Your questions answered

If you have any additional questions, please feel free to contact us.

Click here to review our COVID-19 plan. There are many details in this plan including how we will book our trips, run our trips, and additional procedures that we are putting in place to minimize the risk and spread of COVID-19.

You can always call us to make a reservation or head to our online Calendar and book a trip via our Powder Portal. Before any of this happens though, especially for first-time guests, make sure you understand all ability levels, cancellation policies, our COVID-19 plan, and other details found on this website. There are many times when we are in the snow, on the hill, or just out of reach, and you’ll have to leave a message or email us. We will do our best to return your call by the end of the day. If we cannot, we will connect soon and we appreciate your patience. Call us at 970-879-5188. Email us at info@steamboatpowdercats.com

A 50% non-refundable deposit is due at the time of booking. The final payment is due seven (7) days prior to your trip. If you cancel your reservation outside of the 7 days prior to your trip, you will forfeit the 50% deposit. If you cancel within 7 days of your trip, you will be charged the entire trip cost for the cancellation. Your trip is 100% transferable for the specific day and that ability level you have booked so please help us find someone to fill your space. 

Due to these strict policies, we urge you to purchase our in-house activity insurance, available for 10% of your activity cost. Our activity insurance is good for all reasons except for Mother Nature, up to 7 days prior to your trip. Within 7 days, this insurance will only allow you to cancel for a medical emergency. A doctor’s note will be required for all medical emergencies. 

You can pick up this insurance at the time of booking or within 24-hrs of placing your reservation. Please notify us if you wish to add this activity insurance to your reservation. 

If for some reason we have to cancel your tour in advance due to what we deem as poor snow conditions or mechanical failure to one of our snowcats then we will refund your money minus a 10% administration fee or we can transfer your money forward as a credit for a future trip. All credits for this type of cancellation will expire after 2-years from your initial activity date. 

2020/2021 COVID-19 Cancellation Policies:

  • The typical 50% non-refundable deposit is required to make a booking
  • The non-refundable final payment will be required 7 days prior to your trip
  • Our traditional cancellation policies apply. We will still be offering our 10% additional Activity Insurance that will cover you for normal cancellation reasons.
  • If SPC or you have to cancel a trip due to a COVID-19 travel restriction, you have the following options:
      • Reschedule for a new trip this season or next season, with no change fee. Our booking calendar for 2021/22 will open up on May 1, 2021. Rates may change for next year. 
      • Refund of funds paid if the above options are not suitable, minus a 10% administration fee
  • Outside of 7 days, if you cancel your entire snowcat trip for 2020/21 due to COVID-19 illness, you have the following options:
    • Provide us with a doctor’s note confirming a COVID illness with your party
    • Reschedule for a new trip this season or next season, with no change fee. Our booking calendar for 2021/22’ will open up on May 1, 2021. Rates may change for next year.
  • Within 7 days, if you cancel your entire snowcat trip for 2020/21 due to COVID-19 illness, you have the following options:
    • Provide us with a doctor’s note confirming a COVID illness within your party
    • Reschedule for a new trip this season or next season with a 20% change fee. Our booking calendar for 2021/22 will open up on May 1, 2021. Rates may change for next year. 
    • If we are able to rebook the cat that you canceled, we will waive the change fee for your rescheduling for next season.

Yes, it is true.  After 5 days of skiing with us, your sixth is free. Well, sort of. Every year we have guests who reach this glorious level of a complementary cat skiing trip. It’s one of the reasons why people keep coming back.  You must come in consecutive seasons to accrue days. You won’t be able to take a year off, or two. This promotion only applies to trips with us that are not discounted in any way, be it if you come on a private cat, have a powder pass donation, came down early for some reason, or somehow received a discount from us.

Our reservation system will keep track of your days. If you are wondering how many days you have and if you, as a repeat guest of ours, think you have this magical 6th Day Free coming, just ask us.

You do not get credit for paying for others. Each guest receives credit when they are physically on one of our snowcats.

For the 2020/21 season, due to COVID-19, we are skipping this season. Any accrued days you have currently with us will bump to the 2022 season where we will pick things where we left off. That said, if you do come on a private cat this year it will be included in your “6th trip free” accrual.

Check out our Day in the Life page we’ve complied for all your logistics for our trips.

If you are a strong intermediate skier or boarder, able to ski with confidence on blue (red in Europe) and even black runs at ski resorts in varying snow conditions (not necessarily powder), then you are ready for snowcat skiing.

Backcountry snowcat skiing is not recommended for beginner skiers, those who are still in the wedge, or snowboarders who cannot link turns with ease. If you do not ski trees or have never been in the backcountry where it’s deep powder all day, we then urge you to sign up for our Level I – Intermediate snowcat, where your guides will be giving you assistance with gear, some instruction and picking you up out of the snow as necessary.

Our permitted terrain on Buffalo Pass receives snowfall depths in the 500+ inch range every year, so you can expect to ski in fresh if not new powder from late December to the end of March. Buffalo Pass is actually one of the snowiest recorded snowpacks in Colorado on an annual basis.

Runs vary in length from 500 to 1,200 vertical feet and in steepness between 15 and 40 degrees. All of our terrain is technically below tree line and we have north, south, east and west facing aspects which helps keep the snow fresh days and weeks after a storm.

Skiing is done on open snowfields, glades and in our world famous trees. Our goal is to put you onto a fresh turn every turn. On stormy days the skiing generally takes place in or near the trees because the visibility is much better.

You will find that our intermediate and advanced terrain is very similar to the Steamboat Ski Area with mostly black and blue type pitches, nothing crazy steep or extreme beyond measure. The runs are short and sweet and perfectly laid out in the terrain that we have access to.

Our expert terrain is very similar to some of the Chutes and Gates as well as the Fish Creek Canyon backcountry off the top of the Ski Area. But, our expert terrain is typically much longer than what you find at the top of the ski area.

Please have a look and bookmark our photo and video blog page where we post daily images from our trips and you see what type of terrain and conditions we are utilizing daily.

Also check out all ability level chapters on our website for more detail.

Gratuities are accepted in the guiding industry, including our snowcat world. In general, a 15 – 20% gratuity is appreciated, similar to any service related industry and dependent on your budget. Guides work very hard to make sure your day is as perfect as it can be and gratuities allow them to know that you’ve enjoyed the trip. The guides will pool their tips, so by giving one of them a gratuity at the end of the day, you’ll know that all of your guides, lunch staff and photographer will be included. Thanks for your understanding.
The number of runs you can expect to ski depends on many variables: the conditions of the day, how many guests are in the cat, your guides choice of terrain and the real defining factor is how everyone’s true ability level ends up being in the snowcat. Please once again book yourself and your group in the appropriate ability level to your group’s lowest ability level.

We like to say that you will get 8-16 runs no matter what group you are with. One of the main factors controlling the pace of our day is the speed of the snowcat which runs at a high speed of 13-miles/hour.

Buffalo Pass Colorado Steamboat Springs USAUnlike heli skiing where there is a guarantee of a certain amount of vertical footage, we guarantee 8 runs no matter the length. Unfortunately, there are days where a cat may breakdown or the guides decide the snow is to dangerous (such as a rain or air crust) and we have to come off the Pass. If it is your cat that must come off the Pass, we first off appreciate your patience and understanding and secondly we will then credit or refund your trip depending on how many runs we put in prior to coming down. For instance, if we get in 6 runs, we will give a 2 run credit/refund.

Our trips run with no problems 99% of the time.

We recommend using our Armada specialty powder skis and/or Never Summer snowboards. We make this equipment available to you, it’s included in your trip cost. These are the right tools for the job and we are excited to have you try our boards out whilst you are visiting. If you have your own boards there is not a discount off the daily rate.

Your “skinny” skis undoubtedly perform very well in the conditions typically found at ski resorts, however, in deeper, day long, powder conditions, our wider skis and fatter and longer snowboards will typically outperform your ski area skis and boards during a full day in the backcountry.

If you prefer to bring your own equipment, we strongly encourage you to at least try ours in order to judge the difference for yourself. We are not responsible for any damage to or loss of your personal equipment or gear while you are with Steamboat Powdercats.

We have a variety of sizes of skis and snowboards for you to use during your trip. We also have telemark ski’s for you freeheelers. Please check in physically with us the night prior, if at all possible, as this really helps us the next morning so we can set up all the ski’s and boards for our guests before the morning madness begins. Bring your boots with you when checking in and leave them with us over night. This allows us to fit the ski’s or boards and speeds things up for the morning. Thank you!

PLEASE NOTE: We use Armada MNC bindings which are compatible with all Alpine boots and most AT boots. For those of you with AT boots with non-alpine soles, make sure they are ISO 9523 compliant. If you have AT boots, please see this link to find out in advance if your boots will match our bindings. If you have AT boots that are not compatible with our bindings, you will have to either bring your own skis, rent a new ski from another shop or rent/bring a different pair of boots. Alpine boots are perfect. We apologize for the inconvenience.

We also have poles for everyone here at the office and advise you to use ours. If you bring your poles on the trip and they are lost or broken, even by our snowcat, we will not reimburse you for this loss. Thanks for understanding and using our poles.

Of course they are. There is no discrimination between skiers, snowboarders and/or teli skiers. Typically, snowboards in the length of 157 and higher are preferred to the shorter boards. On days where it hasn’t snowed in a while, your board may work fine as the boot depth snow allows for fast riding conditions.

Snowboarding can be tricky in the deep, untracked snow. If you have never experienced deep powder off of a groomed resort, you should really consider going in our intermediate level.

If you are a snowboarder who still has difficulty linking turns then powder riding with us may not be the best choice. Riding in the deep snow can be difficult for those who lack skills linking turns or carrying an edge on a traverse. Please consider this when booking a trip with us.

For the 2020/21 season, due to COVID-19, we are only booking private cats with a maximum of 8 guests. 

There will always be 3 guides in the group; a lead and tail guide on every run, and one snowcat driver. Also, you will have a photographer meet the cat for a couple runs to document the trip, and you will meet a staff member at our cabin for a midday bite. Please remember to bring you own camera as there may be times when our photographer either cannot make the tour or the camera fails to operate correctly. Also, our expert cats have lunch in the cat so you will not be going to the cabin for lunch.

With 3 snowcats in our fleet, we are one of the only backcountry operations that you will find who separates guests by their powder skiing/riding ability level. We understand that your time and money are very valuable, and when you choose to spend it with us, we want you to have the best day possible.

We separate groups by Level I, Level II and Level III ability levels and do our very best to match you with other guests who have similar skills. We will match our terrain to fit the needs of each group based on the ability level.

This separation of skills allows intermediate guests the comfort of knowing that you will not have to worry about holding up the more advanced and expert guests. On the flip side, if you are an expert, you will know that there won’t be folks in the cat who are learning how to ski powder and that the group will be capable of handling most, if not all, of our available terrain.

Of course, with any group there will be a faster and slower guest. We just try to bring the gap a bit closer by asking everyone to place themselves in the correct group.

On the Level I trip, the terrain is mellower, has zero to very limited avalanche pitch, so your fears of the “extreme” nature of the trip should be put aside. Level I guests still need to be of a confident blue-black, ski area level skier or rider to really enjoy the day.

If you have never skied with us before, during the reservation process, we will be asking you several questions regarding you and your group’s powder and resort experience and skill levels. Please review your ability levels with your group prior to calling. If you are a repeat guest, typically you will know where you should be placed.

If you are booking a trip for a group, remember to consider the lowest skill level and pick the level in which that person will be most comfortable. Our experiences in booking by skill levels has proved that it is best if you end up in a lower ability level and be the better skill level in the group than being the slower guest or guests in the bunch.

There is a misconception that being in a higher ability level means that your day is going to be better and you will get in more runs with the other levels. This is absolutely not true.

If someone overstates his or her ability level, our guides may restrict that person from skiing certain runs or have them sit out the entire day without any kind of refund. So please, again, be very attentive to ability levels because no one wants to sit in the cat when the skiing and riding is as good as it can be.

Colorado is known for its relatively mild winters. Temperatures early in the morning are often around 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius), while average daytime temperatures will be around 22 degrees Fahrenheit (-5 degrees Celsius).

We have morphed the top Steamboat Springs weather pages for you here on our website. Click here to see our weather page and keep it bookmarked for future use.

We typically go no matter the temperature, even on really cold days.

Unlike helicopters, snowcats can operate in any weather. Some of the very best skiing is done on the stormiest days when your tracks are completely gone by the time you get back to the top of each run. When it is foggy, windy or stormy outside, your guides will do their best to find sheltered terrain that will allow you to continue to enjoy the skiing throughout the day.

Believe it or not, we do cancel due to bad snow or no snow at times. Even though Buffalo Pass is annually Colorado’s deepest snowpack, we can’t control Mother Nature and snow does stop falling, or rain and ice impacts the snowpack and for some reason we have to cancel the trip due to bad snow. This is one of the saddest things we have to deal with.  If it’s your trip we are juggling or cancelling due to poor snow conditions we first off are feeling sorrow with you and secondly we really appreciate your patience as Mother Nature certainly plays tricks on us and it’s just not fair.

Most of the time, these cancellations are a last minute situation.  Typically it’s the night before or within 3-5 days. But sometimes, when there is no snow in site and we’ve already been cancelling trips, we can cancel outside of the 5-day timeframe based on long term weather modeling.

If we do have to cancel you trip, we have 2 ways that we deal with the monies we’ve collected.  Our preferred method is that we reschedule you to sometime later in the season. If we can’t find a date that works, we will ask to just give you a credit of the money and we will keep it on file and it’s good for 2 seasons beyond the season you were originally booked.  If this neither of these options work for you and you want your money refunded, we will refund your monies collected minus a 10% administrative fee. This admin fee covers our expenses that we’ve incurred processing credit cards and handling your reservation.  Thank you for understanding and realize that in this powder skiing industry, our policy of a 10% admin fee is a standard or even very lenient in some ways than other bad snow days.

Obviously the main reason your are coming to visit us is for the powder. Basically, the sooner you come after a storm the deeper it is going to be. If you are one of the lucky ones who hits it right and arrives during a storm cycle, hold on tight because it could be the deepest day of your life.

If you visit us in time of drought, we will still find fresh snow for you. We like to say that 3 days after a storm, the snow settles and conditions will be boot depth and fresh for most every turn. Come 7 days after a storm and beyond, there will be tracks at the pick ups and drop offs in most of our terrain; but, there should be enough freshies in the middle of the runs to still provide a solid powder tour.

We do not guarantee fresh snow, but a backcountry experience. We will go no matter the conditions unless they are so challenging that we cancel the trip. If for some reason Mother Nature throws us a curveball and we have to cancel due to snow conditions (think ice storms), we will work credit (full credit good for 2 years) or refund (minus a 10% of trip cost administrative fee).  This is typically a last minute scenario where we have to cancel the night before or a couple days out based on forecasts. Please be extra patient with our efforts when, or if, we ever have to deal with this type of Mother Nature scenario with you.

Most of our guests will book their trip months prior to arrival. With 70% of these guests returning back to us, they know that no matter the day, our conditions on Buffalo Pass are going to be fresher than at any ski resort.

Steamboat Powdercats ski season begins in mid December. By this time, most regular ski areas in Colorado have already been open for a few weeks. The reason that we wait this long to begin our season is to be sure that a sufficient amount of snow has fallen to offer you the powder you are expecting. Some of our deepest days have been in December as the base in the snowpack has yet to set up. Also, the cold temperatures of December allow for very light powder snow conditions.

In January, we open our expert terrain typically by the 15th. We will only run 2 cats prior to this and those Level III guests who wish to visit before this time need to know that our steeper terrain may not be available to you and this will be explained to you when discussing a reservation. January is typically still very cold and the powder is usually super light. With cold temps, this allows our northern aspects to retain their dryness and keep very soft days after a storm.

In February, we will see 40% of our yearly clients. It is our busiest time due mostly to the travel schedules of our guests and those planning their ski trips out West. February is a great time to visit. Storms are typically consistent, usually, and colder, winter temperatures are often the case. But, with our climate weirding, we have seen temps in February sky rocket and cook the snow.  We will still go out on our tours, typically, no matter the air temperatures or snow conditions. 

Steamboat’s famous light, deep powder generally continues to fall into March. Anytime in March, we can get hammered by snow, but also, once the sun comes out, things warm up quickly and March offers us with more spring like conditions than other months. Spring skiing and riding offers a variety of snow conditions from corn snow on south facing slopes to powder on north facing slopes.

Keep an eye on our photo and video blog as this webpage was built specifically to keep you up to date with how our conditions are behaving on a daily basis. 

Dress as you would for any day at a resort. Wearing several layers of insulating garments underneath a shell gives you the freedom to adjust your clothes to changing weather conditions. One-piece ski suits are a good choice for powder skiing if you have one but not necessary.

Our heated snowcats keep you out of the elements when moving to and from each pick up to drop off providing a closed in, comfortable environment to rewarm yourself if cold. 

For those of you who need to bring a pack to store your layers or other essentials, we ask to pack small and light. There is room in our cats to stash items, but if all 12 of our guests brought a pack, things would get cluttered quickly.

For the 2020/21 season, due to COVID-19, we will be requiring face coverings to be worn at all times when in our facilities and our vehicles.  We are going to be keeping windows open in vehicles so dress appropriately. We may also be eating lunch outside in the elements this winter. We recommend hand and toe warmers for this season depending on the outside temperature.  Call us if you need more advice. 

For the 2020/21 season, due to COVID-19, we will require all guests and staff to wear face coverings while in vehicles and facilities.  We recommend you bring two of these in case you lose one or one gets wet.  We may be providing these as well. If you would like to have eye protection while in the snowcat you may consider bringing extra goggles sunglasses to cover up when inside. We say this because your goggles will be foggy once you enter the heated snowcat. 

We will provide you with skis or a snowboard, poles and an avalanche beacon. On our Level III cats, we also take care of the avalanche probes and shovels. We do not provide or rent boots. 

We ask you to use our poles, ones with big baskets that will not fall through our racks on the back of our cats or in our vans. If you bring your own poles, we are not responsible for them (or any of your personal gear) in case they are damaged, broken or lost.

In addition, we will supply you with an avalanche beacon (insurance states you must use ours – BCA Tracker DTS),  and a snack for you in the cat. You should bring your own water bottle (we have refills), sunscreen, goggles, and sunglasses. Wearing a helmet is not a bad idea and you should consider purchasing one prior to your next ski vacation, but we do not require that you wear one. As storage space in the snowcats is extremely limited, we ask you not to bring your own backpack but to share one with your group if you need to bring additional items along for the day.

If you have AT style ski boots, we do not have AT compatible bindings so you will have to bring your own powder skis or rent a powder specific pair before you come.

We have restrooms in our office which is located near the base of the Steamboat Ski Area. In addition, there is is a port-a-potty at the parking lot where our cats are staged at Dry Lake, and at our mid-mountain cabin. 

While with us on the snowcats, we will make for a “ladies room” in front of the snowcat to provide necessary privacy. Though this isn’t the most glamorous of bathrooms, it is our best option and works out fine. Guys, you can pee anywhere, just make sure to cover up the yellow snow so we don’t have to see where you’ve been peeing. 

Unless you are booking a private cat, where we allow all ages, then yes we do have an age limit for our non private cat groups and individuals. It is 12 years old. For all young guests who are coming solo, the age limit is 16 years old. If a minor comes, under 18, we will need a parent or legal guardian to sign the release form and have them come with an adult who can share in the experience with them. We can email you a release form if needed. 

For all Level III cats, the age limit is 16 year old.  This is due to a higher level of maturity that we are needing to listen to guides while in avalanche terrain.

Yes, we have a photographer in our terrain every day and will provide you with access to images at the end of the day. You can access all of these images via our Photo’s Page where you can save low-res images to your computer complimentary by right clicking on image. We also post a “best of “from the day on social media and write a blog post most every week during the season. There is a small fee for downloading individual or bulk images from your day ($2 per image or $20 for full download of all high resolution images). This fee just allows us to cover the costs of the software and equipment that we use to capture and share your images. 

We improvise our photo shoot, trying to not slow down or interrupt the flow of your day. We attempt to get several action shots, face shots and group shots for every cat. If for some reason, we did not get a good photo of you while you were on your trip, we apologize in advance and hope you understand that not everyone will get that epic shot as we do not really set up the shots.

Crashes, jumps, landscape and images of our snowcats are also taken. All these images once again are posted on our Photos page. Here you can also purchase your photos in a larger format and/or make wall art, float mounts, prints, keepsakes and a variety of other photo art via our Photo’s website.

We always suggest that you bring your camera just in case our photographer has to be pulled from their duty to help with a rescue or logistical situation. Also, if our photographers camera malfunctions or images are accidentally erased, you will then have some of your own to document the trip by. Our photography is never guaranteed.

We also provide full video production service as well. This is on a reservation basis only so you must call to prearrange a videographer for this service. This is a great option for a private cat or a small group. We will provide you with an edited down dvd of your days video with still shots intermixed. This is a very custom option.

We do have a couple GoPro’s to rent as well if you are interested. $50/day for the rental. We will provide you with all the raw footage. Downloading this footage may take a day or two after your trip and we will arrange a way to get you the footage. Please make arrangements in advance to schedule the GoPro rental. They may be available in the morning, just ask us, but they also may be scheduled by others in advance so a request is appreciated.

If you have special dietary requirements, please indicate this at the time of booking or at a latest the day prior to your trip.

You will be sent an auto email confirmation at the time of your booking as well as a week out and 72-hour email prior to your tour date.  In these emails there is a link to “manage your activity” where you can add in any diet restrictions, along with medical issues, names and cell phone numbers of you and your guests.

Our caterer will make every effort to accommodate your needs. We can accommodate most requirements including but not limited to vegetarian, seafood, lactose, gluten free, shell fish, pork or others.

If you need to be contacted during your day with us, the office can relay messages to you via your guide’s radio. This communication channel is for emergency use only and offers no privacy. Cellular telephones do not work reliably in our terrain. But, at most of our drop offs there is cell phone coverage.

For the 2020/21 season, due to COVID-19, we are booking private cats only with a maximum of 6 guests in the cat.  There is no minimum guest limit on this cat, just the maximum.  

For the 2020/21 season, due to COVID-19, we are booking private cats only. 

When booking a private cat, we require 1 credit card for all the billings. Thus a trip leader must be in charge and be reimbursed by those they ask to come along. If one of their guests cancels, then they must collect the cancellation fee or find another guest to fill their space and not us.

We finalize payments 7 days prior to the date of your trip. You do not need to call us, we will just run the credit card on file.

You can book all your own reservations online via our Calendar at the top of this website. We assume when you book a reservation online that you have reviewed all of our cancellation policies and understand and agree to all terms we have set up. Calling us, as well, to place a reservation is fine.

Gratuities are not included in our reservation payments.

Please note that a fuel surcharge may be added to our published rates, at the time before your final payment, 72-hours prior to your trip. A surcharge of $10-$20, at the most, may be added if changing fuel economies dictate. You will be notified prior to final payment if this occurs. We ask for your patience and understanding if fuel costs fluctuate to the point where a fuel surcharge may be added.

If a mechanical breakdown occurs to one of our snowcats during or before your trip, we apologize in advance as this is never something that we wish to have happened. Your patience is critical here as breakdowns do happen. We will do our best to fix the problem before and/or on-site and may need to shuffle you and your group around to our backup cat while our broken-down cat is being fixed.

In extreme cases, if we were to have 2 snowcats break down, we may utilize our Safari Cat to help finish out the day. Our Safari Cat is a no-frills, limited heat, back up snowcat that has school bus type seats, and a tent-like cover.  This Safari Cat will not slow down or impede the skiing or snowboarding during your trip. We believe the experience, though different, will still be satisfying and enjoyable.

If we have to use the Safari Cat with your group and know ahead of time, we will let you know as soon as we can. More than likely, this will be the day prior to your trip. At the time of notification, we will give you the option to cancel your trip without any cancellation fees.   If you still plan to come and experience our day together in the Safari Cat there is no discounting for you or your group.

We also may have to require your group to skiing down and off Buffalo Pass before our traditional 4:00 pm timeframe. We guarantee 8 runs per day. We average 10-14 runs, but guarantee 8 no matter the length of the run. If your cat breaks down during your day and we cannot reach our 8 run minimum then we will divide however many runs you completed by 8 and credit or refund you the runs that you were owed.