Powderhounds Review

Powderhounds Review

Club fields package tour

Park City Powdercats Review

Considering that Park City Utah has somewhat of an emphasis on glitz and glamour, we were a little curious if we’d be out cat skiing with fur adorned intermediate skiers on tame meadows. However there wasn’t a piece of fur clothing in sight, and thankfully the terrain was a long way from mellow! Park City Powder Cats was a fantastic backcountry experience.

Park City Powdercats is an outstanding outfit, yet no cat skiing company is absolutely ideal for everyone. Our review covers different features of the operation so that you can establish if Park City Powdercats is the right cat skiing for you. As a guide to the ratings below, a 5/5 equates to truly phenomenal, 4/5 is excellent, and 3/5 is very good. You can check out our cat ski ratings to see how PC Powdercats fares against other cat skiing operations.

Pros

  • The sheer terrain of the terrain at Park City Powdercats is impressive, which means that the guides have a super high chance of finding very good to excellent snow.
  • The terrain is on private land, so it’s not shared with snowmobilers highmarking slopes or tourers stealing your freshies.
  • There is plenty of variation in the type of terrain, and the steep pitches are a delight for advanced to expert riders.
  • Maybe Utah is a little arrogant to claim they have the “Greatest Snow on Earth” but one can’t deny that the quality of the snow is generally excellent!
  • PCPC have really nice snowcat cabins, efficient road systems and backup cats.

Cons

  • Transport to the ranch is not provided, so if you don’t have a car, getting a taxi there adds cost to the day.
  • PC Powder Cats don’t provide powder skis, so if you don’t have your own, there is an additional hassle and cost to rent them.
  • They don’t cater to intermediates so if you want lovely mellow meadows and don’t want to book out the whole snowcat, then you’ll need to pick another cat ski operator. 
Powder Snow
Whilst the volume of snowfall is generally not quite as high as in the Cottonwood Canyons, the amount of snow is still pretty impressive and the quality is also generally excellent. We visited after a dry and warm spell, and most of the trees were too low, whilst the alpine areas had been out in the sun. Despite this, the guides were impressively able to find some decent snow. If we were to be picky, perhaps some of the terrain gets whipped by the wind more than other alpine areas. The highest peak at almost 11,000 feet is called Windy Peak!
Overall Terrain
With 40,000 acres, of which approximately 20,000 are skiable, the terrain size is massive so the guides have an abundance of areas and aspects to choose from to find the best snow. The Thousand Peaks Ranch might not quite have one thousand peaks, but probably close to it! It is private land so unlike many other US cat ski operators (and some BC cat skiing) they don’t have a problem with freshies poachers.

Somewhat typical of US snowcat skiing, the runs weren’t particularly long compared to some BC cat skiing, but it depends on the fitness of your legs as to whether you consider this a problem. The vertical covered each day is pretty average for a US cat ski operator (less than for most BC operators). A little bit of time is lost stopping for lunch, and the trips between the ranch and the runs takes some time.

Despite often having multiple snowcats going out each day, they don’t group guests according to ability (unlike Steamboat Powdercats and Big Red Cats), so there’s a small chance you’ll get grouped with someone of a disparate ability level. For fast skiers, at least they don’t claim to be able to cater to intermediates.
Alpine Terrain
PC Powdercats has an abundance of alpine terrain, or at least sub-alpine terrain that is mostly open with a few smatterings of trees. Much of the terrain is delightfully steep at the top (mid to high 40s) before it quickly mellows out, but there’s still good variety. And thanks to avalanche blasting, there’s a high likelihood of being able to access the alpine areas.
Tree Skiing
PC Powder Cats also have copious trees. There are lots of aspens for storm skiing, as well as firs on north facing slopes for the days after storms. The trees are typically well spaced so it’s great for those who love to rip it, but those who like tight technical trees might not get quite the challenge they’re seeking. A minor limitation may be that the elevation is a fraction low during slight warm spells, but of course they have plenty of alpine.

Strong Intermediate Terrain


Park City Powder Cats doesn’t usually cater to intermediates. There is some low angle open terrain, but you won’t be able to play there unless you book out a private snowcat.
Advanced Terrain
PCPC has amazing variety for advanced (and advanced to expert) riders with both the alpine and treed terrain. They only lose half a point because some of the runs have a very mellow run-out.
Expert & Extreme Terrain

There are some great steeps for experts. We didn’t see a lot of features for hucking (with that much terrain, I’m sure they have them!), but our guides weren’t specifically seeking them out because our group was a bunch of everyday skiers and boarders like us, not super humans. If you’re a keen hucker, you’d probably need to book a private cat.
Guiding
The guides were realistic about the sub-standard snow conditions at the start of the day, and then endeavoured to find the best they could – and they did a really good job. In addition to safety aspects, the lead and tail guide were communicating very well regarding where to find the best snow. They were also clear in their communication regarding any hazards. Best of all, they were infectiously enthusiastic!

The group size is really good, with a maximum of 10 guests per 2 guides, which means better safety and more freshies!
Snowcat
PCPC have 3 snowcats plus back up cats so there’s no fear about losing much pow time in the unlikely event of mechanical failure. They also operate another snowcat to build and maintain roads, to keep travel times for the other snowcats nice and efficient.

With respect to the cabin set-up, it was pretty much perfect. It had front facing seats with backrests that aren’t too high so you can still chat really easily. The spacious snowcat cabin had rear steps for easy ingress and egress, big windows with side windows that open so there’s no fear of getting cat sick, good storage features and a stereo for some tunes.
Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
One safety backpack with shovel and probe etc was provided to a guest, but it wasn’t discussed, and as is somewhat typical of USA mechanized backcountry operations, any avalanche risk strategies were not particularly evident to guests whilst we were out in the field. This doesn’t mean that the guides didn’t put a lot of effort into mitigating risk, but unlike BC, the guides just didn’t talk about it a lot.
 
One major exception to this was the presence of a separate snow safety team who roamed the terrain undertaking mitigation such as avalanche bombing, which is rather unique for a cat ski operation.

Also somewhat typical to the USA, which is not highly regulated, the guides were very experienced but not necessarily highly qualified.
Safety Briefing
Along the same vein and typical of US operators (as it’s often dictated by the local forestry service), the guides seem to take the approach of “the less the guests know the better”. The briefing quickly covered that the snowcat in itself is a hazard, but it didn’t cover any other backcountry hazards. How to turn on the avalanche beacon was covered, but not how to turn it off or how to switch it between send and receive, or what to do in the event of witnessing or being caught in an avalanche. Probing and shovelling and the like were not included in the briefing.
Frills
I had expected that a Park City activity would have been super “frilly” and it was almost refreshing that it wasn’t! Our appetites were very well catered for, but the food was not gourmet or particularly fancy (not that it mattered!). The fare included a basic breakfast and coffee, cat snacks of chockies and commercial bars, and a nice lunch of soup, rolls and chips. We also got après ski food, but no alcohol, which made sense considering most people had to drive.

A great trimming was the photography service, which was incredibly inexpensive. Frills that were missing were on-site ski rentals and provision of transport from Park City. This is somewhat understandable considering PC isn’t just a few clicks away, but it’s a major cost for those without their own wheels.
Value for Money
Park City Powder Cats is one of the priciest US cat ski outfits (see USA cat skiing stats for a comparison). Firstly, Park City Utah is generally expensive so you expect to pay a little more for everything, and when you compare it to the cost of a day lift ticket at Park City Ski Resort or Canyons Ski Resort (about 4 times as much), the value becomes more apparent.

Also you can’t necessarily make a direct comparison to other outfits. PCPC is real cat skiing, not just that sidecountry type cat skiing attached to a ski resort. It is more than 6 times the average size of a US cat ski outfit, and it gets more snowfall than many other operators, so the value stacks up a little more.

Factors that would give them more points would include: more daily vertical skiing, inclusion of rental powder skis, and provision of transport.

Notes Regarding Review The review is largely based on our experience, but also on discussions with staff, former guests, and information available on their website. Our review has some limitations as it’s not possible to ski every run and in all possible snow and weather conditions. Every guide is somewhat different and we acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different.

The still images are not filmed using professional riders, but rather aim to show an example of an “everyday” experience.

 

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