Lightning Ridge is one of Powder Mountain’s three single-ride cat areas, which in total amount to 1,300-plus skiable acres. There’s three more all-day reservation-based cat ski areas adding to the gigantion nature of the resort. The total skiable terrain here is staggering at 8,000 acres, making it one of America’s largest ski resorts. And the most amazing thing is that there’s hardly anyone here in relation to most other ski resorts.
This is Irons third year as the weekday Lightning Ridge cat driver, and his fourth year at Powder. “I fell in love with being up here and the laid-back vibe,” he says. Irons definitely adds to that vibe as he motions a shaka sign — “hang loose” — to patrons before shutting the door and taking the powderhounds to Powder Mountain cat skiing Utah paradise.
The Ride Up
The beauty of the ski cat is that it takes patrons to places they can’t access by lifts and that might be too arduous to trek to on foot. With advances in climbing technology, cat skiing now rivals heli-skiing in providing access to remote parts of the mountain and certainly surpasses it in price.
Irons’ ski cat is similar in size and mechanics to the massive cats that groom the resort runs — with all-traction tires and tons of torque in the engine to get to where it wants — but this one has a big compartment for people transportation. On a busy day, Irons will lap Lightning Ridge about 40 times, delivering upwards to 350 people.
“I love that everyone is so excited on a powder day. They just get that huge smile on their faces,” Irons says. What’s behind that smile is knowing they might just get the turns of their life in about 15 minutes.
Since Irons works Monday through Friday, he takes his turns on the weekends. Even on Saturday, though, Powder Mountain is fairly calm — a mountain mostly for Ogdenites — so he nevertheless gets his powder fix.
Irons himself takes occasional laps on Lightning Ridge. He relates the irony of his first time out cat skiing Utah: As the ski cat was heading up the hill — with Irons in the back this time — it slid into a snowbank and got stuck. So on the route that he takes hundreds of people up every day, on his first trip as a patron, he had to walk up halfway. “Good thing it’s a really pleasant hike,” he says.
In fact, we pass a number of hikers who didn’t want to pay the $20 add-on price for the single-ride cat. But inside the ski cat, it’s filled to the brim with happy folk. The sticker-laden windows are foggy as people chat amongst themselves about their route. Most everyone is embarking on what locals call a “super loop.”