Intro - Best Catboarding Destinations
Backcountry guru Andy Malton from thegemsstock has used his superior knowledge of the track-less-well-trodden to compile some of his favourite Catboarding destinations - read on for the full list:
Way cheaper than heliboarding, but not as time consuming or physically demanding as splitboarding, catboarding is a great way to ride un-tracked powder in the backcountry.
Catboarding operations vary between those offering a day-long powder fix to the big lodge experience deep in the mountains, with 5 star food and a fully stocked bar to match. Either way, the feeling of slowly ascending to the start of a run with your buddies in the back of the snowcat, before shredding untracked pow back down to the waiting cat, then doing it all again, is something all snowboarders are going to enjoy.
Catboarding originated in the mountains of BC and its popularity is now spreading to other areas. Unlike heliboarding, catboarding is possible whatever the weather, so anyone booking on a catboarding trip can be safe in knowledge that they will ride far more pow than would usually be possible during an average resort based snowboarding trip.
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Chatter Creek, BC, Canada
One of BC’s big hitters, Chatter Creek offer a premium snowcat experience and are one of the longest running operations in the business. Their lodge is located deep in the mountains to the north east of Revelstoke on the western upslope of the Rockies, an area that’s known for its mega snowfalls. They have a nice combination of the awesome tree riding and deep snow that you’d expect in BC, along with some pretty full on high alpine terrain that offers big lines when the sun is out and the snow conditions are stable. You need to get in there nice and early though as Chatter Creek is often booked up a full season in advance.
Baldface Lodge, BC, Canada
There are more catboarding operations in British Columbia than anywhere else and Baldface Lodge is right up there with the best of them. Nestled in the Selkirk Mountains above the hippy town of Nelson, Baldface has a special place within snowboard culture having hosted the Red Bull/Travis Rice Super and Ultra Natural events in 2012 and 2013. There is also a memorial cross to mark the passing of snowboard legend Craig Kelly on the hill above the lodge. Baldface has 32,000 acres of prime Kootenay terrain smothered in metres of cold, dry powder.
Chugach Powder Guides, Alyeska, AK
Alyeska is one of the only proper resorts in Alaska and a 45 minute drive outside the city of Anchorage. Chugach Powder Guides run a cat and heliboarding set up in the mountains surrounding the resort. As you’d expect being based in AK, most years it snows like crazy here and guests are all but guaranteed a deep snowpack with fresh pow on top. The snowcat terrain is a mix of chutes, cliffs and trees with incredible sea and mountain views. Alyeska is a great place to hit before moving on to Valdez or Haines and packages are available that combine catboarding with a lift ticket for the resort too.
Ski Arpa, Chile
Arpa is a real gem in this list as it is the only snowcat operation in South America. It lies in the shadow of Aconcagua – the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalaya - and has some great terrain including some very steep bowls and couloirs. Best of all when it’s winter in Arpa, it’s summer in the northern hemisphere so you can get your powder fix in August and September!
Backcountry Snowcats, BC, Canada
Most of Canada’s catboarding destinations are away from the coast in Interior BC. Backcountry Snowcats are different however as they are located in the Coast Mountains just an hour north of the snowboarding mecca of Whistler. They have a relaxed looking lodge, reasonable prices and terrain that just looks made for snowboarding. Especially when it’s covered with over 3 metres of cool, Canadian pow which is all but guaranteed in this part of the world.
Grand Targhee, Wyoming, USA
The catboarding at Grand Targhee is run as part of the resort – the cat takes riders into untracked terrain out of the resort’s boundaries. It’s a good option for anyone who finds themselves at the resort as it won’t break the bank to buy tickets for a run at a time. Grand Targhee is often seen as the little brother of Jackson Hole. It’s true that Targhee doesn’t have the terrain to match Jackson but it does get more snow and has way fewer crowds so is a great place to visit if you like relaxed vibes and deep snow.
Borgafjall is a small ski area in the middle of the Swedish mountains, miles from anywhere. This makes it a little difficult to get to but also means that those who do make the effort will pretty much have the whole area to themselves. Accommodation wise there is a small hotel and a few cabins to rent. The cat accesses some pretty cool looking tree runs together with open terrain above. Whilst there isn’t a great deal of epic terrain at Borgafjall, for anyone looking for a bit of peace and quiet or for those looking to try catboarding for the first time, it looks ideal.
Powder Catski Italy, Sauze d’Oulx, Italy
The only catboarding set up in the Alps, Powder Catski Italy’s home mountain is next to the Italian resort of Sauze d’Oulx. Perfect for hitting up on days when the surrounding resorts are tracked out, Powder Catski Italy has some good looking terrain that is perfect for both intermediate and expert shredders who want to get a taste of Italian pow.
Black Ops Valdez, Alaska, USA
Valdez is the AK destination of choice for many riders due to the insane mountains and snow that the place has. Black Ops Valdez are based at the swanky looking Robe Lake Lodge just outside Valdez and run catboarding trips on nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. The area they have isn’t huge but when you consider how few other snowboarders you’ll be sharing the terrain with, along with how often it snows in AK, getting fresh tracks isn’t going to be too much of a problem!
Eskimo Freeride, Macedonia
Here’s one that’s a bit different. Eskimo Freeride are a snowcat operation based in Macedonia. There are some big mountain ranges in Eastern Europe and many undiscovered spots with some great snowboarding on offer. Plus the cultural experience is a world away from North America or the Alps. Eskimo Freeride have some pretty rad looking terrain with both open bowls and couloirs up-top and trees lower down. Both week long and day packages are available for a pretty reasonable rate.
Got any other suggestions? Post them in the comments section below!