Panorama Mountain Resort in Panorama, B.C., is a desti-nation
resort with unique offerings including a full destina-tion
helicopter skiing experience from the heart of the resort.
When Panorama decided to add cat-skiing to the list, they
chose a snowcat that had been retired from day-to-day front-line
grooming and had it remodelled by Metal Form Indus-tries,
a company based in Innisfail, Alta., that specializes in
this type of job.
“It had about 15,000 hours on it. It had been well main-tained
for its entire life, so we felt it was a cat worth repurpos-ing,”
said Panorama’s president and CEO Steve Paccagnan.
“We worked with Metal Form Industries to customize the
box; we shipped it to Calgary and had them put it through
their paint shop so the cat and the cabin match.”
Now rechristened “The Monster,” the cat is emblazoned
with the company logo and a caricature of a Yeti-like snow
beast. The runs and trails in the cat-skiing area are also play-fully
named in keeping with the monster theme.
“The cat ride is a great experience,” Paccagnan said. “It’s in
excellent condition – it’s really quite beautiful. It has a nice,
plush interior. It holds 13 passengers and it’s got a full-blown
wonderful stereo system; we play some good classic rock
Skiers use three quad lifts to reach the summit, where they
board the snowcat for a 15-minute ride along the ridge line
with beautiful views of the Rocky Mountains to the east and
the Purcell range to the west. When they arrive at the resort’s
Taynton Bowl, they have access to 2,300 feet of vertical skiing
on 750 acres.
“There’s open-bowl skiing and gladed skiing, and some runs
cut as well,” Paccagnan said. “It’s former helicopter skiing ter-rain,
and you would ski the bowl to the bottom of the moun-tain
and then take the lifts back up again.” One trip takes about
40 minutes and Paccagnan says an adventurous skier might
make four runs in a day, perhaps combined with some of the
lift runs. This makes the resort’s $49 four-pack a popular op-tion.
Panorama also sells a cat-skiing season pass for $199 and
single rides for $15. All runs are first come, first served.
Panorama’s snowcat is never used for grooming, but it is
repurposed in the evening for cat-assisted dining excursions
to the resort’s Elkhorn Cabin, a picturesque and historic
hand-hewn wooden cabin where guests dine on Alpine-style
raclette (a traditional melted cheese dish) while feasting on
the view over Mount Nelson. At $120 per person (maximum
of 13 people), the package is “super-popular in the winter-time,”
To date, most of North America’s cat-skiing operators
have been located near the Pacific coast, but there are a few
in the east as well. One of these is Sugarloaf, currently the
only resort offering cat-skiing in the state of Maine. Sugar-loaf
’s Burnt Mountain has recently been developed for cat-skiing.
Guests board snowcats to climb more than 1.5 miles
and 1,400 vertical feet to the upper elevations. From the peak
of Burnt Mountain, they have a 360-degree range of access
to over 100 acres, including the resort’s Androscoggin, Little
Androscoggin and Kennebec glades.
“The fact that we’re able to do it here in the east really ex-cites
people,” said Tom Butler, Sugarloaf ’s director of skier
services. “We have great vertical, excellent snowfall and great
terrain; you could ski off the top of the mountain just like you
could out west.”
Cat-skiing ticket holders ride the resort’s Whiffletree lift to
reach the departure point where they can enjoy hot chocolate
and a firepit at a shelter building at the Log Yard. The snow-cat
brings skiers to the top and meets them at the bottom of
each run for a return to the departure point. A $45 ticket is
good for two consecutive runs, which take about 90 minutes
in total. Guests tend to book ahead online, although they can
also take their chances on finding an open spot when they
arrive at the resort.
Sugarloaf has three dedicated, repurposed grooming ve-hicles
that can carry ten passengers each. “We call them a
‘housecat,’ because you have your little house on the back of
it,” Butler said. “They don’t do any grooming; they do have a
plow on the front, and on the back there’s a big net to smooth
out the snow after it goes through.”
Both Panorama and Sugarloaf permit skiers to participate
at their own discretion. “They should be a strong expert skier
and the terrain is marked Black Diamond and Double Dia-mond,
so the level of skiing ability needs to match the ter-rain,”
12 January 2020 | snowopsmag.com