Let’s face it. We’re not all adventurous skiers or boarders who crave the untracked powder, backcountry bowls and pristine glades that snowcat tours offer. Some of us (ahem) actually like to stick to groomed corduroy on in-bound trails! Personally, I get my adrenaline rush simply by watching my children speed-ski down straight shots and fly through the air in terrain parks.
While ski resorts around North America offer exciting snowcat tours for high-altitude, off-piste skiing adventures, there are other tamer opportunities to ride in these monstrous machines – to learn more about the skills it takes to groom the slopes, to get a wildly different perspective of the ski area or to access on-mountain gourmet dining. Here’s a peek at some options:
Riding The Beast in Sun Valley
The Beast, the planet’s biggest snowcat, is legendary in the grooming world as it can cover many more acres per hour than a regular cat, in addition to going up and down insanely steep slopes. My friend Amie O’Shaugnessy, a world traveler who owns CiaoBambino.com, wowed me with tales of her ride on The Beast at Sun Valley, Idaho, earlier this season. She loved riding with one of Sun Valley’s fabled groomers, many of whom have more than 30 years’ experience perfecting Mt. Baldy. Lucky guests can win an insider view of The Beast in action on Friday and Saturday evenings via a weekly raffle from iPads available at the Sun Valley Recreation Village or the River Run Lodge.
Kids can ride at Okemo
The snowcat groomer rides at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort are open to all ages, so even your preschoolers can hop aboard one of these behemoth vehicles for a thrilling evening adventure. Apparently, riding shotgun is the coveted experience, as the cost for that premier spot is $49, while rides in the rear seats cost $39. The hour-long rides are offered through the rest of the season on Tuesdays and Saturdays; they include time at the summit to snap photos and enjoy the early evening or night sky.
Snowcat dinners in Aspen/Snowmass
There are three different opportunities to ride a snowcat to an on-mountain meal at the ski areas of Aspen/Snowmass in Colorado. At Snowmass, board a cat to the rustic Lynn Britt Cabin for a family-friendly, four-course meal and live entertainment on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Burlingame Cabin on Snowmass is the site of another hearty dinner, only reached by snowcat on Tuesday nights; this weekly event also features storytellers and musicians for festive entertainment. Finally, at Aspen Highlands, guests board cats to access the gourmet Cloud Nine Bistro at more than 10,000 feet. Public dinners are offered Thursday nights through the rest of the ski season; you can also rent the restaurant for a private meal with a minimum of 18 people.
Have you had any great snowcat adventures? Share with us in the comments below!