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  1. #1
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    Aug 2006
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    Starting a cat ski operation?

    What sort of hoops would I need to jump through and how much would they cost? Thinking more along the lines of running a legal op opposed to the cats/hardgood/labor costs. Im pretty amazed at what you can get used in the sno-cat market as long as its not a groomer. 10-15k a pop, maybe have two cats, a backcountry yurt somewhere for 5-10k, and be good to go.

    Biggest pain would naturally be getting the permits. Everyone says this is expensive, but how so? Lawyer fees? Timeline? Ive been saving up to buy a house and all but could afford the cats and yurt straight cash right now, but wouldnt leave much of anything else for permitting etc.

    What other challenges do you see there being?

    Im sure this is one big dream but if somewhat feasible might be worth looking into. Would definitely be cool to have mag centered cat-ski op in the lower 48. D
    Live Free or Die

  2. #2
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    Sep 2006
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    I don't know about permits, but I can see insurance being a bitch.

  3. #3
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    Apr 2006
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    Bravo Delta.
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    Full-time heavy duty mechanic for daily maintenance, overhauls, repairs. These things require work to keep them running.

    I know that you said that your line of thinking was more in the legal/paper work relm,...but don't underestimate this either.
    Quote Originally Posted by Socialist View Post
    They have socalized healthcare up in canada. The whole country is 100% full of pot smoking pro-athlete alcoholics.

  4. #4
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    Can I have a job? I'll make sandwiches.

  5. #5
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    Dec 2004
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    Snowcats go for about 350K new. What do you think you get for 20K? Generally you are buying a corpse for parts.

    A snowcat is basically large hydraulic pump systems with a set of tracks.

    Maint. is expensive, as is a facility to work on them and a Mechanic and parts. Then you need to build roads or at the least maintain them for winter use, along with some glading and cutting.

    Not saying this is impossible, but permits are the least of it.

    Good luck.
    Mister Man! Mister Man! Mister Man. They left this card.

  6. #6
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    May 2007
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    Telluride
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    I used to think the same thing when I was living in AK about an old double going up just about anywhere you look if you could afford the land. I think insurance is the bitch of it

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Location
    Southern NH
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    From experience 50% of start-ups go out of business and it usually has to do with limited $ or in other words, low cash flow!
    Do your research, cover everything. Create a biz plan. Put it all on paper and have your banker, father, accountant, college friend with biz degree look it over - twice!
    Prepare to lose $$$ your first 3-5 years and bad snow years. Better have a great mechanic, a head avy guy, good sales team, good marketing, key "front of house" type person and a great chef! Don't forget a good accountant and a solid relationship with a banker - you'll need a deep line of credit. Take a serious look at yourself - know you're weaknesses and surround yourself with the best you can find.
    Wouldn't hurt to have deep pockets - trust fund or investors! Cash flow is king!
    Call other Cat Ops and try to get advice. Better yet work for one, two or three first and then go out on your own!
    Don't forget - INSURANCE! This will be the killer! What a f*cking racket!
    Treat every employee,vendor, consultant, client, etc. like gold. Use the Apple branding philosphy - each touch/experience with your company has to be spot on! Good luck! Give it hell!
    The Passion is in the Risk

  8. #8
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    Aug 2006
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    Thanks for the info. Im sure insurance would be a major bitch.

    This would be more of an old school type operation naturally, old cats you could say would definitely be in play, and I would pay dearly for that Im sure.

    But the yurt would be cheap. Down home family style dinners. Access for the little guy. locals programs. Cant really say it super enviro friendly as its a snow cat and all, but the yurt would be. Maybe have the yurt serve as a basecamp for guiding touring with easy snowcat access? Would that change the insurance aspect all that much?
    Live Free or Die

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    SE Alaska
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    I tried for two years to get a special use permit for various Utah forest service districts. Failed in every one. They wouldn't even entertain the idea. The best option is to find private land with good terrain, not an easy task. If you operate on forest service lands, you will most certainly be in competition with sleds. What is good for snowcats is good for sleds.

    I also owned a small Bombardier snowcat and have researched every snowcat in existence. The cheaper, gas engine, older snowcats are easier to maintain than the modern hydrostatic drive, diesel cats. The big diesel cats weigh over 8 tons and you won't be moving them around with any ease. The smaller, older cats like the LMC 1500 weigh less than 5,000lbs and are 8-10 feet wide, so you can tow them with a normal 1/2 ton truck. If they are 8ft or less in width, you don't need a special "wide load" permit to tow them.

    When looking at older cats, look for a cat that has a psi load of less than .70psi for max flotation. Just take the weight of the cat with fuel and passengers, then divide by the track surface area to arrive at the psi rating. The LMC 1500 with wide tracks is a gas engine, super light, multi-passenger, non-hydrostatic drive cat that would work well. You won't find a good one for less than 25k.

    Other cats like the Imp, Super Imp, Bombi, are all small and relatively underpowered. You won't be able to put a good 8 way plow on them and use it with any success. They are more of the "get me to my cabin" cats.

    I was completely obsessed with snowcats and starting a snowcat biz, hence my screen name "trackhead". In my opinion, if you're lucky and find some good private land, you might break even, maybe. That said, I'm still planning on buying another personal snowcat in the next couple years. My dream personal cat that I can actually afford would be an LMC 1500.

  10. #10
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    Oct 2003
    Location
    Banff
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    plus making the cat roads in the first place, and ALL the maintance that is needed, needs to be done somewhere warm/dry.

    cat driver, backup machine, driver. guide(s) cook(s)

    that is afte you get the tenure. (ten-year)


  11. #11
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    Oct 2003
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    SE Alaska
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdironRider View Post

    But the yurt would be cheap. Down home family style dinners. Access for the little guy. locals programs. Cant really say it super enviro friendly as its a snow cat and all, but the yurt would be. Maybe have the yurt serve as a basecamp for guiding touring with easy snowcat access? Would that change the insurance aspect all that much?
    Buy a snowcat to transport people. If it's just for yurt access and hauling in gear, a snowmobile is WAY more reasonable, affordable, and cost effective. I also used to own a Polaris Wide Track. A grandpa sled with a gigantic wide/long track and low gearing for pulling stuff. That's what you need, not fucking racing/brapping sled.

  12. #12
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    Aug 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trackhead View Post
    I tried for two years to get a special use permit for various Utah forest service districts. Failed in every one. They wouldn't even entertain the idea. The best option is to find private land with good terrain, not an easy task. If you operate on forest service lands, you will most certainly be in competition with sleds. What is good for snowcats is good for sleds.

    I also owned a small Bombardier snowcat and have researched every snowcat in existence. The cheaper, gas engine, older snowcats are easier to maintain than the modern hydrostatic drive, diesel cats. The big diesel cats weigh over 8 tons and you won't be moving them around with any ease. The smaller, older cats like the LMC 1500 weigh less than 5,000lbs and are 8-10 feet wide, so you can tow them with a normal 1/2 ton truck. If they are 8ft or less in width, you don't need a special "wide load" permit to tow them.

    When looking at older cats, look for a cat that has a psi load of less than .70psi for max flotation. Just take the weight of the cat with fuel and passengers, then divide by the track surface area to arrive at the psi rating. The LMC 1500 with wide tracks is a gas engine, super light, multi-passenger, non-hydrostatic drive cat that would work well. You won't find a good one for less than 25k.

    Other cats like the Imp, Super Imp, Bombi, are all small and relatively underpowered. You won't be able to put a good 8 way plow on them and use it with any success. They are more of the "get me to my cabin" cats.

    I was completely obsessed with snowcats and starting a snowcat biz, hence my screen name "trackhead". In my opinion, if you're lucky and find some good private land, you might break even, maybe. That said, I'm still planning on buying another personal snowcat in the next couple years. My dream personal cat that I can actually afford would be an LMC 1500.
    Thank you, that answers a ton.

    Theres actually and LMC 1500 on ebay right now for like 7500 bones that got me thinking of this whole thing.
    Live Free or Die

  13. #13
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    Oct 2003
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    SE Alaska
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    Quote Originally Posted by AdironRider View Post
    Thank you, that answers a ton.

    Theres actually and LMC 1500 on ebay right now for like 7500 bones that got me thinking of this whole thing.
    You get what you pay for. Tracks, bogies, etc, are NOT cheap to rebuild, especially on the bigger LMC 1500's. I rebuilt the tracks on my Bombardier. Ouch, pricey stuff.

    If it's this cat on ebay, it won't sell for less than 20k likely.
    http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/LMC-1...-/170544299871

    Get a permit or a location before you buy a cat. Without that, you just have a cool snowcat hanging around.

    I hate threads like this. Every October I regret selling my Bombardier and want another cat. Soon enough. Totally impractical to own, but fun as hell in a noisy, rough, bouncy ride kind of way.

    Check out:
    snotrans.com
    petersonequipment.com
    chameleoninc.com
    -also check forums for much better deals than these dealers sell for.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
    Location
    slc
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    469
    Quote Originally Posted by Trackhead View Post
    I tried for two years to get a special use permit for various Utah forest service districts. Failed in every one. They wouldn't even entertain the idea. The best option is to find private land with good terrain, not an easy task. If you operate on forest service lands, you will most certainly be in competition with sleds. What is good for snowcats is good for sleds.

    I also owned a small Bombardier snowcat and have researched every snowcat in existence. The cheaper, gas engine, older snowcats are easier to maintain than the modern hydrostatic drive, diesel cats. The big diesel cats weigh over 8 tons and you won't be moving them around with any ease. The smaller, older cats like the LMC 1500 weigh less than 5,000lbs and are 8-10 feet wide, so you can tow them with a normal 1/2 ton truck. If they are 8ft or less in width, you don't need a special "wide load" permit to tow them.

    When looking at older cats, look for a cat that has a psi load of less than .70psi for max flotation. Just take the weight of the cat with fuel and passengers, then divide by the track surface area to arrive at the psi rating. The LMC 1500 with wide tracks is a gas engine, super light, multi-passenger, non-hydrostatic drive cat that would work well. You won't find a good one for less than 25k.

    Other cats like the Imp, Super Imp, Bombi, are all small and relatively underpowered. You won't be able to put a good 8 way plow on them and use it with any success. They are more of the "get me to my cabin" cats.

    I was completely obsessed with snowcats and starting a snowcat biz, hence my screen name "trackhead". In my opinion, if you're lucky and find some good private land, you might break even, maybe. That said, I'm still planning on buying another personal snowcat in the next couple years. My dream personal cat that I can actually afford would be an LMC 1500.
    And that is why TGR is awesome. That is some serious knowledge. nice.

    interesting thread.

  15. #15
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    Aug 2006
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    5,294
    Definitely need to figure out the land/permit issue, and the insurance issue.

    But drool...

    http://www.snotrans.com/_images/neuman4.jpg
    Live Free or Die

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Location
    crown of the continent
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    13,950
    1500's straight sticks, right? Often fitted with a compacter bar with wings? That was one of the 'work cats' the season i groomed at big sky, and i loved spending a night in it. That route was a solo one, with a lot of little projects.

    i like the single old double lift idea a lot more, myself...[and a rippin sled]
    Something about the wrinkle in your forehead tells me there's a fit about to get thrown
    And I never hear a single word you say when you tell me not to have my fun
    It's the same old shit that I ain't gonna take off anyone.
    and I never had a shortage of people tryin' to warn me about the dangers I pose to myself.

    Patterson Hood of the DBT's

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    T-town, CO. USA
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    2,102
    As much as I'd like to see a new laid back snowcat operation around... dude... buy the house!
    Dealing with the US Forest (dis)Service is a lesson in frustration to say the least. The required E.I.S. alone will bury most entrepreneurs.
    Snowcats seem to want to break down, require snow roads to be built, need a warm/dry place to be worked on, a driver, and a semi truck and trailer to move the cats (after you remove the tracks).
    Use the extra money in your bank account to go cat skiing with an established company.
    Leave No Turn Unstoned!

  18. #18
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    Dec 2005
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    Closed Area
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    have you heard about the cat-skiing operator that was asked what he would do if he won a million dollars?

  19. #19
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    My bud runs the cat operation for the Aspen Ski Co. They have three pimped out cats that are based at the top of the gondi, so there's not much deadhead time getting to the goods. They have all the facilities, mechanics, permits, etc. and a large pool of wealth clients.
    They still don't make any money. They just run it as an additional amenity to offer to guests.

  20. #20
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    Jun 2008
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    I don't have enough knowledge to speak firsthand about this, but you might look at various operations in Canada. I know some ops like K3 (i think?) have a type of lease agreement with the government for stupid amounts of land.

    Interesting thread!

  21. #21
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    Jun 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by regct View Post
    I don't have enough knowledge to speak firsthand about this, but you might look at various operations in Canada. I know some ops like K3 (i think?) have a type of lease agreement with the government for stupid amounts of land.

    Interesting thread!
    "Buttepacker" on here knows more about this. Maybe he'll chime in.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
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    On a FAST QUAD to a place with No Name
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shredhead View Post
    My bud runs the cat operation for the Aspen Ski Co. They have three pimped out cats that are based at the top of the gondi, so there's not much deadhead time getting to the goods. They have all the facilities, mechanics, permits, etc. and a large pool of wealth clients.
    They still don't make any money. They just run it as an additional amenity to offer to guests.
    As far as I know, the Aspen Ski Corp. took over the Powder tours operation that I ran [guided] on "Little Annie Basin" and the Independence Pass backside of Ajax Mtn. Owened by Tom Cleary and Morty Gurintse {sp?], back in the 60's and 70's. It was called "Deep Powder Inc." back then. One 11 passenger
    Cat., Guide, Cat skinner [driver / Mechanic], no other overhead, other than gas,parts,Insurance , and fees. Guide and Skinner made $25 a day, in the 60's and $50 a day in the $70's. All roads were already there, and wide open terrain so we could maintain snow packed routes all winter long to our top and bottom skiing. We ran 80 - 100+ days a year with a minimum of 8 paying clients a day, as I recall, very often full loads, SKiing 12k - 15k vertical feet a day, charging $25 a day [60's] and $50 a day [70's], and we lost $ all the time. Tom and Morty were the original "Powder Sugar Daddys" for a long time. What a sterling deal for all of us who were involved. Clients and operators both! Miss those 2 guys! Cheers to them!... "DPInc. ran the training ground for the Canadian Heli-skiing operations.

    SO, based upon that history, if you were to have the good fortune to have such a simple LOW COST operation as that was, figuring the dollar is worth at least 6 times less today as it was back then, and getting lower as we ponder it, You would have to get between $250 to $300 a day per person, roughly speaking, and still maybe only break even, if Lucky. I'm not sure what the going rate is for a comparable operation today, but due check them out carefully.

    Best of Luck, Cheers
    "People ask us to take them skiing, and I'm like, 'REALLY'? I mean if you want to get in an avalanche or just die somehow, then, YEAH, come with US!" - Nathan Wallace

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by wildskizer View Post
    As far as I know, the Aspen Ski Corp. took over the Powder tours operation that I ran [guided] on "Little Annie Basin" and the Independence Pass backside of Ajax Mtn. Owened by Tom Cleary and Morty Gurintse {sp?], back in the 60's and 70's. It was called "Deep Powder Inc." back then.
    I think they sold to Crocket and Crocket sold it to the skico.

    In the early 80's on powder days I use to ride up with Eddy McCaffrey in the Bonnies/Sundeck old Tucker supply cat. The DPI cat would leave bottom 1/2-1hour before us and we would still catch them before the top.
    That cat was slooowwww and they always had the back door open with guys hanging out!

    I think I might have skied with you a day at the Bird? Where you a friend of Grants?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shredhead View Post
    I think they sold to Crocket and Crocket sold it to the skico.

    In the early 80's on powder days I use to ride up with Eddy McCaffrey in the Bonnies/Sundeck old Tucker supply cat. The DPI cat would leave bottom 1/2-1hour before us and we would still catch them before the top.
    That cat was slooowwww and they always had the back door open with guys hanging out!

    I think I might have skied with you a day at the Bird? Where you a friend of Grants?
    PM sent to you
    "People ask us to take them skiing, and I'm like, 'REALLY'? I mean if you want to get in an avalanche or just die somehow, then, YEAH, come with US!" - Nathan Wallace

  25. #25
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    Feb 2005
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    Vancouver BC
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    I'd think road building/maint in the summer would be a bitch especially if you start from nothing, and if you don't have a pretty serious cat wouldn't grooming after big storms be harder (or the roads couldn't be as steep?)

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