Snowcat Packing


The email popped into my inbox last week – “Press Trip Invite”. Love reading these. They come with an attached itinerary that makes Club Med looked like a snooze. I will read all about the place and daydream about the excursion. Then I decline.

Don’t get me wrong. Press trips are a travel writer’s bread and butter. Magazines and newspapers rarely pay expenses (websites, never) and if I’m going to pay to visit a place I’m on vacation like everyone else; not working. With press trips, we are invited on an all-expense paid mini-vacay so we can (honestly) report back on the experience (be it good or bad). There really is no faster way to get the word out about a place than to invite a group of experienced journalists to see for themselves. It’s cheaper for a company than advertising and, if you plan right, you can target a myriad of audiences from seniors and families to extreme athletes. And for us media people, a press trip is like a mini writers conference. I have yet to walk away from one without a story assignment. I went on a Lake Powell luxury houseboat excursion and wrote for two years for Trail Blazer Magazine- an RV print pub. But usually I stay home in the winter. The snow and skiing is always better in Utah and, invariably, if you do travel you get to hear reports of footage dumping in the Wasatch and many happy faceshots while you cruise groomers as the guides point to places that are great fun “when there’s snow.”

But this particular email was different. It had only one activity listed: SNOWCAT SKIING. Duh. I may be blond but I’m no dummy. I’ve had only one icky snowcat skiing experience (fat ski testing outside of Crested Butte, Colo., for SKI Magazine) and it was still something to boast to the grandkids about. We had pockets of windblown but for the most part everything was break-away crust and corral reef; near death-defying in places but ski athletes like Kristen Ulmer and Chris Anthony made shitty snow look sweet. It was fun, challenging, exciting and educational to be part of that team. I wasn’t missing anything back home.

photo courtesy Grand Targhee Cat Skiing

Here was the gist of the Three Forks Ranch email:

An ultra-exclusive, luxury ranch property celebrates its first-ever season of snowcat power skiing. We want to invite you on an all-inclusive (that’s airfare, too) press visit February 27 – 29.

I’ll give you 3 reasons why this place makes for a great story:

  1. There are only 15 guest rooms total, so there’s a max of 30 guests who could possibly be on the mountain, at the spa, in the dining room, etc while you’re there.
  2. There are no lift lines, because private guides transport skiers to the top of Three Forks Mountain – a pristine peak blanketed by an annual snowfall of 400-450 inches – via snowcats.
  3. Everything is included in your stay, and I mean everything… world-class cuisine, room, all the luxe spa treatments you heart desires, skiing, snowmobiling, sleigh riding, and anything else you can imagine doing on 200,000 private acres.

And then there was this video.

I busted out my High Sierra wheeled ski bag collecting dust in my attic, packed my Dynastar Paradises, the Leki poles with the fat baskets, a backpack for my camera, one ski outfit and baselayers that I could don the minute we hit the Ranch, a knit dress for dinner (after all it is a ‘luxury’ lodge and men are required to wear a collared shirt), Sorel Tofinos for sledding, Athleta tankini for the hottub and Hi-Tec Mocs for fast airport security and trekking to the spa, and I was good to go. The Langes, laptop, iPod, Canon, and Wowee speaker go in the wheelie carry-on and… DAMN I forgot my avalanche beacon. Just because you’re at a deluxe lodge does not mean you can’t die in the backcountry. Snowcat skiing is backcountry skiing. But I’m pretty sure they’ll have spares for us.

Oh, and for those of you who have no idea what snowcatting is, you need to. It’s like helicopter skiing without ever leaving the ground. You may not get as much vertical as you do in a chopper but the runs are untracked and wide open. The cat can roll in any weather and you get to warm up inside as you truck up to your next run. It’s also a lot less expensive than helicopter skiing.

So there you have it. My plane to Steamboat is about to board. Gotta run!


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