Loading...
FAQ 2017-12-11T23:14:46+00:00

Your questions answered

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

You can always call us make a reservation or head to our online Calendar and book via our Powder Portal. Before any of this happens though, especially for first time guests, make sure you understand all ability levels, cancellation policies, 5-to-fly minimums and other details found on this website. There are many times when we are in the snow, on the hill our out, and you’ll have to leave a message or email us your thoughts. 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. 800-288-0543 or locally at 970-879-5188. email us at info@steamboatpowdercats.com if need be.
Yes, it is true.  After 5 days 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.  Starting in the 2016/17 season this promotion will require you to come in consecutive seasons to accrue days and not carry over year to year like we did in the past. You won’t be able to take a year off, or two like in the past. 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 the credit when they are physically on one of our snowcats.

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 try. We also have the ski’s set up for telemark skiers and some AT skis available (let us know if you have AT boots and read this regarding AT boot compatibility issues with our bindings). 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!

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.

Our snowcats have a 12-person guest capacity. We have a 5-guest minimum for any snowcat to move, what we call the “5-Fly Rule”.

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 a 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.

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), a bottle of water and a snack. You should bring 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, a heated restroom is available at our mid-mountain cabin during lunch. There is a port-a-potty at the parking lot where our cats are staged at Dry Lake.

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. We also post a best of from the day on our blog and also on our Facebook page most everyday. There is a small fee for downloading individual or bulk images from your day ($1 per image or $10 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.

Yes. Please realize that for our cats to operate, we require a five person minimum (5-Fly Rule). When making a reservation as an individual or a group of less than five, if we do not reach the five guest minimum prior to your scheduled day, we may have to switch your day, merge you into another cat or give you a full refund of your money. Please review our real time calendar on this site or contact us prior to your trip to see if there are any difficulties in reaching this minimum requirement.

If for some reason we cannot accommodate your trip due to this 5-Fly Rule, we will refund all of your deposit money.

When making a reservation for 2 or more people, we require that the group leader pay for all those whom he or she is making the reservation for. If the group leader is not interested in paying the 50% deposit and the final payment for those in the group, then the group leader needs to have all other interested parties initiate the reservations on their own. We will not hold space for your group if everyone is booking individual seats. Group leaders may also coordinate credit cards for others in the party and provide those for our reservation team at the time of booking.

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 72-hours 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.

At the time of booking we require a 50% non refundable deposit. Final payment is taken 72-hours prior to your trip. You do not need to call us to place the final payment. Unless told otherwise, we will just place the final payment on the credit card you put the initial deposit on.

If you cancel your reservation outside of 72-hours you will forfeit the 50% deposit. If you cancel within 72-hours, you will lose the entire trip cost.

Due to this strict policy, we urge you to purchase activity insurance, available for 10% of the activity cost. This insurance protects the investment you have made into your snowcat adventure with us. Our activity insurance is good for all reasons except for Mother Nature, up to 72-hours prior to your trip. Within 72-hours, this insurance will only allow you to cancel for a medical emergency. A doctor’s note will be required for all medical emergencies.

At the time of booking, we give you 24-hours to think about and to pick up the insurance. You will have the opportunity to read about this in the email confirmation that our reservation system will automatically send you. Please check your spam filter if you don’t get this email shortly after your booking. If you wish to pick up the insurance just email us back via that email confirmation or do it online during your check out process. Once again, you can only pick up the insurance within 24-hrs of making the reservation.

Please understand our strict cancellation policy and respect our mutual commitment. We are reserving seats on our snowcats for you and your group; thus we are now turning away potential guests.

Your trip is 100% transferable. If you have to cancel and can find someone else who will just pay you the monies owed, we will allow for this as long as your replacement comes on the day of your reservation and in that ability level that we placed you initially into. If we have to refund and then take a new payment, we will do this for a 10% cancellation/transaction fee.

Please do us all a favor and make sure you review the email confirmation that our system will generate and send to you. Double check the date, number of guests and ability level of the day as well as all of our policies and the activity insurance information.

There is no way that you can move forward with a reservation at Steamboat Powdercats and not have read or hear us talk about these policies. So, it should come as no shock to you, when you call us to cancel your trip, that our strict cancellation policies will play into non-refundable payments and you or your group will not be getting a refunded or credited any amount of money in return.

Over the years we have worked with tens of thousands of guests and we hope you understand our policies and respect the non-refundability of your deposit and final payment. If it wasn’t for these policies, our operation would be unable to thrive year after year after year.

If for some reason we have to cancel due to lack of snow or mechanical failure prior to your trip date, then we will credit your money to another trip in season based on availability or the following season without any administration fee. If you’d like a refund immediately then we will do so minus a 10% administrative fee.

Thanks again for your understanding.

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 your trip, we apologize in advance as this is never something that we wish to happen. Your patience is appreciated if this occurs while on the pass with us. We will do our best to fix the problem on site and may need to shuffle you and your group around with another cat while the issue is being fixed.

If we have to, we may require skiing down and off the pass before our traditional down time.

We guarantee 8 runs per day. We average 10-14 runs, but guarantee 8 no matter the length of run. So, if your cat breaks down or the guides deem the snow to be to dangerous (think ice or heat/air crust), then we will divide however many runs you completed by 8 and credit or refund you the runs that you were owed.

If for some reason we have to cancel due to lack of snow or mechanical failure before your tour happens then we will credit your money to another trip in season based on availability or the following season without any administration fee. If you’d like a refund immediately then we will do so minus a 10% administrative fee.