The Best Snowcat Skiing In Montana

Mark Barnett
Last Updated: February 24th, 2023

If the idea of deep and trackless backcountry snow sounds appealing then maybe Snowcat Skiing in Montana is just your thing. If you’ve never tried this exhilarating backcountry snow pursuit before, you could be in for some lasting mountain memories.

Due to the skill and safety aspects involved, there hasn’t always been an easy route into Snowcat Skiing for families. But even that is changing, as we shall see.

‘Cat skiing’ is certainly vigorous and challenging in many ways, but if you and your family are good with all of this, it’s a potential experience of a lifetime.

Guide to Snowcat Skiing in Montana

what is snowcat skiing

What is Snowcat Skiing?

Snowcat skiing offers a unique path for skiers along with a trail created just for them that often grants access to more obscure routes not open to the general public. It is a great way to beat the lines and get a more personalized experience.

A Snowcat will bring a group of skiers up the hill to a designated area and allow them to go down their own trail. This process is repeated several times over. It is an ideal way to spend the day skiing with other enthusiasts in a group.

While this kind of event is geared towards more experienced skiers, there has been some push to make it a more family-friendly event through such outfitters as  Great Northern Powder Guides.

Access to Snowcat Skiing and Guides

access to snowcat skiing and guides
Image: Great Northern Powder Guides

The family-owned and operated Great Northern Powder Guides deserves a special mention in this post as the main snowcat skiing operation in Whitefish. In fact, this outfitting operation claims the title of being the only snowcat skiing operator in the state, so Whitefish it is if you are serious about this endeavor.

The team here puts together some amazing backcountry skiing experiences fused with a combination of experience, unique terrain, and backcountry powder. The trips operate across 20,000 acres or more in the Stillwater State Forest. All trips are fully guided and run 7 days a week through winter.

Each snowcat can carry up to 14 passengers but the option to enjoy a Private Powder Cat for family & friends is available.

Accommodation is also available at Great Northern if required, which is again great for families. Funnily enough, one of the issues for those wanting to get involved in this activity has always been the attitude of the many operators who maintain that this isn’t a family-oriented pursuit.

But Great Northern had different ideas about the matter. The owner says half his business comes from families, and many come with younger kids. The main consideration is establishing that everyone on the trip needs to pay attention and respect the rules and guides and that this is a basic but important safety measure to establish.

Great Northern Powder Guides is fully-geared towards Snowcat Skiing trips and experiences for all abilities and requirements. This means first-time cat skiers and powder skiers alike are catered to, as are the more advanced skiers and riders through the operation’s Steep and Deep Cat trips.

The fact that the operation is located in the northern region of the Stillwater State Forest does it no harm whatsoever. The State forest is also located in northwest Montana near Glacier National Park,  which puts you in an ideal location recreation-wise.

Transportation between Whitefish and the cat skiing base lodge, which is accessible off Highway 93, is provided for anyone without wheels.

More Info on Stillwater State Forest

stillwater state forest
Image: Troy Smith

Just north of Whitefish in Olney, Stillwater State Forest covers 90,000 acres in all and has something of a reputation as a top snowcat skiing destination. In fact, it is where the only snowcat skiing in the Flathead region is to be found.

As it turns out Great Northern Powder Guides is also the only outfitter permitted to operate guided backcountry snowcat trips into the Stillwater Forest.

Come December, the snow cats start to roll out with pockets of skiers looking for the once-in-a-lifetime thrill. The forest, which is home to both Upper Stillwater Lake and Lower Stillwater Lake, features varied terrain perfect for adventurous types.

That means there’s plenty of scope for beginners as well as anyone looking for expert-level slopes, the forest includes some runs of over 800 vertical feet.

Snowcat Skiing In Montana – The Bottom Line

Snowcat skiing in Montana is another exciting winter option to enjoy in the state, whether with friends or family.

While this is still an activity not that widespread across the state due to operating licenses and such, it’s fair to say that the majority of visitors to Whitefish and its surrounding scenery will hardly be disappointed.

If you want to try something unique in winter, then a snowcat skiing adventure in Montana could be just the ticket.

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About The Author

Mark Barnett

Mark Philip is a writer and lifestyle enthusiast from the Midlands in the U.K. With a background in martial arts and fitness, Mark headed out to Bangkok, Thailand where he now lives and works. Mark has authored e-books, articles, and blogs across a wide range of topics for commercial, educational, factual, lifestyle and leisure-based purposes.

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