MF goes cat skiing

(Image credit: Unknown)

Riding in what basically amounts to a tank across narrow, avalanche-prone ridges does not sound like the most sensible thing to do. In fact it sounds positively suicidal. But despite appearances it’s a safe way to travel – and it’s a great way to reach terrain that’s otherwise virtually inaccessible for skiing and snowboarding thrills.
The tank-like vehicle, commonly known as a cat, is basically a cabin mounted on two huge tracks. These machines can pull their way up steep slopes and over any backcountry debris smaller than a boulder, which means they can access almost any part of the mountain. Although they’re sluggish – max speed is around 20km/h – and turning them around can take an age, they’re perfectly suited to their purpose.
A helicopter would be much quicker, true, but a cat can go out in cloudy, windy weather that would ground a chopper – and at around £250, a day in a cat is less than half the cost of a one-day berth in a helicopter. Similarly, you could hike to these remote locations, but a cat can drive straight up a face so you don’t waste any energy getting to the top. This means that on the way back down the mountain you’ll have enough juice to attack jumps, drops and power your way through sweeping powder turns – and that’s the whole point of backcountry skiing and boarding.

Nick Hutchings's snow cat trip was organised by Powder Addiction. For more info on their packages, go to For more ski and snowboard stories, subscribe to the magazine.

Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.