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Cat skiing at Soldier Mountain is a bucket list experience on the slopes

Posted at 2:01 PM, Feb 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-18 16:01:08-05

Soldier Mountain offers one of three places in Idaho for skiers and snowboarders to experience cat skiing in the backcountry.

In this operation, a Snowcat will take groups above the lifts where a blank canvas of fresh powder awaits on every turn. We also had the opportunity to ski with a legend. Reggie Crist competed in the 1992 Olympics and won two gold medals in the X Games.

Reggie Crist gets some powder turns in

"There is a lot of amazing skiing, I mean I am blessed I get to ski all over the world and the thing that strikes me about Idaho is just how vast this backyard playground is," said Crist, who runs a heli-ski operation in Alaska and Chile. "Soldier Mountain not only has the ski resort, but this cat skiing operation is legit."

Our day started with a brief avalanche refresher before Jeff Hershberger guided us where to go and how to stay safe while taking us to the best powder stashes in the Soldier Mountain backcountry.

Jeff Hershberger guided us down the mountain

"It is a balance trying to find good skiable snow and good pitch, but also maintain good safety and avalanche awareness," said Hershberger. "It’s definitely our top priority and we get out there quite a bit to poke around in the snow to get a good understanding of what the conditions are like and what we need to be concerned about."

When we got to the bottom of the run, Steve Hill took us back up the mountain in his Prinoth Snowcat. Steve works as a truck driver and has three million miles on the road without an accident, but he got tired of driving in the winter so he works at Soldier Mountain.

Riding in style inside the snow cat

"This just keeps me busy through the winter," said Hill. "Not many people get up here."

Steve took us up to the top of peak two at 9,529 feet of elevation. He creates his own roads with the Snowcat. By comparison, the top of lift two at Soldier Mountain sits at 7,177 feet.

The top of Peak 2

On an average day, groups get to ski between 10,000 and 15,000 vertical feet according to Hershberger. He does this job because he loves skiing, but he works in Boise as an engineer.

"It’s not glamorous money, it’s not the money you are getting paid in powder turns," said Hershberger. "When I work at the desk and the computer I really focus on getting that done so I can get up here and enjoy my time up here "working" in the hills."

A blank canvas of fresh powder

Cat skiing was one of my favorite days I've ever had on the slopes, but if you want to participate, you have to plan ahead as it's normally sold out.

It's just one example of the unique ways Soldier Mountain caters to guests. The mountain also offers backcountry touring, people can rent out the entire mountain for event,s and this mom and pop resort has cheaper tickets then most resorts.

skiers point of view

Soldier Mountain will also host musher ski day on February 24. It will be a free day of skiing for students and teachers for all Camas County students. Those students will also receive free season passes and instructions from the Sun Valley Ski Education Foundation.