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Yurt-Based Guided Backcountry Skiing & Snowboarding

High Sierra Snowcat and Yurt offers a unique experience, different from any other backcountry cat skiing operation. Bring your group of 4 or 8 riders and explore our 9,000 acres of terrain with professionally guided snowcat-assisted ski touring followed by an overnight in our yurts. Situated in the remote Virginia Lakes area, our yurts have prime access to great skiing and riding in our backyard, 7 miles away from any road access. Ski guiding, meals and snacks, and yurt lodging are included in your trip. See below for a typical guided trip itinerary.

Improvements Under New Ownership:

More Cat-Access!

One of our biggest priorities as the new owners of High Sierra Snowcat is to focus on the mechanical advantage our snowcats offer. We are working with a new team to improve the road system and create more opportunities to use the cat throughout the day. This means you get more skiing for less skinning, sometimes even no skinning required! Along with this, some of your favorite zones will see improvements with things like temporary snow fencing to catch snow for entrances and streamlining the road system.

Additional Guide on Every Trip

Starting this winter, 3 guides will be on every trip. This allows for more flexibility to do group splits; for example, do 3 people want to take cat-laps while 5 hike to Castle Peak? Now you can! This leaves one guide dedicated to driving the snowcat at all times to take advantage of our improved snowcat roads.

New Sauna Tent

Nothing is better than a hot sauna to relax your muscles after a full day of skiing. New this winter a new platform sauna tent will be available to guests right next door to the yurt.

****UPDATE*** our sauna tent was not prepared for the heavy Sierra Snow and has unfortunately collapsed and will be down for the season. We will try again next year with a more sturdy structure.

Renovated Guest Yurt

We are renovating the guest yurt to accommodate up to 8 guests in full beds with fresh bedding and cozy comforters provided. Updated furniture, lighting, and a new layout will make you eager to stay another night.

Safety Improvements

We understand the importance of communication in the backcountry. For this reason, every guest will be equipped with a radio to communicate with their guides. Additionally, we have new VHF radios and satellite tracking for guides in the field. Lastly, with Starlink Internet at the Yurts, we will have additional weather forecasting tools at our disposal.

Going forward all guides will meet the minimum certification level of a Pro I Avalanche Certification and a Wilderness First Responder. All guides will be working towards completion of an AMGA Ski Guide Course and Pro II within two years of working with High Sierra Snowcat.

Backcountry Gourmet Meals

We have been working with local chefs to develop a new menu. You can look forward to the highest standard of backcountry cuisine. Think more along the lines of surf and turf or fondue instead of standard camping fare.

How it Works

A Typical Guided Trip Experience

Getting to the Zone

Our snowcat gets your group and all your gear to the yurts and to the best zone for your group.

Rally your crew of four or eight riders and meet your guides at the Conway Summit parking area just off Hwy 395 on Virginia Lakes Road between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m.  After introductions and a discussion on snowcat safety, we will board the heated snowcat to begin a 30-60 minute journey into the heart of the Sierra’s best ski and teaching terrain.

During the commute to the yurts, your guide will discuss our trip itinerary, backcountry safety, and an overview of the current conditions. Once we arrive at the heated yurts, guests will briefly unpack and change into ski gear. Before beginning the day of guided ski/snowboard operations the guides will lead an Avalanche Safety Briefing including the use of personal or provided transceiver, shovel, and probe.

Ski and Ride the Day You Arrive

Use the snowcat for assisted access and earn your turns by using touring skis or split boards and skins.

The daytime revolves around snowcat-assisted skiing and snowboarding. The snowcat allows us to travel to the best terrain within our 9,000 acres of operational land and takes us uphill.

When conditions allow, we have ‘cat laps’ in which we can use the snowcat like a chairlift with no skinning whatsoever. Some of our favorite terrain is unreachable by snowcat alone, in this case our snowcat driver will drop the group off mid-mountain and the guide will lead the way continuing uphill on skins. These hybrid laps allow for long runs that end at a snowcat pick-up. Finally, we do have some terrain that the snowcat will take you to the base and the ascent is a straightforward backcountry skin up and ski down. Lunch is most commonly eaten out in the “field”.

The option to return to the yurt will always be made available to our clients and that decision may be made by the guide. Your group of up to 8 skiers will be our only guests in the field, allowing the guides to cater the pace and duration of the day to match your needs.

Daily terrain choices are determined by the snowpack stability, weather conditions, and the experience level of the group, all assessed by the guides. We will get you to the best terrain and snow conditions in our area. Snowcat shuttles, short climbs, and big ski descent rewards!

backcountry skiing in the eastern sierra

Home Sweet Dome

Enjoy on-mountain accommodations in our newly renovated yurts with delicious meals prepared by our guides and (almost) all the comforts of home.

After the day of skiing, the group will return to the yurts where you will enjoy après snacks. Guests will have downtime to freshen up, relive the day’s experiences, stretch, and get into any beverages of choice that you brought along with you. Our guides and cat driver would love to join you for a family-style dinner, with all meal preparations and cleaning done by our staff. Before retiring to bed, we will have a group discussion about the next day’s general plan and weather.

The next morning will begin with the smell of fresh coffee brought to your yurt and a warm breakfast before gearing up for another day of skiing. On the final morning of your trip, guests will pack everything that isn’t coming out skiing with you. The group will ski as much as we can, briefly stop by the huts to grab gear, then bring you back to your vehicles at Conway Summit by the early afternoon.

Guided One-Day Trips

High Sierra Snowcat would love to take you on a cat-assisted skiing adventure even if you can’t stay the night in our yurts.

Daily guided ski trips will begin and end at the Conway Summit parking area just off HWY 395. The guides will be ready to meet you at 8 a.m. After introductions and a discussion on snowcat safety, we will board the heated snowcat to begin a 30-60 minute journey into the heart of the Sierra’s best ski and teaching terrain. During the commute out, your guide will discuss our trip overview, backcountry safety, Leave No Trace principles, and an overview of the current conditions.

The Snowcat will bring the group of 4 or 8 riders straight to the first ski run of the day. Before beginning the day of guided ski/snowboard operations, the guides will lead an avalanche safety briefing including the use of personal or provided transceiver, shovel, and probe. The day will revolve around snowcat-assisted skiing, with a midday break in the yurt to eat lunch and warm up by the fire. Your group of up to 8 skiers will be our only guests in the field, allowing the guides to cater the pace and duration of the day to match your needs. In most cases, the group will finish skiing by 4:30 p.m. and will arrive back to their vehicles by 5:30 p.m.

“After a decade in the ski industry with experience from New Zealand to Alaska and everywhere in-between we realized;

We love taking people skiing. We love the Sierra Nevada. We love our cozy yurts ready to welcome you after a epic day in the mountains. Can’t wait to share this incredibly unique experience with you!”

Drew Layman & Tessa Andrzejczak
Owners/Operators

Ready to explore the East Side?