After 33 years, Grand Targhee Cat Skiing makes way for lift access

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The legendary and beloved cat ski experience to Great Targhee won’t run anymore.

Cat skiing is a form of guided backcountry exploration whereby skiers are transported beyond the boundaries of controlled ski areas into untouched powder. Rather than using a helicopter to access the backcountry, a snow cat acts as your personal Uber. Cat skiing is cheaper than heliskiing but gives skiers a similar sense of adventure.

And for 33 years, Grand Targhee has offered skiers cat rides to access expert ski terrain on Peaked Mountain.

But for the 2022-2023 ski season, the engine of the growling cat will fall silent, giving way to the hum of a chairlift bull’s wheel as a new chairlift comes to service the area. And while new chairlift access will open the station with increased capacity, it does so with a sense of nostalgic boredom.

“It is rare for a cat ski operation to be associated with a ski area,” noted Grand Targhee Resort in a blog post about the end of cat skiing on Peaked Mountain. “If you’ve had the chance to spend a day on the chat, you know how special a day at Peaked Mountain is.”

Cat Skiing makes way for a new chair

Until this winter, Great Targhee was the home of Wyoming’s only cat ski operation. The resort used two cats to service 602 dedicated acres of “lightweight, dry untraced Teton powder on our expansive cat-ski-only terrain.”

But for winter 2022-2023, Grand Targhee will open the Peaked Lift to service the historically snowcat-accessible terrain. The resort started installing this Doppelmayr D-Line 6-seater detachable chairlift in the summer of 2021.

Work worth more than $1 million – laying foundations for the tower and terminal as well as trenching and installing power/communications – has already taken place. During the summer of 2022, the towers and terminals will be installed. The resort aims to have the ground prepared for access to the ski lifts ready by this winter of 2022.

“The Peaked Lift will carry up to 2,000 people per hour and gain 1,815 vertical feet in just over five minutes,” the station noted in a Press release. “The Peaked area offers breathtaking views of the Tetons with access to over 600 acres of intermediate to advanced trails.”

Ski guide Paul Forester said, “With cat skiing being associated with Grand Targhee, the operation has incredible and wonderful benefits that people don’t think of.

“It’s partly because we have food and drink here. Every other cat ski operation in the world is scrambling to try and take care of the food, right? We have a beautiful base lodge; we start our mornings with snorkels and burritos, and when we come back there’s the Trap Bar.”

The resort says goodbye to cat skiing

Cat Ski Operations Team at Grand Targhee
(Photo/Grand Targhee Resort)

While the new lift will give many more skiers the chance to ride Peaked Mountain, the change, at least for the staff, is bittersweet. And those of us who have experienced a day of cat skiing – anywhere – can attest to the unique feeling of riding with a close-knit team aboard a woodworking machine.

“I can’t tell you how many people said it was the best day of skiing they’ve ever had, or it was the best day of their life,” the Beach Huntsman employee said in the blog.

Cat skiers celebrating an epic day of off-piste skiing at the Grand Targhee Resort
A group of people celebrating a day of cat skiing in the backcountry; (photo/Grand Targhee Resort)

“It comes from people who have skied all their lives, not just random tourists, but skiers, who know skiing and have skied all over the world. Hearing this not only once in a while, but quite often, people are enlightened by it. We are there with them while they are having their best day ever. It’s pretty cool to be a part of it,” Huntsman continued.

Cat skiing officially began in Grand Targhee in 1989. However, prior to the inaugural season, the operation existed unofficially – in typical Targhee fashion.

Although a lot has changed since then, the popularity of catskiing has grown. But times change, and so do the slopes, lifts and resorts.

It’s hard to say goodbye to a ski lover like this. But the best cat ski days will have to be somewhere else. And with a new elevator in place, many more people will be making new memories on the resort’s world-class grounds.

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