Who has taken a snow cat ride?

edited May 2017 in NELSAP Forum
With the snowbird thread and it got me thinking about how it would be to ride a snow cat. I know Boyne mountain offers snow cat rides for $50. I think it would be really cool to ride in one someday.


I remember at Jackson hole watching a snow cat winch its way up a super steep black trail that opens only one day a year in March I believe on Saint Patrick's day and it scared me just watching it .

My dream retirement job would be to operate a snow cat all winter for free skiing and using a large lawnmower mowing golf course in the summer for free golf.

Who has ridden in a snow cat or operated one ?
Please tell us how it was and any scary moments and if you have operated one


  • Crotched does a quick groom of the easy trails before midnight madness.  I rode along with Tim Smith, who is now running Waterville.  It's fascinating.  Lots of gadgets.  Apparently heavy equipment operators and video game players make the best drivers.  Grooming well takes a lot of experience. Knowing where you can drop a blade and where you can't takes a lot of time on the hill in the summer learning about the underlying terrain.

    Not sure where you regularly ski, but I suspect if you show up at your local area around 5AM with a box of Joe and a dozen donuts for the groomers you'd have no problem getting a ride.  

    It wasn't particularly scary, but we didn't cover any expert terrain.
  • edited May 2017
    My first time in a cat was a ride-along with the grooming crew at Stratton. There was some eerie early morning fog/cloud cover clinging to the mountain and at one point, in the middle of North American, visibility dropped to almost nothing. It also gave me my first experience with vertigo. Driver didn't care. Here's a pic from later that morning. 

    600 x 450 - 19K
  • Once the cat starts to slide on the steep stuff you'll wish you weren't in it. It takes a lot of practice to be a good operator.
  • As a kid I used to ride in the Imp at Snow Hill with my grandfather.  As a teen I was standing at the bottom of Loon one night with a friend watching the groomer and the operator offered us a ride. 

    Tucker Mountain snow cat at Copper in 2013 counts as well.
  • Back at Sugarbush we used to hook onto the tiller w/ a waterski rope and a gate key (think T-bar) and get hauled up early morning to set the race course for the day when I was at VT Adaptive. Super fun, super slow hauling gates over the shoulder.

    Then this year at Granite Gorge, got to ride along in the cat and point out what features I wanted where on the hill for the Telemark race I hosted. Such a good time!
  • I did about 5 years ago, a ride along out at the Canyons.

    Knew it was going to be a bit different when right after I climbed into the cab, the operator had me buckle into the 3 point harness on the Prinoth Beast I was riding in, and then proceeded to tell me that it's perfectly OK to put my feet up on the windshield when going down steep terrain!!!

    It was crazy also when grooming a trail called Apex Ridge off the Super Condor Pod at the Canyons (basically the trail runs along the top of a ridge line as it descends, and to show me how DARK it can be , he momentarily turned off the lights and total darkness with steep drops off either side!  That combined with explaining what the operators are trying to do to put the snow in the places it needs to be in, really had me respecting that the operator of a groomer is far more than just someone who puts the tiller down, adjusts the blade every now and then, and just makes lap after lap
  • Mount Snow used to do rides for kids.  One day after all the kids were done the driver was kind enough to allow myself and two others adults to have a ride.  It was a tight squeeze, at least one of the other adults was my girlfriend at the time.  Was quite fun, driver gave us a good ride with lots of spins/fast turns.  Also got evacuated from the bottom of North Face once, small weekday bitter cold day so not much of a crowd down there.  Hung out with liftie friend until the last load and got to ride in the front.  That ride was more mellow.  Only other ride has been Copper's snow cat that's included with the ticket.

    More kudos to Mount Snow's staff for letting my 5 year olds "help" put away the bubbles on closing day.  Got a great video of them pushing one into place.

    One other cool/very nice thing from this year.  I was up at Do-Mi-Ski in Quebec all ready for some night skiing.  Unfortunately it was crazy cold and they decided to close for the evening.  I asked the manager if he would mind if I took a walk up to ski a run (it's only a couple hundred vert). He went one better and offered a ride up on his snowmobile.  Skied down and he offered another ride.  After that one I declined the 3rd.  Didn't want to be too much of a pest and there was another ski area to hit that evening.  Awesome guy though, couldn't thank (merci) him enough!!!  Definitely made that evening a little more special.

  • at night, restaurant ride, Vail.  You take a gondy up and then they drive you to some lodge. 

    The driver was a pro, or at least seemed that way to me, I really don't know much about these units.  At one point when we were turning around at the lodge and there was another cat in the mix, I thought, oh, he can't take this monster up there....and of course he made it look as easy as driving a tricycle.  

  • edited May 2017
    I've been on a few different cat rides, but it was for skiing/recreational reasons, not for groomer operations. Took a very short ride with my wife on a little cat of some sort from top of Gondola One to 10th Restaurant at Vail. Will look for a pic. 
    Took two or three cat rides at Powder Mtn, UT to ski their side country. They pile 'em in that cat pretty tightly, but one early morning ride my son and I got it by ourselves: image

     Took my non-skiing wife for a beautiful one-hour scenic cat ride at Keystone, CO a couple years back. That cat was quite luxurious on the inside, seated about 12-15, and was laid out like the cabin of an airliner. I thought it was a pretty good deal at $30something each. That included roundtrips on the two different gondolas at Keystone. After the cat ride we ate lunch outdoors at one of their nicer on-hill restaurants, The Outpost, at 11,660', so my wife got to experience the high alpine for about 3.5 hours on a mild March day: image
  • JimK said:

    Took two or three cat rides at Powder Mtn, UT to ski their side country. They pile 'em in that cat pretty tightly, but one early morning ride my son and I got it by ourselves:

    I did that "cat" ride, but since there were only 4 of us on a very quiet day it turned into a snowmobile ride.  1 on the seat and 1 being towed.  I was a little disappointed, but the skiing was nice.
  • I've been in lots of them while working at hills. I have come to appreciate those guys who make hero snow when they can.
  • I did a ride up at Smuggler's Notch for a sunrise snowboard run. They pick you up in a modified snowcat with a large cabin made for about 10 people. In the cabin were other visitiors and the head snow reporter: Hugh. He is a very knowledgable and gave me the pointer that they groomed a black diamond that rarely gets touched by the cats, which provided one of the better moments of riding at Smuggs. Steep and good corduroy. 
  • Used to be taken up when on wind hold on the back of a groomer outside. Used to ski jore behind SUS-V's in the Guard. 
    "Making ski films is being irresponsible with other people's money, in a responsible sort of way..." 
    Greg Stump
  • edited May 2017
    I've taken a couple short rides around the base at Jay & maybe Sunday R, with the kids apres skiing. I got a ride in a Thiokol Imp at Mt Greylock to make a couple grooming passes. Even that made me a tad nervous coming down or going besides trees. See pics at bottom of post here. https://www.snowjournal.com/discussion/917/most-vertical-rope-tow-only-areas     Aww, I just did a Google Image searh of Greylock Thiokol Imp and my SJ pics show up, as do JD's.
    ISNE-I Skied New England | NESAP-the New England Ski Area Project | SOSA-Saving Our Ski Areas - Location SW of Boston MA
  • newman said:

    I've been in lots of them while working at hills. I have come to appreciate those guys who make hero snow when they can.

    I figured we had a few snow cat operators here curious to know what was the old oldest snow cat your operated and also the newest ,perhaps an old Tucker and perhaps a new Bomby
    And the scary moments that you can share

    Ski_it, thanks for rekindling fine pictured memories, like the old Thiokol at Greylock

    Yes all cat rides qualify, grooming, to top of skiable terrain, sightseeing, whatever.

    Thanks for all the output
  • Does the Mt Washington Snow Coach count? A van with rubber band wheels. Not scary the day I went .
    ISNE-I Skied New England | NESAP-the New England Ski Area Project | SOSA-Saving Our Ski Areas - Location SW of Boston MA
  • I took a few rides in the back of a Tucker Sno-Cat at Mt.  Abram.  All but one was as a ski patroller with an injured skier.  The exception was that otherworldly day in February 1969, when Stuart Cross put four of us in the back of a Cat and took us up to the top of where the T-bars were half-buried.  (It's now the Maine T-bar.)  We were young yahoos, and we were all too glad to spend an 90 minutes shovelling the T-bar track in exchange for free skiing in the most amazing powder that your ol' lizard ever skied.  That was the 4-foot blizzard that came 5 days after the 3-foot blizzard.

    I posted a more detailed report sometime back along.  Might be on Snowjournal 1.0 though.
  • Twice in the back of a Tucker Sno-Cat up to the summit of Mt. Washington - on a trip recounted in this  forum a little while back, and once in a luxurious groomer with a heater, cushioned seats, a radio and, I think, cassette player, on Mt. Wachusett for late-season work with a driver who wanted some company. Pretty comfortable at  Wachusett. Not so much on Mt. Washington.
  • I rode in at cat at Sugarloaf a couple times, in the same day to access the #3 t bar on a freezing cold, wind hold day. Crammed into the back with a bunch of people. Coldest day I ever skied at something like -80 wind chill. Also rode one at Eagle Point, Utah, all alone, to access some side country terrain a few years back.
  • ,perhaps an old Tucker and perhaps a new Bomby
    Bombardier has been out of the game for about 10 years. That's about the time Prinoth got big on the scene.
  • ski_it said:

    Does the Mt Washington Snow Coach count? A van with rubber band wheels. Not scary the day I went .

    There's another case where at first I thought it was pretty lame, and then later in the ride I could feel some "wheel" slip and the lady driving handled it with terrific skill, was very impressed.  

    Given the choice between driving that contraption and a snow cat, I'd take the snow cat in a heartbeat!

  • Many years ago, when I was working at Otis Ridge and just getting my career going, I asked the groomer, Arthur, if I could go along with him to see how he does his job.  They had an old Thiokol with the manual, two-handed steering.  We walk out to the Cat and as I start to get in the passenger seat he says, "Hold on.  Get in the other side".  So my first Cat "ride" was learning to drive the thing while pulling a roller around the trails under Arthur's guidance.  One of those things that makes this such a cool job.
  • Many times...downhill on steeps is very disconcerting, for sure. Love the power, though, when plowing snowmaking piles.
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