There’s no easier, more cost-effective way of hoovering up miles of freshies than cat skiing. Here are Jonny Richard’s favourite places for pisten-bully play
We know no other resort that offers a free cat service. And we double-checked before writing this that the Tucker Mountain/Copper Bowl rides were still going. Surely they must have stopped this. Free cat rides, in this economic environment? But thank god, they are still there! Copper, we salute your brilliant, 10am to 1.30pm daily service. No queues, no hassle, just loads to explore.
Oh, gawwwwd! We promise not to mention Pow Mtn again this season. And we do have a bit of a crush on this rugged Utah spot. But we couldn’t omit it from this list, thanks to $18 single cat rides to Lightning Ridge and access to endless steeps, trees, powder and 2000-plus feet of vert. Deserted and fantastic when we tried it last season… Plus they offer full day safaris from $250.
It’s wild here, so you get the full backcountry feel, but you’re also close enough to Fernie to hear the freight trains whistle. So once the cat’s done, you get to ski a fantastic resort. Other pluses? The area is anchored in one of the world’s top ten snowiest shred spots, the Lizard Range has amazing steeps and bowls, and you get 14 runs/15,000 feet of vert per day. Prices from $1,459 for two days’ cat, board and luxurious lodging.
Best known for helis, these guys also operate a cat on their own exclusive 1,500 acre site in the upper Girdwood valley, near Alyeska. It’s well-priced per day at $275 (Dec to Feb) and $350 for the rest of the season, and they have more powder than any other ski resort on earth (bar Washington’s Baker), averaging a monster 600-plus inches a year. The downside is that Alaska’s not the easiest (or cheapest) place to get to.
Founded in 1975, they’ve been about longer than any operator we’re aware of and pioneered cat skiing as we know it. Stay at their lodge, a half-hour cat ride from Meadow Creek, and the mighty Selkirk range is all yours. Not cheap, with three days of cat, board and lodging for $2,580, but definitely worth it with 30 square-miles to explore and endless 4,000-foot runs.
How can you resist a 10,000-acre plot that’s so juicy Tanner Hall and Seth Morrison bought in? This has to be the gnarliest Canadian option here. It’s so steep and packed with hellish features that the Red Bull Cold Rush has been held here, but if you know your stuff, like the pros that own it, nowhere’s more fulfilling. Prices from $568 per day, including meals/accommodation.
$240 gets you a day tour (starting at 8am, and including lunch and Salomon pow skis for the day) where you get to ride Independence Bowl, Keystone’s newest expert-only area. If that’s too rich for you, single cat hops are available for just $5. Don’t get too excited – they only boost you to the top of the Outback Bowl area, saving you a hike, but it’s still a cheap thrill for the price of a pint.
It may have half the average snowfall, and therefore pow, of some of the options listed here; it may lack the adventure of wild spots like the Selkirks, being tacked on to a ski area. But the plus points are pretty tempting: $275 for 9am-4pm cat skiing, with average runs of 1,500-foot vert, and 2,500 acres to explore across the San Isabel and White River National forests. If you’re skiing nearby Vail, Aspen and Breck check it out.
A bit different this one. And not only because it’s the sole southern hemisphere spot listed here. No, the real kicker is there’s a heli involved. Don’t get too amped, it only takes you from Queenstown to your all-day cat in the Remarkables range. But how can you resist such brilliantly-named mountains and 10,000-foot descents for $680? Not in the class of the likes of Selkirk Wilderness, but worth a look if you’re in NZ…
It’s easy to pick out Europe’s best cat ski operation as there is only, er, one. And Sam Baldwin, who used to write for us a few years ago, has even been. The general consensus seems to be awesome trees, nice powder, but pickled mushrooms for lunch? Not so clever. Then again, we did hear that these Balkan boys were booked up for months in advance… Prices are not confirmed, but have previously been €200 per day, including accommodation.