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Snowcat Skiing

Skiing takes first down down a step pitch on a snowcat skiing trip

Purgatory Snowcat Adventures runs the largest cat skiing operation in Colorado, with 35,000 acres of breathtaking terrain, outside of the resort boundaries. Guests can expect an average of 6-8 runs and 7,000′-9,000′ of vertical depending on skier ability and terrain conditions. With exceptional views of the Northern and Southern San Juan Mountains all to yourself, this will be a day of skiing you’ll remember forever!

Your day of snowcat skiing or snowboarding includes avalanche gear, lunch and water (bringing your own water bottle is recommended). Morning orientation begins at 8:00am in the Purgatory Snowcat Adventures office located in the Village Plaza. Our highly trained guides will make an assessment of up-to-date snow conditions and skier ability to choose from three primary zones in our 35,000-acre terrain area. Skiers must be comfortable skiing black diamond runs consisting of deep powder, tight trees, steep pitches and unmarked hazards.


Cost$650 per seat; $6,500 private cat rental
Includes lift ride to the snowcat, a full day of skiing/boarding, lunch (please let us know about dietary restrictions in advance), powder ski or snowboard rental and avalanche beacon. (Max 12 for private cat).
DatesClosed for the 2023/2024 season
Scheduled to operate daily Dec 30, 2023 – Mar 31, 2024
Operations dependent upon conditions
AgesAge restrictions based on ability and experience level
Ability LevelAll skiers/riders must be comfortable at a strong intermediate or advanced level.
Read more in the ability level drop-down section below.
Departure Times8:00am
Please arrive 15-20 minutes early.
Return Time4:30pm
Trip Duration8.5 hours total

Ability Level (read before requesting a trip)

  • You should be in good physical condition. You will be skiing and boarding deep powder at high elevations (all of our runs are at or above 10,000 feet).
  • We do not groom any runs. We cannot predict weather or snow conditions weeks in advanced of your reserved day, so come prepared to ski or ride anything. While we do our best to find powder every run, we might have to ski or ride areas of variable snow to the powder stashes below. Our runs occasionally funnel into narrow drainages with drops and obstacles.
  • All skiers/ riders must be strong intermediate to advanced ability level.  Anyone significantly slowing down the pace of the group may be asked to sit out certain runs with no refund offered.  Expect to ski in all terrain types including gladed to tight trees.
  • Most of our best powder skiing and riding is in the trees!
  • We ski and ride powder! Lots of it. (Except in spring, when we ski and ride corn, and even then we will surprise you with a powder stash or two, or three, or more).
  • If you are expecting to ski or ride nearly vertical chutes and send 50-foot airs every run, you will be disappointed. Occasionally, and mainly in spring, we are able to ski and ride this kind of terrain when conditions and group abilities allow. So, if you are this type of skier or rider with this ability we suggest you book a private snowcat for your group, and we’ll do our best to make your dreams come true.
  • Remember, skiers and snowboarders often beat the snowcat down by a few minutes. Usually, slower skiers and riders do not slow down the pace or amount of runs for a group. What can slow down a group is gearing up, buried or lost skis due to falls, faulty equipment, or not following the guides’ directions.
  • Group unloads the snowcat and prepares for the first decent of the day
  • Snowcat guide sends it off a built up pillow of snow
  • Snowcat guide points out peaks on top of Grayrock Peak with Purgatory Resort in the distance
  • Snowcat skiing group gathers before advancing down the next pitch
  • Skier takes first tracks on snowcat skiing trip
  • Skiers turns through waist deep powder on a snowcat skiing trip
  • Skiers catches air in the trees on a snowcat skiing trip
  • Snowboarder slices through waist deep powder in the trees
  • Snowcat skiing guide gives instructions before heading down the first pitch
  • Group unloads the snowcat and looks out at the vast amount of terrain

Your Ticket to Untracked Powder

Snowcat skiing guide and group bask in the views at the top of Grayrock Peak

With access to over 35,000 acres of expansive terrain in the San Juan backcountry, Purgatory Snowcat Adventures’ Highly trained guides choose from 500-1500 foot runs on light, untracked powder through trees, glades, and open bowls of varying pitch.

Meet the Team

We took advantage of this opportunity to write bios for our guides and turned it into a team-building exercise. Each member pulled a name out of a hat and wrote a short description of that coworker. We hope you enjoy this off-the-cuff, fun approach to telling you about our team!

Grady James
Grady James: Lead Guide and Snow Operations Manager- joined in 2011
Pro skier, barista, bagel connoisseur, and passable southern accent. Descended from North County Royalty, Grady is the world’s most interesting manager… at Purgatory.
Bio written by Karl Kecman
Karl Kecman
Karl Kecman: Guide- joined 2018
Karl enjoys spending his free time doomsday prepping for Y2K. In the summers, he works for the US Forest Service where he has climbed to a high-ranking crew leader in wildland fire.
Bio written by Will Siegrist
Rory Friedank
Rory Friedank AKA FRIDAY: Lead Snowcat Operator- joined in 2019
Diesel aficionado, snow uber driver, metal gluer, and fixer extraordinaire, Friday is the only reason we get tips (mostly).
Bio written by Travis Laverty
Travis Laverty
Travis Laverty: Snow Safety Director and Guide- joined 2021
Travis Laverty- What a guy! Extremely aware and in tune with anything involving snow science and snow safety. Drives a sweet Honda Accord and gave me pickle juice on the Grand Traverse bike race- which saved my bacon! Thanks Travis! Love, Friday.
Bio written by Rory ‘Friday’ Freidank
Will Siegrist
Will Siegrist: Guide- joined 2011
The second-best carpenter that has ever lived. The first-best second baseman on the field at any time. Father of children, slayer of dragons and a ridiculously fun person to work with. PS: I couldn’t say anything mean because he is giving me a ride home tonight and my boss is making us read these aloud.
Bio written by Dan Bechtel
Rowan Morris : Guide- joined in 2023
The unofficial official rookie of the year. From guiding the grandest of canyons he transitioned effortlessly into the other white water. Rowan brings knowledge, a great laugh & attitude, basically he is the sprinkles to our donut.
Bio written by the other rookie, HOHL
Hayley Ohl: Base Operations and Bookings Manager-joined 2023
Officially new to the team but not new to the world of cat skiing or dealing with cranky ski guides.  Hayley has been around the operation for years and having her on as a staff member has elevated the operation.  Whether you need to know about conditions in the backcountry, if mercury is messing with your gatorade or you’re in need of a homemade bagel, she’s your person.  Bringing good vibes and efficiency to PSA since August 2023. 
Bio written by Becky Kecman

The fine print

  • Reservations are required and must be made at least 48 hours in advance.
  • Trips canceled 30 days or more in advance will receive a refund less a 25% booking fee or the option to reschedule the trip for during the same season for no fee 
  • Trips canceled less than 30 days in advance will receive no refund but can reschedule their trip for another date in the same season for a $100  fee . 
  • There will be no refunds or changes in reservation made 7 days prior to trip. 
  • No refunds will be given for late arrivals or no shows.
  • Purgatory Snowcat Adventures reserves the right to cancel a trip at any time due to weather, safety concerns or mechanical issues. Refunds and the option to reschedule are at the discretion of PSA and on a trip-by-trip basis
  • Minimum of 5 guests are required for snowcat skiing trips to operate. 
  • For more information contact us at (970) 385-2115 or [email protected].

Our terrain

We do not ski or ride in terrain immediately adjacent to the ski area. Instead, the snowcat takes you deep into the San Juan backcountry. Our permitted area lies to the north (including Grayrock and Graysill Mountains) and west of Purgatory (including Hotel Draw and Scotch Creek). Cascade Creek is our eastern boundary and the East Fork of Hermosa Creek is our southern boundary.

With expansive acreage, consistent temperatures, and an average 300+ inches of snow annually, we enjoy cold, light untracked powder weeks after the last storm. We have the freedom to choose from various terrain types and elevations to ensure the best possible powder experience. Runs vary in length from 500 feet to almost 1,500 vertical with an elevation range between 10,000 and 12,300 feet.

Terrain ranges from expansive bowls to steep, tight trees, open cruiser glades, undulating gullies and windlips. A short hike accesses chutes and there are cliffs and cornice jumps as well. Our trees range from nicely spaced old-growth spruce to regenerated Forest Service clear cuts, where the sapling-size trees can be tight.

On stormy days we typically ski and ride trees where the visibility is better. Storms can also create some uncertainty with snowpack. The snowpack in the San Juan Mountains always requires careful and constant observation and skier safety is our number one concern. When storm systems clear out and snow conditions have been properly assessed, we have more options and often head up to the high alpine areas to ski and ride more open terrain. 

Our guides

Purgatory Snowcat Adventures employs only the highest trained backcountry guides and snowcat drivers, proficient in avalanche awareness and wilderness rescue techniques. Observing the snowpack and weather conditions is a full-time job that our guides take very seriously. Skier safety is of primary importance at Purgatory Snowcat Adventures. Many of our guides have been on board for 10 or more years. They know the best possible lines in each zone and are happy to share the goods. Our guides keep detailed records of terrain skied between storms to allow for untracked powder every time.

Pro tip: What to wear

A single base layer (or 2 if you run cold) under
A down insulator with
A shell on the outside (Many ski jackets are waterproof, breathable and compact, allowing lots of layers underneath.)

Synthetic underwear (NOT cotton)
A base layer (or 2 if you run cold) under
Waterproof pant shell
Ski socks (liners optional)

Gloves/mittens (Plus possibly extra gloves. Everything gets soaked on a heavy snowfall day.)
Helmet! (Plus a warm hat or ear warmer if you want to take your helmet off between runs.)

Pro tip: What to bring

  • Snacks (You’ll be burning more calories than you’re used to at the resort)
  • Water Bottle
  • Extra Lenses, 2nd pair of goggles or cleaning clothes (goggles often fog or fill with snow)
  • Hand / Toe Warmers
  • Stoke! 

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