Ski resorts are a popular destination for anyone who enjoys being surrounded by a crisp, mountainous environment and loves to see these sights in a safe and fun way. One way to make ski trips even more exciting is to add snowcat tours as an alternative to simple ski lifts and pricey helicopter rides. Here are some tips for how to start snowcat tours at your own ski resort, just in time for the upcoming 2022 season.
Why Snowcat Tours?
To start, you may be wondering what makes snowcat tours so special in the first place. After all, they can seem like just another way of getting skiers to the top of the mountain. Also, like helicopters, snowcats require trained professionals to handle the vehicle. However, snowcat tours do offer advantages the other options don’t.
Snowcat Tours Offer Unparalleled Backcountry Access
Snowcat tours allow riders to explore untracked backcountry areas they normally wouldn’t have access to. This means that anyone who wants to see more of the beautiful winter scenery at your resort can take a snowcat ride and see parts of the mountain they wouldn’t have been able to reach otherwise. This, combined with the appeal of skiing through fresh powder rather than a pre-used trail, can make snowcat tours an exciting option for more advanced skiers interested in going on a real adventure.
Snowcat Tours Are Less Expensive For Resort Owners
Snowcat tours are less expensive than a helicopter ride and more efficient as well. There’s enough space to fit supplies like food and fuel, minimizing how often drivers need to stop and restock between runs. More people can fit in the snowcat as well, increasing your potential for tour groups as well as the tour’s overall efficiency.
Snowcat Tours Are Less Expensive For Consumers
From the consumer’s perspective, snowcat tours tend to be much cheaper than helicopter tours, which can cost thousands of dollars for a single rider’s experience. Prices people might typically pay for a snowcat can be made much more affordable, depending on your price structure. Resorts can make up for this by being able to sell more snowcat tours and more snowcat tour seats.
In other words, snowcat tours are a good choice all around for everyone involved. Skiers who want a more adventurous expedition will enjoy riding through the backcountry, larger groups will be able to more efficiently meet up at the peak, and your resort will ultimately profit from offering the tours.
How Do Snowcat Tours Work?
While there are many benefits to snowcat tours, operating your own is not as easy as simply purchasing a snowcat and taking people up the mountain. Like all ski tours, you’d benefit from setting a specific schedule and establishing a format for these tours. If you’re interested in setting up snowcat tours at your own resort, it helps to know how they’re typically structured and what skiers are coming to expect when they book.
While snowcat tours tend to be a bit slower than helicopter tours and can’t get everyone to the peak as quickly, they can hit a variety of unique mountain landmarks. As mentioned, they can double as a safe way for groups to go sightseeing through terrain they’d never otherwise get to explore. It’s a good idea to take guests around to scenic areas and embrace this aspect of using a snowcat, since it encourages people to try the tour experience even if they’re not an expert skier.
Ultimately, the schedule and structure of the tour you create will depend on how your resort runs, how many tours you expect to have each day, and what activities you can offer. The important part is in the planning, which includes deciding lunch arrangements, how long each tour will run, and what areas of the mountain you want your guests to see.
Operating and Maintaining a Snowcat
So, how do you keep-up on snowcat maintenance? Eventually, like all vehicles, you’ll need to perform regular maintenance and repairs to ensure the safety of all involved. The cost of keeping a snowcat in operation may ultimately be more expensive than the initial price to purchase or lease the snowcat itself. However, it’s an investment worth paying to ensure everything is working as intended.
For starters, you’ll need to pay the upfront cost of the snowcat, as well as any extra costs necessary to get the vehicle transported to your resort and inspected.for example, may cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, and even used ones can cost tens of thousands. You can make the cost back with the tour tickets and other resort fees, but it’s still something to consider before taking the leap.
Someone also needs to be able to drive the snowcat. If you don’t have an employee who’s already trained, you may have to hire a new person for the job or train your current employees to operate it. The more snowcats you have, the more available drivers you need, which is another maintenance cost to consider.
Finally, if the snowcat malfunctions or suffers damage, it’s important to get the vehicle repaired as soon as possible to prevent further issues and avoid extended downtime. Unless someone at the resort is a skilled mechanic with experience in this sort of work, your snowcat requires a professional’s assistance. During the repair process, you may still need to buy replacement parts, such as new steel tracks. Look into upgrades like GPS positioning and more if you intend to keep your snowcat working years later, especially as newer models come out.
Leasing your snowcat rather than buying it is a good solution to many of these issues. The leaser still has ownership over the vehicle, and thus it won’t fall to you to continue the vehicle’s upkeep. Additionally, the initial cost won’t be as expensive as if you had purchased a snowcat outright, and you can handle other fees later when you have the funds to do so. Because of this, leasing out the snowcat is an excellent option if you’d like to begin snowcat tours at your ski resort.
Buying The Right Snowcat For The Job
Of course, the most important part of offering snowcat tours at your ski resort is ensuring you purchase or lease a quality snowcat in the first place. So, what’s the best sort of snowcat for your purposes and how do you go about getting one?
First, it’s necessary to make sure the vehicle you’re getting is in good condition. While a little wear and tear may not be a deal breaker, if you’re intending to offer tours, the snowcat should be reliable enough to carry your employees and your guests around mountainous terrain on a daily or near-daily basis. Whether you don’t mind putting some money into repairing and upgrading a snowcat for touring season or just want to find something that’s already ready to ride, a good snowcat for the job is one that isn’t a safety hazard for the people using it.
If you want to be able to carry the most guests possible through the mountains, then you’ll want a larger snowcat with a larger carriage for both people and supplies. Alternatively, you could choose to spend some money getting a carriage upgrade for a standard sized snowcat. Snowcats are already designed to be large and strong, so pick the size you think is right for the groups you’ll be attracting. Larger sizes are simply a better investment if you think you’ll attract groups of people who will want to go on a snowcat tour at once.
You might also consider original and replacement parts. How easily can they be repaired or replaced? Are they suited for repeated trips up and down mountains, or would you have to upgrade? Like all things, if you wind up with a snowcat that can’t be easily repaired, then ultimately you’ve wound up with a snowcat that can’t be used without more time and money invested. Some manufacturer’s parts are sold around the country, while others might be harder to find. PistenBully, for example, is a popular brand of snowcat and thus has more options available on the market. However, a lesser known or older brand might be harder to maintain.
Snowcat Tours as Added Attraction
Above all, the key is to do your research and prepare in advance if you want to set up snowcat tours at your resort. Snowcat tours can be an incredible enhancement and added attraction to your location. Snowcats are reliable machines, commonly used for snow grooming, tours, emergency situations, and more. Speak to a dealer about buying or leasing a snowcat. Such enhancements can be lucrative for resorts looking for alternative ways to entertain visitors.