ahead and try to score a seat on one of their operating days. Want to stay overnight? Book a night in their backcountry yurt, which sleeps 10 in bunks and has a wood stove and a toilet in a treehouse. From $395.  

Homewood Snowcat Adventures, Homewood, California 

Homewood Snowcat Adventures
Click to enlarge. (Megan Michelson)

Best for: Backcountry Newbies

This cat operation is brand new for this winter, but its a project some 15 years in the making. Come for the Instagram-worthy views of Lake Tahoe, but stay for the powder-stuffed, old-growth hemlock forests. You’ll start by riding the lifts at Homewood Mountain Resort, on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, then load the cat at the top of the resort for a short, scenic drive to the summit of 8,740-foot Ellis Peak, where some 50 acres of backcountry terrain and 1,800-vertical-foot drops await. You won’t find groomed runs or an easy way down, but the terrain options are doable for high-level intermediates and rising experts looking for their first foray into the backcountry. $399.

Park City Powder Cats, Park City, Utah 

Best for: Easy Access

After adding even more terrain this season, Park City Powder Cats now has more than 43,000 skiable acres on a chunk of land in the Uinta Mountains just outside of Park City called Thousand Peaks Ranch, a family-owned cattle and sheep ranch during the summer. You should be able to score eight to 12 runs in a day, ranging from wide-open bowls to steep chutes and low-angle trees. $549.

Silverton Powdercats, Silverton, Colorado 

silverton powdercats
Click to enlarge. (Matt Gerhardt)

Best for: Escaping the Crowds

You’ll start your day with Silverton Powdercats atop Molas Pass, seven miles from the old mining town of Silverton and deep in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. The place is relatively easy to access over mountain passes from Telluride or Durango but you likely won’t find anyone else out here. A variety of terrain drops from 11,000 feet, making for cold, high-quality powder. Overachievers can log up to 14 runs per day and your guide can escort you on hikes to even more terrain. $400.

Snowcat Adventures, Grand Targhee, Wyoming 

Best for: Booking a Private Cat

You and your college buddies are ready to ramp up your next ski trip. Throw down and book the entire snowcat—where you’ll get 12 seats for the price of 10—at Grand Targhee, just over Teton Pass from Jackson Hole. The snowcat operates right outside the ski area boundary, on 602 acres of closed-off terrain that includes 2,000-vertical-foot drops of mainly mellow, open bowls and perfectly spaced trees. Typical groups get eight to 11 runs a day but if you come with your own all-star team, you might be able to score even more than that. $379 per person or $3,790 for the whole cat.

Filed To: Travel
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

Pinterest Icon