Deep powder, open bowls: Back country snowcat fun in Utah

Newsroom Best Of Topics Deep powder, open bowls: Back country snowcat fun in Utah


Getting first tracks on fresh corduroy is a satisfying feeling, but it’s fluffy powder that skiers really dream about. Yes, those deep, untouched stashes that make the most dedicated souls get up and out the door in the wee hours, when everyone else is enjoying another hour of sleep, before getting ready for the day. The Utah backcountry beckons with guaranteed powder turns (even well after a storm), great views, no crowds or lift lines, and varied terrain options.

While there are several ways to get into the backcountry, a cat-ski trip gets you maximum untracked runs with minimal hiking, and it’s not as big a hit to your wallet as heli-skiing. Go alone, bring your friends along, or add a guide for the best local knowledge, and load up in a cozy snowcat with the heater cranked and stereo booming. You’ll have the best experience using powder skis and snowboards.

Here are some of the best options for Utah back country exploration via snowcat.

Utah back country
Get the backcountry experience in Utah this winter. The snowcat is your lift. Credit: Evan Thayer

Park City Powder Cats

With 43,000 acres to play on, the Uinta Mountains of the Thousand Peaks Ranch (a privately owned sheep ranch in summer) turn into a dream-come-true for powder hounds in winter. Just 35 miles from Park City, Utah, the territory here includes four open bowls — Giant Steps, Four Eagle, No Name, and M&M — chutes, glades, cliff drops, and nearly perfect tree skiing. With cat rides taking only from 5-10 minutes each, you’ll have hours of fast laps (with 800–2,000 feet of vertical per run) and plenty of time to enjoy the wealth of what’s out there.

After a day of sweet skiing with Park City Powder Cats, that après beverage and hot tub are especially rewarding. Oh, and breakfast, lunch, snacks and avalanche beacons are provided. While you may want to bring your phone alone to take photos, there’s no cell service out here, so save the posting for later.

You’ll need to arrive at the Cats’ Thousand Peaks Cabin by 8:30 a.m. You be taking the first run by 9:45 and back at the cabin by 4 p.m. Breakfast is provided. You can grab any one of a number of local transportation outlets and not bother to drive.

Full Utah Ski Trip Guide

Powder Mountain Cat Skiing

With affordable and flexible cat-skiing options, Powder Mountain has quietly established itself as one of the premier cat skiing resorts in the country. Considering that Pow Mow has more than 8,464 acres, the most space of any ski resort in the United States, you’ll want to get out beyond the groomers to truly experience it. Unguided snowcat rides head to the top of Lightning Ridge and Cobabe Canyon, and you can get on with a punch pass, or add-on fees per ride with a lift or season pass. But because it’s not your private snowcat, sometimes you have to wait in line.

Another option is to head out for the day with a guide and up to 11 fellow powder seekers to access more than 3,000 acres of backcountry terrain, including untracked bowls, glades, and chutes. Lunch and avalanche equipment are provided. (Read: Another Day in Powadise: Cat driver Kevin Irons takes skiers to magical powder stashes.)

Last season, in partnership with Whisper Ridge, Powder Mountain began offering guided snowcat expeditions accessing more than 70,000 acres of Whisper Ridge’s privately owned backcountry, with 60 seats available daily (depending on conditions). Breakfast, lunch, and snacks are provided.

Powder Mountain cats
Powder Mt. cat skiing is a true backcountry experience. Credit: Austen Diamond

Snowbird Snowcat Skiing for Nature

Duck into Snowbird Resort’s private property south and east of the resort for a half-day of guided backcountry snowcat skiing. Want to add on more? Consider a private or custom snowcat tour, so you can make the ski day of your dreams. Snowbird Mountain Guides take guests through upper American Fork Canyon, including Sinner’s Pass, the north-facing slopes of Pagan Basin, and Borussia in Mineral Basin, rolling terrain and aspen trees of Miller Hill, and majestic Mary Ellen Gulch.

Proceeds from Snowbird’s snowcat skiing benefit the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation and the Wasatch Water Legacy Partnership, working with volunteers to improve the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest and Salt Lake City’s drinking water. Breakfast at The Forklift restaurant and avalanche transceivers are included.

Snowbird's mountain guides
Dip into the fabulous backcountry at Snowbird, Utah with their Mountain Guides. Credit: Austen Diamond

Whisper Ridge

Just an hour from Salt Lake City, there are more than 70,000 acres of powdery goods and old-growth glades accessed by snowcat on a customized, personalized experience at Whisper Ridge, the largest private backcountry ski resort in the world. A typical day delivers 8–10 cat laps and averages more than 10,000 vertical feet of untracked powder before guests take a memorable ride out with sunset views of the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake.

A day pass includes gourmet breakfast, lunch, après-ski, and dinner. Make it a multi-day adventure with a package that includes staying in the luxe yurt village with queen-size beds, warm pellet stoves, private suites, wood-fired hot tubs, stand-alone bathrooms, and dining yurt. With an additional base of operations at Powder Mountain, Whisper Ridge has facilitated access to its private land, which borders the public resort — so dedicated powder hounds can combine experiences.

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