This is an interesting development. Vermont's <link http: www.burlingtonfreepress.com apps pbcs.dll external-link-new-window>Burlington Free Press reports that Sugarbush has purchased a 12-passenger snowcat so that it can sell snowcat skiing tickets this winter.
Apparently the cat would take skiers into the Slide Brook section of their resort area—an undeveloped section that lies between Castlerock and Mount Ellen peaks.
Off-piste skiers and riders have been making use of this area, and now the snowcat service will open that terrain up to those who want a guided experience and don't feel like earning their turns.
Last season, Sugarbush offered small-group guided tours in Slide Brook without the use of a snowcat. Wonder how many people put down $65 to do that, not including the price of a lift ticket?
"The resort plans on offering sunrise and full-moon skiing and riding, plus specialty dinners at Allyn’s Lodge at Lincoln Peak and other special programs with the cat," reports the Free Press.
Gosh, every once and a while I think back to when I was teaching skiing years ago and the resorts were all uptight about risk management. They were going to great lengths to keep people on the trails and they were putting pads on everything. Remember?
It makes me chuckle now to see how the pendulum has completely swung the other way. The more obstacles you can put in a terrain park the better. The more tree runs you offer the better. The more off-piste skiing you can claim the better.
I've heard about snowcat skiing out west, in places like Colorado and British Columbia. There you can earn some major vertical on deep powder runs; the snowcat allows you to spend much-needed energy on the descent rather than on a long, long climb. Here in Vermont it remains to be seen whether we really need snowcat-accessed skiing. But if the skiing public is willing to pay for it, then you can be sure that resorts will offer it.
Photo: Sandy Macys for Sugarbush. Skiing the top of North Lynx at Sugarbush resort.