As the country begins to reopen, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.
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
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
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
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.