Last February, when snowmobilers poached Tim Kuss's permit area one too many times, the Durango, Colorado, cat-skiing operator turned them away with a shotgun—albeit an unloaded one. "When you tell them they're someplace they're not allowed, Kuss explains, "they say, 'I'm gonna kick your ass.'
Until recently, the U.S.'s 20-plus snowcat operations shared the backcountry—usually National Forest Service land—with a handful of ski-tourers who had the stamina to hoof it. But human-powered skiers don't cover much ground and rarely threaten the cats' market share of fresh tracks. Then came recreational snowmobilers—and, increasingly, snowmobile-skiers—who have clashed with snowcats in Idaho, allegedly defaced signs and removed cats' road safety markers in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and, say cat operators, sliced up the slopes their businesses depend upon. Who's in the right? Rather than give one group the last word, we figured we'd let both of them have it, and let you decide:
Dave Barnes, General Manager, Steamboat Powder Cats: "The areas we used to ski day in and day out are now completely wasted and tracked by snowmobile skiers and freeride snowmobiles within 24 hours of a storm. We go up and do snow preservation, grouping our lines tightly together. Snowmobilers just hit everything.
Mike Sladdin, Founder of Powder to the People, an organization dedicated to restoring snowmobile access near Aspen, Colorado: "This is public land. We should be allowed to access it just as they do. We're taxpayers too.
BY THE NUMBERS
16 Number of hours a Connecticut man was stuck inside a gondola car at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire, last September in an attempt to sneak a free ride down-mountain.
10,000 Number of fans who attended the Sun Valley, Idaho, appearance of the Dalai Lama last September. (That's approximately seven times the town's year-round population.)
202 Number of consecutive hours Australian Nick Willey skied last September at his country's Thredbo Alpine Resort to break the Guinness Book record.