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Just out of Whitefish, Montana, is a small cat-skiing operation that perhaps takes the cat side of things a little too literally.

the great northern powder guides cat in whitefish montana
Blink and you’d miss the wooden, garage-like building on the often moose filled road that heads out of Whitefish, towards the US border with Canada. But once you’ve stopped and stepped inside, you won’t miss the pet Cougar.

“Don’t get too close,” we’re warned. “She does sometime bite a little.” I’m no cat expert, but I can imagine a little bite from a cougar could hurt somewhat, and as I filled in my waver form, I heeded the advice and stayed well clear.

After a quick breakfast we stepped outside and had a short avalanche safety brief, the highlight of which saw me head off in completely the opposite direction to the rest of the group, who found a pre-buried transceiver in no time at all. Blindly following mine, I headed straight for the (fortunately quiet) road, before making a left-hand turn back into the hut and locating the female photographer, transceiver on, in the toilet. Not sure what she thought as I shouted, “found you!” from outside the locked door.

It was a 45 minute drive in the cat to our first drop, which, whilst a little long, did allow us to get to know each other and build up some excitement for the powder that awaited. Stepping out of the cat I sank knee deep in the soft stuff, and while rushing to clip my board on, failed to really concentrate on the guide’s description of our route. The photographer headed down first and after letting her set up we were sent down into the trees, one at a time.

Come my turn, seeing the photographer, I went for the glory shot and sped past her a great speed, throwing an arch of powder in my wake. It was soon after this that I wished I listened a little closer to the guide’s advice, as the next thing I knew, I was flying off a very big drop off and heading towards an  uphill section. Luckily the snow was very deep and, other than seeing a few stars and getting snow up my back, there was no real harm done.

Climbing back into the cat everyone was buzzing, and James, a fireman from Seattle, summed up the feeling of the group by saying, “you’re gonna have to smack this smile off my face!”

We were deep in the forest and well away from any road or medical help, and even though GNPC have a small fast emergency cat on mountain for quick evacuations, I checked my speed a little for the rest of the day, which was spent shredding trees in deep powder. We took five runs in the morning, all of which, whilst through deep powder, felt a little short - but I guess it meant less time in the cat getting back up!

Lunch was taken in a yurt, complete with log stove and gas cooker, which you can sleep in if you want to spend the following day deeper in the forest on the Great Northern Powder Cats’ Steep and Deep’ trip, which takes you to the far reaches of their terrain and offers up longer and steeper descents, an option which is probably best for the experienced powder hound.

The afternoon was spent blasting through the forest in longer sections, as we slowly made our way lower down the mountain and closer to the base station. Our last run was the hardest of the day, being through tight trees on a narrow path - at the end of which I was happy to climb back into the cat, knowing I’d had a hard day in the Montanan forest.

Great Northern Powder Guides run the only cat skiing in Montana and are just perfect for those who are confident in trees and want to experience remote skiing in a small group. Prices start from $365 per day and $3600 for up to 10 clients on the ‘Steep and Deep’ days.

For more information and booking see Great Northern Powder Guides
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