The snowcat rattles as I smudge some condensation off a window to get a peek outside of the cab, and I can just make out the blue- and gray-hued mass of Lake Tahoe through powder-coated trees. The snowy branches are a good sign. In spite of the balmy temperatures that followed the recent snowfall, the protected north aspects around Ellis Peak have stayed cool and the snow has stayed fresh. After the snowcat drops its cargo of seven mouthwatering skiers off at the peak, we take a moment to admire a breathtaking view of the lake — stunning vistas are an endlessly renewable resource at Homewood Ski Resort — before diving into 1,824 vertical feet of the goods.
Homewood Snowcat Adventures is the only cat skiing operation in the Tahoe Basin, and its highly qualified guides have been introducing skiers and snowboarders to the 750 acres of backcountry skiing around Ellis Peak above Homewood Resort since 2016. While it takes a healthy snowfall to get the operation up and running, this winter it seems we’ve been blessed by the snow gods and the cat is open for bookings.
Trips can be booked on Homewood’s website for up to nine advanced skiers and snowboarders. Intermediate trips can also be arranged. When booking a trip, you can expect anywhere from five to seven laps in a day, typically exploring different pitches along the ridge behind the resort, and decadent burrito lunches from the West Shore Cafe are provided in the warm cab of the snowcat as it hauls you up for another run. I highly recommend the “Philly” lunch option.
But what’ll it cost? Well, the $399 price tag may seem daunting ($299 for Homewood passholders), but consider that this is actually cheaper than a ski lesson anywhere in Tahoe. A day of heli-skiing in the Ruby Mountains of Nevada will run you about $1,600 in comparison, for roughly the same number of laps. If this is still looking out of your price range, take note that the snowcat grooms an excellent skin track to the top of Ellis Peak, starting right from the top of the Old Homewood Express lift …