Skiing with the Alta Cats During March Madness

By Thomas Cooke Mar 30, 2011
It seems the other cat skiing operations in Utah get more press, but Alta quietly delivers the goods.

Did you know Alta has a snowcat skiing operation? I’m still amazed how many seasoned Wasatch skiers I have come across recently who had no idea. I’m here to tell you if you don’t know about it. It’s legit.

My day started when I rolled up to the Albion Basin parking area. The Alta Cat Skiing machine was backed up to the doors leading out from the Albion Grill, apparently ready to load up. As I was the first one there, I had a little time to reflect upon how quiet and peaceful it can be just an hour before the masses would arrive to ride the chairs and ski the resort. It was a sunny, clear day, a Saturday, and the day after a 10 inch dump. In less than an hour, all the parking lots would be full, guaranteed.

As I anxiously waited for the others to show up, I reflected on what was planned for later in the day; I had another appointment with another sort of ‘Cats, as the UCONN Huskies were set to play the Arizona Wildcats in the Elite Eight. Let me just foreshadow the importance of this game: the only thing that could soil the experience of skiing blower pow in the upper reaches of Grizzly Gulch would be a Huskies loss. The stakes were high, after what Arizona did to number 1 seed and tournament favorite Duke. The lads from Storrs would need to play inspired ball to get past the Cats and advance to the Final Four. But more on that later.

There were 11 of us when we rolled out in the cat with longtime Alta man Al at the controls of the machine. Our guides were Alta patrollers Jonathan and Courtney. But something didn’t quite seem right. There was a stowaway in the cabin. Egads! The odd-shaped wide plank that was resting in the middle isle of the snowcat was indeed a snowboard. Make no mistake, this is the Alta Cat Skiing operation. It might surprise you to know that a snowboarder’s cash is as green as a skier’s (maybe greener) and snowboarders are welcome on these powder adventures, perhaps the only time you can snowboard at Alta and get away with it.

So how did the day all turn out? The Alta Cat delivered us to the drop-off spot on the peak for 5 amazing runs that will stand out as some of the best runs I have had all season. Speaking of great runs, my day would be completed by the continuation of the run the UCONN Huskies have been making in the NCAA tournament. They would of course go on to defeat the Arizona Wildcats, advancing to the Final Four to play the Kentucky Wildcats. What’s up with all these ‘Cats?

Here are the details on the Alta Cat Skiing operation. I suggest you check it out, unless you don’t care much for skiing powder. They don't go out every day, so it's best to contact the Alta's Alf Engen Ski School and get the skinny on the forecast and book your reservations. You can call them at 801-799-2271.