Year of the Cat
Cat-skiing is opening up new terrain for skiers
and operators alike
By Sarah B. Hood
There’s one kind of pleasure in gliding down a well-groomed,
familiar run with the sun glinting off the
tracks of other skiers. It’s quite a different experience
to forge through fresh powder, navigating evergreen
glades and exploring an exhilarating natural landscape.
Even if they love the ambience of a favorite resort, most ex-perienced
skiers crave the opportunity to push outside the
usual boundaries from time to time. Few have the opportu-nity
to try heli-skiing, but, increasingly, cat-skiing is becom-ing
the adventure of choice for accomplished skiers who seek
an extra thrill.
As its name suggests, cat-skiing, which was pioneered in
1975 by Allan and Brenda Drury of Selkirk Snowcat Skiing
in Meadow Creek, B.C., allows skiers to travel to remote or
otherwise inaccessible terrain using modified versions of the
same machines used for grooming. Today there are about
two dozen cat-skiing operations in Canada (mainly in B.C.),
several in the U.S. and a few in other countries, and the num-bers
Some cat-skiing operations are essentially an alternative to
heli-skiing; these transport the participants to a wilderness
location for several days. These trips require a dedicated staff
of guides and drivers, and an extra level of safety instruction
for staff and participants who may be exposed to risk from
bad weather or avalanche hazards. Other programs function
as an add-on to lift operations at an established resort and
as such are bound by the same level of staff safety training as
required by normal in-bound resort skiing.
The snowcats are customized for passenger transport, with
passenger cabins that can accommodate about a dozen ski-ers.
A heated vehicle with padded seats makes the scenic trip
to the summit part of the attraction. The best news for op-erators
who may be considering adding a snowcat option to
their existing trails is that the vehicles don’t have to be new;
it’s common for operators to repurpose an older machine
that has previously served time grooming the hill.
snowopsmag.com | SnowOps 11