Loveland Ski Area’s free Ridge Cat, a snowcat that transports skiers and snowboarders along the Continental Divide to access challenging, above-timberline alpine terrain, has resumed operations for the first time in nearly two years.
The Ridge Cat last operated in March 2020, when Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order shutting down the state’s ski resorts because of COVID-19. The continuing pandemic prevented Loveland from operating the cat last winter because it brings as many as 18 passengers into close contact within a small enclosed space.
The Ridge Cat resumed operations last Friday. Skiers and riders must have lift tickets or season passes, but there is no additional charge to ride the cat, which runs laps along the divide. It accesses expert terrain that is left ungroomed.
Loveland debuted the Ridge Cat in 2012, the year of its 75th anniversary.
“It’s very unique,” said marketing director John Sellers. “We’ve got this incredible terrain up along the Continental Divide. This terrain was previously hike-to only, and it was severely under-utilized. It’s a fun, fast way to access the terrain, and people have really enjoyed it over the years.”
Terrain served by the cat tops out at 13,010 feet. It’s rated black diamond and double-black.
“You need to be at least a strong intermediate or expert skier,” Sellers said. “If you think you’re close and you want to go up and check it out, we encourage you to ride up in the cat and it will drop you off right at the top of Field of Dreams (a black diamond), which is probably the mellowest run served by the cat. You can take a good look at it, and the snow conditions, and make a decision for yourself. If you are uncomfortable skiing that terrain, the best advice would be to follow the snowcat back down to the pick-up point.”
The Ridge Cat operates Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., weather permitting. To catch the cat, skiers and riders ride Lift 9, Loveland’s highest lift, and take a short traverse to the pick-up point.
The Ridge Cat typically begins operation in January or February when snow cover is sufficient.
“Snow is really the determining factor,” Sellers said. “We want to open it as quickly as we can, but we need to get Lift 9 open (first), and then ski patrol needs to work their way out to that terrain. Lift 9 typically opens in January, so the Ridge Cat usually opens soon after Lift 9 does.”
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