Snowcats Are On The Prowl At Grand Targhee Resort, WY

Paulie | BackcountryBackcountry | Featured ArticleFeatured Article

[Sponsored by: Grand Targhee Resort, WY]

POW turns. Image: Grand Targhee Resort

Fresh snow, soft and deep, is blanketing the beautiful Teton Range. The arriving white layer more than invigorates Wyoming’s enthusiastic ski army, particularly the brigade stationed at Grand Targhee Resort.

At Grand Targhee, a top tier family destination already famous for class-A snow, they’re mining the coveted white gold via Cat-ski. In the United States, nearly thirty companies operate Snowcat skiing but the resort’s is unique, literally.

Beautiful. Image: Grand Targhee Resort

Facilitating the sole Cat-ski operation in the state of Wyoming, Targhee skiers benefit by unparalleled, track-powered access to the area’s stunning terrain and light-as-a-feather snowpack.

Snowcats, like their Groomer brethren are Old Man Winter’s take on all-terrain transport. Sprung first from early scientific forays into the Antarctic, and always manufactured to suit specific need, Snowcat technology has been modified many times over to ultimately arrive at today’s recreational machine.

Lunch time. Image: Grand Targhee Resort

Roughly the size of the average U-Haul, Targhee Cats feature snowpack chewing tank treads, or tracks, with an operator/guide forward cab and passenger seating under a drop-top-esque rear section. The open seating in the back allows for unmatched views of the Grand, Teton Valley, and beyond. As you are kept at the same temperature outside, you won’t run into your goggle fogging or the dampening of your clothes.

To that end, Targhee Cat Ski missions come replete with housemade soups and pastries, sandwiches, snacks, brownies, juice, coffee, coocoo, and all the comforts you’ll need for a full day adventure. A private tent is home to all breaks and the lunch stop. It’s kept toasty warm with a woodburning stove.

Much advanced from its early polar expedition roots, the modern Snowcat ride at Targhee is a tale of comfort among friends, amidst truly unforgettable terrain.

Targhee Cat Ski opens the door to truly unforgettable terrain. Courtesy Photo

Making excellent use of its five-hundred annual inches of snowfall, Grand Targhee Resort parts the velvet ropes to over six-hundred acres exclusively for Cat Ski operations. With good weather, typical Cat Ski season spans early December thru early April. And the resort aims to score between eight and eleven runs per a solid day’s Cat Skiing.

Two machines comprise the Snowcat fleet at Targhee. Each Cat seats a dozen. And private rides may be booked to the tune of twelve seats for the price of ten to access intermediate to advanced level terrain that resort representatives describe as, “cruising through open bowls, endless glades, and steep tree pitches.”

Able to carry twelve, Targhee snowcats tote the whole posse on the powder highway. Image: Grand Targhee Resort & Ryan Zimmer

“The terrain is perfect,” said one local skier. “And the western exposure offers great sunshine on a clear day.”

A single day’s Cat Ski at Peaked, south of Sacajawea lift, can deliver up to 18,000 vertical feet of ski-bliss. Each new run promises to be unique from the previous. And Targhee’s run length ranges sixteen to twenty-two hundred vertical feet—that’s almost a mile and a half of uninterrupted turns.

Fresh turns for days thanks to Targhee Cat Ski. Image: Grand Targhee Resort & Ryan Zimmer

The ultimate in Targhee Cat Skiing means naturally snowed slopes (aka ungroomed) and lofty climbs. Terrain roosts at an altitude of eight-thousand feet and reaches to ten-thousand. So acclimatization–and a bit of off-piste experience–are recommended preparations to ensure a stellar day in stunning country.

Equal in importance to physical preparation is to carry optimal equipment. Powder ski and snowboard designs seem made specifically to suit Grand Targhee’s stupendously light, plentiful snowfalls and are particularly handy to have while Cat Skiing.

Heading up the mountain. Image: Grand Targhee Resort

Powder tools are found at three separate shops, all local to the resort. Driggs storefront, Habitat offers the gambit of boards-plus-skis while Teton Mountain Outfitters is a slope-side option to an armada of skis. And The Board Shop is a trusty source for the latest and greatest in snowboard tech.

Then, geared-up and amped-up, it’s time to take off.

Check-in for Cat Ski is set for an early 8am start at Targhee Arcade. In part, this is to account for the ever-changing nature of mountain weather. Snow-pros at Grand Targhee repeatedly assess conditions with the aim of providing clients the most safe and enjoyable day of Cat Skiing possible. And rest assured that should safety issues call for cancellation the resort facilitates easy refunds or reschedules of the ride. With the above in order, base departure takes place at a smart 8:45am.

Getting away. Image: Grand Targhee Resort

Targhee Cat Skiing is a direct line to the ski dream of ‘getting away from it all.’ Cost might exceed that of the average lift pass, but the reward of value for money is no less a hefty factor to consider.

The day is guided, meaning little to no fear of becoming lost or unknowingly entering an unstable zone. Ratio of ascent times to lap numbers is far friendlier than that of ski touring, for example. And many a day passes during winter when the Snowcat may prowl while the helicopter sits idle under “no fly” conditions.

Fresh turns. Image: Grand Targhee Resort

Like its Cat Ski operations, Grand Targhee Resort is set apart thanks to snow quality, quantity and consistency, backed by the Targhee Vibe.

Black canvas. Image: Grand Targhee Resort

“This is a powder skiers mountain,” said Driggs local, Matthew Teele. “It’s the most consistent average annual snowfall in the lower 48 and un-crowded.”

According to its skiers, even the piste offers skiers the space to spread out, meaning quite often there won’t be a soul in sight.

At Grand Targhee Resort it is steep, deep, and waiting.


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