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The World Of Cat Skiing: A Different Kind Of Adventure


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Arlina Lowder



Are you tired of crowded ski resorts and endless lift lines? Are you craving a unique and exhilarating adventure in the snowy wilderness? If so, it’s time to discover the world of cat skiing. Cat skiing offers an alternative to traditional downhill skiing, providing a one-of-a-kind experience that combines the thrill of off-piste skiing with the convenience of a guided tour.


Imagine yourself nestled in the backcountry, surrounded by untouched powder and breathtaking landscapes. Instead of waiting in line for chairlifts, you’ll be transported to the top of each run in a snowcat – a specialized, all-terrain vehicle designed to navigate through snow-covered terrain. This means more time enjoying the slopes and less time waiting.


But what exactly is cat skiing and how did it come to be? In this article, we’ll dive into the fascinating history of cat skiing, explore the advantages it offers, and guide you through what to expect on a cat skiing adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned skier or a novice looking for a thrilling winter getaway, cat skiing is an adventure you’ll never forget.


What is Cat Skiing?

Cat skiing is a form of backcountry skiing that involves using a snowcat, a large tracked vehicle, to transport skiers and snowboarders to the top of remote and pristine slopes. Unlike traditional ski resorts, cat skiing takes place in untouched backcountry terrain, away from the crowds and groomed runs.


One of the key features of cat skiing is the focus on untracked powder. While resorts often groom their slopes to provide a consistent skiing experience, cat skiing operates in natural snow conditions, allowing skiers to experience the thrill of floating on fresh, untouched powder.


Typically, a cat skiing operation will have access to vast areas of backcountry terrain, often spanning thousands of acres. These areas are carefully chosen for their diverse terrain, offering everything from wide-open bowls to steep chutes and gladed tree skiing. This variety ensures that skiers of all skill levels can find runs that cater to their abilities and preferences.


Unlike heli-skiing, cat skiing is more accessible and affordable for a wider range of skiers. While heli-skiing requires a helicopter to transport skiers to remote locations, cat skiing relies on a snowcat, making it a more cost-effective option. Additionally, cat skiing allows for multiple runs throughout the day, maximizing your time on the slopes and minimizing downtime.


Overall, cat skiing provides an immersive and exhilarating skiing experience for those seeking a more adventurous and off-piste skiing experience. It allows skiers to explore untouched terrain, revel in deep powder, and enjoy the tranquility of the backcountry, far away from the hustle and bustle of crowded ski resorts.


The History of Cat Skiing

The origins of cat skiing can be traced back to the late 1960s in British Columbia, Canada. It was here that a group of adventurous skiers began utilizing snowcats to access backcountry terrain that was otherwise inaccessible by traditional means.


The pioneers of cat skiing saw the potential in exploring the vast and untamed slopes beyond the boundaries of ski resorts. They recognized that by using snowcats, they could reach remote areas, untouched by grooming machines or ski lifts, and experience the joy of skiing on pristine powder.


One of the first cat skiing operations in North America was established in the Selkirk Mountains of British Columbia by a man named Allan Drury. In 1975, Drury founded Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, offering guided cat skiing adventures in the picturesque mountains near Revelstoke.


As the popularity of cat skiing grew, more operators began to spring up across North America, offering skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to experience the thrill of backcountry skiing. Today, there are numerous cat skiing operations in various mountain ranges around the world, including Canada, the United States, New Zealand, and Europe.


The evolution of cat skiing has also brought about advancements in snowcat technology. Modern snowcats are specifically designed to handle challenging terrain and provide a comfortable and safe transport experience for guests. These powerful machines can navigate through deep snow, ensuring that skiers can access even the most remote and inaccessible slopes.


Over the years, cat skiing has garnered a loyal following of adventure enthusiasts and powder seekers. It has become a sought-after experience for those who crave the thrill of exploring untouched terrain and enjoying an intimate connection with nature.


As cat skiing continues to evolve, it remains an integral part of the skiing and snowboarding community, offering a unique and unforgettable backcountry adventure for those who are willing to seek it out.


Advantages of Cat Skiing

Cat skiing offers a range of advantages that set it apart from traditional resort skiing. Whether you’re an experienced skier looking for a change of pace or a beginner seeking a unique adventure, cat skiing has something to offer. Here are some key advantages of cat skiing:

  • Untouched Powder: Cat skiing allows you to experience the thrill of skiing or snowboarding on untouched powder. Instead of navigating crowded resort slopes, you’ll have the opportunity to carve your own tracks in pristine snow.
  • Less Crowds: If you’ve ever been frustrated by long lift lines and crowded slopes, cat skiing provides a welcome escape. By venturing into the backcountry, you can enjoy the serenity and solitude of the mountains without the hustle and bustle of a traditional ski resort.
  • Varied Terrain: Cat skiing takes place in vast areas of backcountry terrain, offering a diverse range of slopes to suit all skill levels. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you can find runs that cater to your abilities and preferences. From wide-open bowls to steep chutes and gladed tree skiing, cat skiing provides a playground for exploration.
  • More Runs, Less Waiting: With cat skiing, you’ll enjoy more time on the slopes and less time waiting for lifts. Snowcats transport you directly to the top of each run, allowing for quick and efficient access to the best terrain. This means you can maximize your skiing or snowboarding time and conquer multiple runs throughout the day.
  • Exclusive Experience: Cat skiing offers an exclusive experience that allows you to connect with nature and appreciate the beauty of the backcountry. You’ll have the opportunity to explore remote and pristine areas that are inaccessible to most skiers, creating memories that will last a lifetime.
  • Guided Adventure: Cat skiing is typically guided, ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience. Experienced guides are familiar with the terrain, snow conditions, and weather patterns, providing insights and enhancing your adventure. They prioritize safety and make sure you have an unforgettable journey.

These advantages combined make cat skiing an enticing option for anyone seeking a unique and exhilarating skiing experience. So, if you’re ready to venture off the beaten path and immerse yourself in the beauty of the backcountry, cat skiing is undoubtedly worth considering.


How Cat Skiing Works

Curious about how cat skiing operates? Let’s dive into the details of how this thrilling adventure unfolds:


1. Booking: To start your cat skiing adventure, you’ll need to book a trip with a reputable cat skiing operation. Research different operators, considering factors such as location, terrain, snow conditions, and experience level.


2. Transportation: Once you arrive at the cat skiing base lodge or meeting point, you’ll be transported to the starting point of your adventure. This may involve a short ride in a shuttle bus or a snowcat to access the remote cat skiing area.


3. Gearing up: At the starting point, you’ll be provided with necessary safety equipment, including avalanche safety gear such as a beacon, shovel, and probe. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the operation of these tools to ensure your safety.


4. Orientation and Safety Briefing: Before hitting the slopes, your guides will provide an orientation and safety briefing. They will go over important details such as group dynamics, emergency procedures, and proper skiing techniques for backcountry conditions.


5. Snowcat Access: Once everyone is ready, you’ll board the snowcat, which will serve as your mobile base camp and transportation to the top of each run. The heated and comfortable snowcat will take you to the starting point of your first run.


6. The Runs: When you reach the starting point, the guides will point out the best line and give you a brief overview of the run’s features. You’ll then have the exhilarating opportunity to ski or snowboard down pristine powder, enjoying the freedom and serenity of the backcountry.


7. Riding the Snowcat: After completing a run, you’ll gather at a designated meeting point where the snowcat will be waiting to transport you back to the top. During the ride, you can take a break, hydrate, and relax while reveling in the stunning mountain scenery.


8. Repeat: You’ll continue this process throughout the day, exploring different runs and enjoying the thrill of untouched powder. The number of runs will depend on various factors such as the terrain, weather conditions, and the specific cat skiing package you booked.


9. End of the Day: At the end of the day, the snowcat will transport you back to the base lodge or meeting point, concluding your cat skiing adventure. Take a moment to reflect on the incredible experience and share stories with fellow skiers.


It’s important to note that cat skiing trips can vary in duration, ranging from a single day to multi-day excursions. Overnight trips often include accommodations in remote mountain lodges, allowing you to experience the backcountry wilderness even more deeply.


Now that you know how cat skiing works, it’s time to get prepared and embark on an unforgettable journey through untouched powder and breathtaking landscapes.


Choosing the Right Cat Skiing Operation

When it comes to cat skiing, choosing the right operation is crucial to ensure a safe and enjoyable adventure. Here are some key factors to consider when selecting a cat skiing operation:

  • Reputation and Experience: Research the reputation and experience of the cat skiing operation. Look for reviews and testimonials from previous guests to get an idea of their level of professionalism, safety standards, and quality of the skiing experience.
  • Location and Terrain: Consider the location and terrain of the cat skiing operation. Look for an area that offers diverse and challenging terrain, suitable for your skill level and preferences. Whether you prefer open bowls, tree skiing, or steep chutes, choose an operation that aligns with your skiing style.
  • Group Size: Find out the typical group size of the cat skiing operation. Smaller groups often provide a more personalized and intimate experience, allowing for more runs and individualized attention from the guides.
  • Guide Expertise: Look for cat skiing operations that employ experienced and qualified guides. They should have extensive knowledge of the area, avalanche safety, and first aid. Professional guides enhance the overall safety and adventure of your cat skiing experience.
  • Safety Measures: Inquire about the safety measures taken by the cat skiing operation. They should have robust safety protocols in place, including avalanche safety training, regular equipment maintenance, and emergency response plans.
  • Services and Amenities: Consider the services and amenities provided by the cat skiing operation. This may include transportation to and from the meeting point, equipment rentals, meals or snacks, and accommodation options if you opt for a multi-day trip.
  • Price: While cost should not be the sole determining factor, it is an important consideration. Compare the prices of different cat skiing operations and consider the value for what is offered, including the number of runs, group size, amenities, and overall experience.

Take the time to research and inquire about these factors before making your decision. It’s also beneficial to reach out to the cat skiing operation directly to ask any questions or clarify any concerns you may have.


Ultimately, choose a cat skiing operation that aligns with your skiing abilities, provides a safe and enriching experience, and offers the terrain and services that will make your cat skiing adventure unforgettable.


Safety Considerations in Cat Skiing

Safety is paramount in any outdoor adventure, and cat skiing is no exception. Before embarking on a cat skiing trip, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks and take necessary precautions. Here are some key safety considerations to keep in mind:

  • Avalanche Safety: Cat skiing takes place in natural, uncontrolled terrain, which means there is always a risk of avalanches. It is essential to have proper knowledge of avalanche safety, including understanding how to use avalanche beacons, shovels, and probes. Consider taking an avalanche safety course before your trip.
  • Qualified Guides: Choose a cat skiing operation that employs qualified and experienced guides. They should have extensive knowledge of the area, avalanche safety, and first aid. The expertise of guides plays a pivotal role in ensuring your safety and enjoyment during the cat skiing experience.
  • Equipment: Make sure you have the appropriate equipment for cat skiing. This includes a helmet, avalanche safety gear (beacon, shovel, probe), and well-maintained skiing or snowboarding equipment. It’s crucial to check that your gear is in good condition and fits properly.
  • Weather and Snow Conditions: Keep an eye on weather and snow conditions before and during your cat skiing trip. Be aware of any warnings or advisories for the area, and pay attention to changing conditions. Cat skiing operators have protocols in place to assess and mitigate risks associated with varying snow conditions.
  • Communication: Establish clear communication with your fellow skiers, guides, and operator staff. Familiarize yourself with the communication protocols, such as meeting points, radio channels or frequencies, and emergency procedures. Clear communication ensures that everyone stays informed and connected throughout the day.
  • Physical Fitness: Cat skiing involves skiing or snowboarding in challenging terrain. Ensure that you are physically fit and capable of handling the demands of the activity. Pay attention to your energy levels and communicate any fatigue or physical limitations to your guides.
  • Follow Instructions: Listen to and follow the instructions given by your guides. They have your safety in mind and will provide guidance on the best routes, safe zones, and any other important information. Cooperate with their instructions to ensure a safe and enjoyable cat skiing experience.

Remember, these are general safety considerations, and it’s vital to follow the specific instructions and guidelines provided by the cat skiing operation you choose. If you have any concerns or questions about safety, don’t hesitate to discuss them with the cat skiing operator before your trip.


By staying informed, taking necessary precautions, and being vigilant on the slopes, you can mitigate risks and fully enjoy the exhilaration of cat skiing in a safe and responsible manner.


The Gear You’ll Need for Cat Skiing

When preparing for a cat skiing adventure, it’s essential to have the right gear to ensure your safety, comfort, and enjoyment on the slopes. Here is a list of the gear you’ll need for your cat skiing trip:

  • Ski or Snowboard Equipment: Bring your own skis or snowboard, boots, and bindings. Make sure they are in good condition, properly fitted, and suitable for the type of terrain you’ll be skiing.
  • Helmet: Wearing a helmet is highly recommended for cat skiing. It provides protection and safety in case of falls or accidents on the slopes.
  • Avalanche Safety Equipment: Cat skiing often takes place in backcountry areas where there is a risk of avalanches. Essential avalanche safety gear includes an avalanche beacon (transceiver), shovel, and probe. Make sure you know how to use these tools properly and practice with them before your trip.
  • Outerwear: Choose waterproof and breathable ski/snowboard pants and jacket to keep you dry and comfortable in snowy conditions. Look for garments with insulation to keep you warm, but ensure they are not too heavy or restrictive for active skiing.
  • Layering: Dress in layers to regulate your body temperature. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer, add insulating mid-layers, and top it off with a waterproof and windproof outer layer. Don’t forget warm socks and thermal undergarments.
  • Gloves or Mittens: Opt for waterproof and insulated gloves or mittens to protect your hands from the cold and wet elements. Consider having extra pairs in case they get wet or you need to change for different conditions.
  • Goggles or Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from sunlight, snow glare, and wind by wearing ski goggles or sunglasses with UV protection. Choose lenses appropriate for different light conditions.
  • Neck Gaiter or Balaclava: Keep your face and neck warm with a neck gaiter or balaclava. It provides protection from wind and cold temperatures, especially during high-speed descents.
  • Backpack: Bring a small backpack to carry essentials like water, snacks, spare gloves, sunscreen, and any personal items you may need during the day.
  • Sunscreen and Lip Balm: Protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays and prevent chapped lips by applying sunscreen and lip balm with SPF before heading out.
  • Personal Items: Carry your ID, health insurance information, and any necessary medications or medical supplies in case of emergencies.

It’s worth noting that some cat skiing operations may provide certain equipment, such as avalanche safety gear, as part of their package. However, it’s always best to check with the operator ahead of time to ensure you have all the necessary gear.


Remember, cat skiing takes place in remote and challenging terrain, so having the right gear is crucial for your safety and enjoyment. Plan and prepare accordingly to make the most of your cat skiing adventure.


What to Expect on a Cat Skiing Trip

Embarking on a cat skiing trip is an exciting and unique adventure that will immerse you in the beauty of the backcountry. Here are some things to expect during your cat skiing trip:

  • Remote and Pristine Locations: Cat skiing takes place in remote and untouched backcountry locations, away from crowded ski resorts. Expect to be surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, vast snowy terrain, and a peaceful serenity that is hard to find elsewhere.
  • Off-Piste Skiing: Unlike groomed resort slopes, cat skiing offers off-piste skiing on natural, untracked powder. Brace yourself for the thrill of weaving through trees, making fresh tracks, and experiencing the exhilarating sensation of floating on untouched snow.
  • Multiple Runs: Throughout the day, you can expect to experience multiple runs on different slopes. After reaching the top of a run in the snowcat, you’ll drop into untracked terrain, carve your way down, and then gather at a designated meeting point for the next run.
  • Expert Guiding: Professional guides will lead your cat skiing adventure. They will navigate through the backcountry, choose the best runs based on snow conditions and skill levels, and provide insights and tips to enhance your experience. Follow their instructions and guidelines for a safe and enjoyable trip.
  • Challenging and Varied Terrain: Cat skiing provides access to diverse and challenging terrain, catering to different skill levels. Expect to encounter steep chutes, open bowls, gladed tree skiing, and more. The varying terrain ensures that every run brings a different and exciting experience.
  • Limited Group Size: Most cat skiing operations limit the group size to ensure a personalized and intimate experience. This allows for more runs, individual attention from the guides, and a sense of camaraderie among fellow skiers.
  • Snowcat Rides: Traveling in a spacious and heated snowcat is part of the cat skiing experience. Enjoy the comfortable ride as you ascend to the top of each run, taking in the stunning views and sharing stories with your fellow adventurers.
  • Backcountry Safety: Cat skiing takes place in a natural and uncontrolled environment, so safety is a priority. Be prepared to receive safety instructions, learn about avalanche awareness and procedures, and use avalanche safety gear. It’s essential to follow the guidance of your guides and prioritize safety at all times.
  • Mother Nature is in Charge: Keep in mind that weather and snow conditions can greatly impact cat skiing. Be ready for potential changes in plans or itinerary due to safety concerns or unfavorable conditions. Flexibility and adaptability are key to making the most of your trip.

Overall, a cat skiing trip promises an unforgettable adventure filled with breathtaking landscapes, adrenaline-pumping descents, and a deep connection with the natural world. Embrace the unique experience and savor the thrill of exploring the backcountry in a way that few get to experience.


Tips for a Successful Cat Skiing Adventure

Preparing for a cat skiing adventure involves more than packing the right gear. Here are some valuable tips to ensure a successful and memorable cat skiing experience:

  • Stay Fit and Ski Ready: Cat skiing can be physically demanding, so make sure you are in good shape and have been skiing or snowboarding prior to your trip. Engage in regular exercise and prepare your body for the challenges of skiing in backcountry terrain.
  • Be Familiar with Your Gear: Practice using your avalanche safety equipment, such as your beacon, shovel, and probe, before your trip. Familiarize yourself with its operation to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in case of an emergency.
  • Dress in Layers: Layering is key to staying comfortable on the slopes. Dress in moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof and windproof outer layer. This allows you to adjust your clothing based on changes in temperature and activity level.
  • Listen to Your Guides: Pay close attention to the instructions and guidance provided by your guides. They have extensive knowledge of the area and will ensure your safety. Listen carefully to their advice on skiing techniques, terrain selection, and safety protocols.
  • Practice Good Etiquette: Be mindful of your fellow skiers and maintain good etiquette on the slopes. Practice safe skiing practices, communicate effectively, and give others plenty of space. Remember, you are sharing the experience with a group, so respect and consideration are key.
  • Stay Hydrated and Fuel Up: It’s important to stay hydrated and well-nourished during your cat skiing adventure. Pack water and snacks in your backpack, and make use of breaks between runs to refuel and rehydrate. Keeping your energy levels up will enhance your performance and overall experience.
  • Be Mindful of Avalanche Safety: As cat skiing takes place in backcountry areas, being aware of avalanche safety is critical. Follow the instructions of your guides, stay within the designated boundaries, and avoid risky terrain. Be prepared to participate in safety briefings and understand the importance of proper technique and equipment.
  • Embrace the Backcountry Experience: Cat skiing offers a unique opportunity to explore the untouched beauty of the backcountry. Embrace the natural surroundings, take in the stunning landscapes, and savor the quiet and serenity that comes with being away from the crowded resorts.
  • Have a Positive Attitude: Approaching your cat skiing adventure with a positive attitude can make a significant difference. Be open to new experiences, challenges, and the unpredictability of the weather and snow conditions. Maintain a flexible mindset and find joy in the adventure.

By following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to make the most of your cat skiing adventure. Remember to have fun, stay safe, and create lasting memories as you explore the backcountry slopes and carve your way through untouched powder.


Cat Skiing Destinations Around the World

While cat skiing originated in British Columbia, Canada, it has since spread to various mountain ranges around the world. Here are some incredible cat skiing destinations that offer unique backcountry experiences:

  • British Columbia, Canada: Known as the birthplace of cat skiing, British Columbia offers a plethora of cat skiing opportunities. Revelstoke, Whistler, and the Selkirk and Monashee Mountains are renowned for their epic snow conditions and diverse terrain.
  • Colorado, United States: Colorado is home to several cat skiing operations that provide access to the state’s legendary snow and magnificent backcountry. The San Juan Mountains and the Elk Mountains, including areas near Silverton, Crested Butte, and Vail, offer thrilling cat skiing experiences.
  • Utah, United States: Utah’s famous powder and stunning mountain ranges make it another great destination for cat skiing. The Uinta Mountains and the Wasatch Mountains, including areas near Park City, Salt Lake City, and Snowbird, attract skiers and snowboarders seeking an off-piste adventure.
  • Alaska, United States: For those seeking an ultimate bucket-list cat skiing destination, look no further than Alaska. The Chugach Mountains offer unparalleled opportunities for cat skiing with massive snowfalls, steep terrain, and breathtaking views.
  • Banff and Jasper National Parks, Canada: Alberta’s iconic national parks, Banff and Jasper, provide cat skiing adventures amidst rugged and stunning landscapes. Skiers can indulge in the beauty of the Canadian Rockies while exploring endless backcountry options.
  • Switzerland: Switzerland is renowned for its world-class skiing, and cat skiing is no exception. The Swiss Alps offer breathtaking scenery, abundant powder, and a range of cat skiing options, particularly in areas such as Engelberg, Andermatt, and Davos-Klosters.
  • Chile and Argentina: In the Southern Hemisphere, cat skiing is popular in the Andes Mountains of Chile and Argentina. Ski enthusiasts can enjoy incredible snow conditions during their summer months, exploring the stunning backcountry near iconic ski resorts like Cerro Catedral and Valle Nevado.
  • New Zealand: New Zealand’s South Island boasts remarkable cat skiing experiences in the Southern Alps. Areas such as Wanaka, Queenstown, and Mount Cook offer opportunities to ski untouched snow and take in the breathtaking views of the rugged mountain ranges and deep valleys.

These destinations are just a glimpse of the countless cat skiing experiences available worldwide. Each location offers its unique blend of snow conditions, terrain, and cultural experiences, making cat skiing an adventurous and fulfilling activity for winter sports enthusiasts.


Remember to research and choose a reputable cat skiing operation in your chosen destination to ensure a safe and unforgettable backcountry adventure.



Cat skiing opens up a world of adventure and exploration, away from the crowded slopes of traditional ski resorts. It offers the thrill of skiing or snowboarding on untouched powder, the serenity of the backcountry, and the opportunity to connect with nature in a truly unique way. From the remote mountains of British Columbia to the vast terrain in the United States, Switzerland, and beyond, cat skiing destinations around the world offer breathtaking landscapes and diverse skiing experiences.


Whether you’re an experienced skier seeking a new challenge or a beginner looking for an unforgettable winter adventure, cat skiing provides an extraordinary journey through untouched snow. The advantages of cat skiing, such as limited crowds, varied terrain, and the convenience of multiple runs, make it an appealing option for those seeking a different kind of ski vacation.


However, it’s important to prioritize safety in the backcountry. Understanding avalanche awareness, having the right equipment, and following the guidance of qualified guides are essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable cat skiing experience.


With the right preparation, gear, and mindset, cat skiing offers an unparalleled opportunity to embrace the natural beauty of the backcountry, carve your path through fresh powder, and create lasting memories. So, set aside the traditional ski resorts and embark on a cat skiing adventure that will leave you with a newfound love for the untouched and untamed slopes of the world.