Company hoping to offer skiers, boarders new option to access backcountry |

Company hoping to offer skiers, boarders new option to access backcountry

Private Catz is offering skiers and snowboarders a chance to rent this six-seat, fully inclosed and heated side-by-side as an option to access the backcountry. The company originally planned to start operations in Steamboat Springs this winter but, due to permitting problems and negative feedback, has elected to run its operations on Jones Pass near Winter Park.

Chris Whiteneck, co-founder of Private Catz, said the company is pumping the brakes on its plans to rent side-by-side vehicles that would allow backcountry skiers to access Buffalo Pass, but Private Catz will continue to offer rentals in other areas.

“The attraction of Buff Pass is the fact that you guys get more snow earlier in the season than most of Colorado, especially in relation to where we live,” said Whiteneck, who added that the option is not off the table. “That’s what I’m striving for, and as long as the permitting process goes to plan next year, I would hope to be operating there.”

Whiteneck said that this winter Private Catz is continuing operations on Jones Pass near Winter Park, and despite a mixed response to the idea of adding Buffalo Pass to the lineup, he feels like Private Catz can serve backcountry skiers and snowboarders who can’t afford the increasing cost of a lift ticket or a private, guided snowcat adventure.

“We want to deliver kind of a different idea, and that would be to basically rent a six-seat UTV with snow tracks,” Whiteneck said. “This vehicle would be capable of taking six people that have backcountry knowledge and are aware of the risks they’re taking, and would allow them to bring slightly larger parties up there.

“We’ve had a lot of interest and we ski all over Colorado, Utah, California, and this is something that we’ve just noticed other people are doing side-by-sides that hold multiple people with snow tracks. You can rent them in Frisco or out in Vail and different areas in Colorado, but no one’s really worded it the way we’re trying to word it.“

This winter Private Catz started renting the fully-enclosed, heated Polaris Ranger 1000 XP with ski racks aimed at skiers and snowboarders who have backcountry experience. The company’s founders bill Private Catz as Colorado’s first affordable cat skiing operation providing self-guided skiing in the same area as more traditional snowcat services.

“Somebody with backcountry skiing knowledge, with friends in town that are all of the same mindset, could rent this vehicle. It has a ski rack on it and provides a heated area for people to hang out in between runs,” Whiteneck said. “They could take advantage of the same road network that snowmobilers, skinners and snowshoers take advantage of in the winter.”

The six-seat side-by-side costs $1,000 for a day and can carry up to six riders including the driver. The company delivers the vehicle to the location, where the client is run through a short operational and safety session.

The company also encourages its customers get the facts before heading into the backcountry. Private Catz does not provide guides or drivers. Customers must keep the machines on groomed paths and are responsible for the cost if Private Catz has to call in a third-party towing company to recover the vehicle.

Whiteneck said Private Catz has already run into some roadblocks this winter, and that is why the company is not operating on Buffalo Pass.

He explained that the permitting process had closed and the side-by-sides the company offers are too wide for the trails, which requires an additional permit. Whiteneck said the company also got a lot of negative comments on its Facebook post from Steamboat Springs locals who were not excited about Private Catz’s plan.

“We were running into some complications, and that’s fine,” Whiteneck said. “So, we pumped the brakes and headed to a new location that we have. The idea is, obviously, to start putting these out in multiple locations.”

Whiteneck characterized the response the company received as mixed and said he has also received plenty of positive feedback from skiers and snowboarders who are excited about the idea. He feels that this rental option is better than skiers and snowboarders renting snowmobiles to access backcountry.

“What we’ve noticed with sled skiing — that’s where somebody would rent a snowmobile to go skiing — there is a maximum amount of people you could put on this machine,” Whiteneck said. “We just noticed there’s a gap here, so why not put a bigger vehicle out there? Our side-by-side goes slower and has to stick to the trails. It can’t handle boondocking off trails. With its power, it’s going to be a more slow-moving ride. It’s really no different than renting some sort of off-road vehicle to do this in the summertime that’s just bigger than say a motorcycle or all-terrain vehicle.”

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