Snowcat Skiing: Skip the Lift Lines and Experience the Beauty of Untouched Powder in the Backcountry 

Looking for a stash of untouched steep and deeps in the backcountry? Those covetable first tracks typically mean waking up early to snag a spot in the lift line on a powder day, "earning your turns" with uphill skiing at the resort, or hitting the backcountry to skin on Berthoud Pass. We're lucky enough to have another option right in our backyard: skip the lines and hikes and hop in a snowcat instead! Snowcats easily blaze trails and traverse harsh terrain, so what better way is there to reach those backcountry gold mines of pristine snow? "Cat skiing" even has a leg up on heli skiing. Those epic winter storms that powder day dreams are made of can keep helicopters on the ground, but snowcats can safely operate in all kinds of weather. Hitch a ride to the top with an experienced guide who will point you toward the best lines and a descent that is sure to leave you smiling for days. Then meet the snowcat at the bottom to hop in, warm up, refuel, and adjust your layers while the cat traverses the steep climb back up the mountain. 

Two cat skiing operations serve the Winter Park area: Jones Pass Guides and Devil's Thumb Ranch CATSKI Backcountry Experience


A quick drive over Berthoud Pass from Winter Park, Jones Pass Guides bases out of Empire. Guests meet at up at the Jones Pass basecamp in downtown Empire to check out gear and get a brief orientation for the day's adventure. Should you need a set up, high-end demos including DPS, RMU, Black Crows, and Liberty skis and Never Summer snowboards are complimentary with your seat on the cat. You'll also be equipped with safety gear: all guests are set up with beacons, shovels, and probes. From basecamp, shuttle up about nine miles to the trailhead on the Jones Pass bus. 

Terrain ranges in elevation from 10,500’ to 12,500’ with steep, technical pitches. If you can ski expert runs at developed resorts, you're ready to jump in with Jones Pass Guides. Be ready to take 8-12 runs with plenty of vertical. And you're in good hands - guides are highly trained in backcountry safety, and the guest-to-guide ratio is 4:1. 

Jones Pass Guides has a permit to operate 2,600 acres. The terrain they access has solid northern exposure that keeps the snow cold and lightTheir season typically runs December 20-April 20 but is dependent on conditions. With these year's late snow, they kicked off operations on January 22.

High alpine bowls, gladed meadows, rock bands, and open chutes are ready for you on a guided trip on Jones Pass. A hearty lunch from Rudi's Deli gives you sustenance for your last few runs, and complimentary beers from Steamworks Brewery will be ready for you at the end of the day! And if you want to document the ride, photographers are available for hire. They really have all your bases covered. 

Single seats on a snowcat start at $675 per day. You can book a private tour for as few as two people and as many as 21. Private tours range from $3,900-11,300 per day.

Should you book a cat skiing adventure with Jones Pass Guides, be sure to bring layers - conditions can change as the day progresses! 


Devil's Thumb Ranch recently announced their cat skiing operations. Only available to guests at the Ranch (or homeowners in The Ranches!), this exclusive opportunity to access backcountry terrain is ideal for intermediate and advanced skiers looking to skip the crowds and have a private ski mountain to themselves.  

Whether you're a backcountry enthusiast or a family looking to experience a pampered half-day of guided skiing, the crew at Devil's Thumb tailors the experience and terrain to suit the needs of each group. With over a dozen distinct drop ins and varying pitches, each lap will be unique. Safety gear is provided to all guests, and backcountry ski and board rentals are included should you need them. 

Each tour runs for four hours, starting with a scenic 20-minute ride to the backcountry access point. Guests can warm up in the warming yurt if they want to take a break, and a delicious ranch-cooked meal is provided in the yurt for lunch. Operating February to close, the cat skiing experience at Devil's Thumb is available for skiers 12 and above with a maximum of 8 people per tour. The cost for the half day adventure is $450 per person. 


If just reading about cat skiing gets your adrenaline pumping, you made just be made to live in the mountains! If you're ready to start the adventure of investing in real estate here in Grand County, we're here for you! Reach out with any questions you have, schedule a buyer's consultation, or simply get set up on listing alerts so you can stay on the pulse with what's on the market.  

Posted by Angela McDonough (Sandstrom) on


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