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Take A Snowcat Beyond The Ropes To Track Up Sierra Mega-Dumps

Snowcat-High-Sierra-Coverr It's this kind of terrain that awaits skiers and riders willing to pay to play in Sierra snowcat country. (Image via High Sierra Snowcat Facebook)

While midwinter storms have burnished ski and snowboard runs inside the ropes of Sierra resorts, the most consistent freshies lie beyond where only snowcats can reach.

Homewood Snowcat Adventures begin and end at the base of Homewood Mountain Resort on the shore of Lake Tahoe. After a chairlift ride from the base, skiers and riders take off in an eight-person snowcat to the top of 8,740-foot-high Ellis Peak.

Some 750 acres of glades, faces and bowls range from intermediate to expert in difficulty. An average day yields 4-6 guided runs, with 1,000 feet of vertical drop above the top lift at Homewood.

At lunchtime, folks can eat atop Ellis Peak or head down to a mid-mountain bar -- and return via chairlift. At the end of the day, some 1,800 feet of vertical drop await from the summit of Ellis Peak to the shore of Lake Tahoe.

Pacific Crest Snocats get advanced skiers and riders into the wild country between Sugar Bowl and Palisades Tahoe. Some 3,000 private acres bump up against the eastern front of the Crest -- right in line with midseason storms.

From the loading area about five miles south of downtown Truckee and seven miles north of Olympic Valley Road, a 12-person snowcat with guides delivers powderhounds deeper into the backcountry with every run -- from 7 to 10 trips in a day. Runs vary from open alpine bowls to steep lines through the trees, each with a vertical drop between 1,000 and 1,500 feet.

High Sierra Snowcat is the only California tour that combines snowcat access, backcountry skinning and an overnight stay in a mountain yurt. Located above Mono Lake in the eastern Sierra, the terrain pitches upward from Virginia Lake into 9,000 acres of chutes, glades, ridgelines and bowls.

From a rendezvous at Conway Summit about 40 miles north of Mammoth Lakes, an eight-seat snowcat journeys about an hour to a mountain yurt to unload. Then, it heads into remote high ground that reaches more than 11,000 feet above the Virginia Lakes Area.

Snowboarders and skiers can lap runs via the snowcat, or hop off for a skin or boot-hike to a more remote area. Or, smaller groups can split off for different experiences. Food and bedding is provided.

South of Lake Tahoe, Bear Valley hosts one-day snowcat tours into the backcountry surrounding the resort. New operator Sierra Wilderness Seminars takes up to 11 skiers and riders into the backcountry. Acreage of all manner of pitches flows off of Ebbetts Pass (8,730 feet).

Touring begins atop Bear Valley, and return at end of day includes a run down to the bottom. Tours are just getting organized under the new tour operators.



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