Snowcat Thrills!

Pure, untouched powder is every skier’s dream. What if you were guaranteed the first run down the mountain? Now you can. 

By ANGELO LYNN, Photo by John Atkinson

SUGARBUSH — Who hasn’t seen those action shots in ski movies with skiers and riders gliding through knee-deep, untracked powder and wished just once in their lives, they could be there too?

Admit it. It’s a skier’s dream to be transported on a snowcat or helicopter somewhere in big mountains and have endless miles of untracked powder just waiting for you to set first tracks — even if not all of us think we’re ready to huck 20-foot cliffs.

Hey, everyone gets to dream.

And with Sugarbush Resort’s First Tracks program those dreams can become reality — right here in Vermont, at a modest price and on modest terrain.

That’s right. You don’t have to be a world-renown extreme skier like Sugarbush ambassador John Egan to go cat-skiing and ski untracked slopes that will deliver you plenty of thrills for an early morning.

Sugarbush’s snowcat, the Lincoln Limo, is equipped with individual cushioned seats for 12 passengers, is heated and as comfortable a snowcat you’ll ever ride. When you sign up with the resort’s First Tracks program, you meet at Timbers Restaurant at 6:30 to 6:45 a.m., have a quick breakfast snack of muffins and fruit, with coffee or tea, meet your compatriots and soon load into the limo to head to one of several areas — top of Heaven’s Gate, top of North Lynx, Slide Brook Wilderness Area or elsewhere — depending on the judgment of the guides.

A couple of guides (ours were Jessie and John Egan) accompany each trip. Because of high winds at the summit of Lincoln Peak, we headed to North Lynx where we sometimes split into two groups to head down the intermediate favorite, Birch Run, or the steeper diamond slopes, Sunrise or Morning Star.

I jumped on a tour Thursday morning, March 13, after snowstorm Vulcan had dumped 20 inches the day before and that night. The temps were cold (zero or so) and the wind blustery (15-20 mph), but our first run of the morning down Sunrise put any thoughts of the cold out of mind.

Soft bumps lay underneath a silky carpet of snow that was just deep enough to allow control while heading straight down the fall-line, using the moguls underneath to bounce turns and catch a little air. The feeling of skiing untracked powder above the knee is pure heaven, and it can make you feel like a pro — fluid and graceful, while also strong enough to send the snow flying as you bust through the steeper moguls on Morning Star.

If your group is quick, you’ll get four or so runs. We got four runs before opting to ski the Slide Brook area that drops 2,000-vertical through nicely gladed birches in one of the more scenic and remote sections of any ski area you’ll find in the East.

Two feet of snow in the trees and no wind? It’s just like the footage in those movies, and it doesn’t get much better than that.