Cat Ski Canada Vs USA

Cat Ski Canada Vs USA

It would be hard to dispute that Canada has the most superior cat skiing product in the world. Cat skiing began back in the 70s in Meadow Creek Canada, and Canada continues to be the home of cat skiing. So how does cat skiing Canada differ to that offered in USA? As a starting point, the differences are apparent by comparing the USA cat skiing stats to the Canada cat ski statistics.

Day Cat Skiing

Whilst multi-day trips with remote wilderness lodging is the norm with Canada cat skiing, most of the USA cat skiing companies have a single day format. Many of the US cat skiing companies are attached to a ski resort or are close to a ski resort.

Terrain Size

The terrain size is typically much larger with Canada snowcat skiing versus USA cat skiing. Canada cat skiing tenures range from 324 hectares (Powder Stagecoach) to 23,800 hectares (Chatter Creek) with an average of 8,750 hectares.

The average USA cat skiing size is 2,493 hectares (6,674 acres). More than 13 of the operators have terrain less than 1,200 hectares and the median size is only 900 hectares. Small terrain size commonly results in an inferior experience because fresh tracks aren’t guaranteed, and if there’s been a dry spell, the guides have limited terrain choices to find decent snow.

Vertical Covered Each Day

The vertical descent of the terrain is one noticeable difference between USA and Canada. Typically in the USA the runs are about half the length of that in Canada, and offer only about 1,000 feet of vertical drop. This is compensated somewhat by offering more runs each day.

Despite this the vertical per day is significant higher with Canada cat skiing. In the USA, an average day of cat skiing is about 8,000 to 12,000 feet (and as little as 6,000 feet).

There are a couple of Whistler cat skiing operators that offer about the same vertical, but most Canada cat skiing delivers in the realm of 12,000 to 20,000 feet. Ahh all those sweet powder turns!

Snow Quality and Quantity

The snow quality between Canada and USA isn’t significantly different, with the exception of cat skiing in Utah at Park City Powdercats where the powder is divine). However you’ll notice that our cat skiing ratings rank Canada much higher. This is somewhat related to the small terrain size, such that the guides don’t have as many aspects and as many slopes to choose from, and you may be stuck with a sun-baked or crusty alpine slope.

With Canada cat skiing there’s a much higher chance of needing your snorkel. The volume of snow that falls is higher – 13 metres on average. In continental USA the average cat skiing snowfall is 10 metres per season – of course this is still pretty impressive!

Cat Skiing Costs

Naturally the cost comparison is dependent on the currency exchange, but it’s still fair to say that USA cat skiing is cheaper than Canada cat skiing.

It’s difficult to compare value for money, but considering you get more skiing for your dollar in Canada and the quality is generally much better, the value for money is probably about even.


There is a huge difference between the safety standards of USA and Canada cat skiing. The Canada industry is highly regulated and the operators place a much higher importance on the safety aspects. This is apparent when you look at our cat skiing ratings for the “avalanche mitigation” and “safety briefing” components.

In Canada the safety briefings are generally much more comprehensive, the guides are highly qualified (not just ski patrol experience), and the avalanche risk minimisation strategies are highly evident to all guests. This is not to say that the US cat skiing companies are unsafe. It’s just that in Canada they put a lot more emphasis on safety.

Ski Touring and Snowmobilers

Another limitation is that many USA cat skiing operations have to rub shoulders with an ever growing number of ski tourers that poach the fresh tracks. This includes skiers that access the area via snowmobile. Some of the areas also have to share terrain with snowmobilers and the risk of them high marking slopes.

In Canada, most operators have exclusive access to the terrain.