I’ve enjoyed some pretty swanky skiing experiences in my line of work, but as I enter one of Whisper Ridge’s 10 yurts plopped in Utah’s backcountry, I decide this takes the cake. And it’s not just me—I’m here with a group of ski industry professionals invited to Whisper Ridge to test a new line of Giro products on a two-day cat-skiing trip, and even these seasoned pros are impressed by what we find. Artsy canvas prints adorn the makeshift walls of the ladies’ yurt, separated into three sections for privacy. Each boasts two queen beds made up with plush bedding, a full-size dresser, vanity mirror, and sheepskin rugs. Outside, an above-ground hot tub simmers nearby. This is glamping at its finest—and we happen to be deep in the Wasatch backcountry.
With a tenure of more than 70,000 acres of skiable terrain, Whisper Ridge bills itself as one of the largest backcountry resorts in the world. If you haven’t heard of it, you’re not alone. While the operation has been running cat-skiing trips out of its Eden, Utah base since 2015, it wasn’t until it struck an exclusive partnership with Powder Mountain Resort in 2018 that skiers started catching on to this outfitter offering convenient and exclusive access to a private playground that borders Powder Mountain’s public slopes.
Since then, Whisper Ridge has expanded to also offer heli-skiing (and heli-biking in the summer), though the majority of guests still opt for Whisper Ridge’s single-day cat-skiing package. For these guests, the day begins at the operation’s base in the town of Eden before being shuttled to the Mountain Base Ops at Powder Mountain, where Pisten Bully snowcats await to transport them into the vast Wasatch backcountry between Eden and Paradise (no joke, those are the actual names of the towns that demarcate Whisper Ridge’s tenure).
But because we’re staying in Whisper Ridge’s yurt village—an add-on to the ops’ cat-skiing package—our days start and end in the backcountry. After a gourmet breakfast served in the cozy dining yurt complete with leather couches and a hardwood banquet table, our 19-person crew loads into two 16-seater snowcats and we’re on our way to our first line. Someone connects their phone to a built-in stereo-system and the Grateful Dead blares as the snowcat grinds and lurches its way along one of Whisper Ridge’s countless established cat tracks. The 20-minute ride reveals acres upon acres of glades seemingly put on this earth for skiing: moderate pitches covered in untouched snow and dotted with perfectly spaced evergreens and aspens.
The cat crests a ridge and comes to a halt. We unload and everyone busies themselves packing down the snow to click into skis. It’s the second week of March and two days of unseasonably warm temperatures left us with hot pow that refroze overnight. It’s not Utah’s famous dry and light, but our guides lead us to north-facing aspects where the snow turns from crunchy to creamy. Our guide gives us rough directions for our line, tells us to keep skiing until we come to a cat track, then disappears through the trees, giving us license to ski and explore at will.
My ski buddy, Giro athlete Rian Zetzer, takes off, spooning turns through aspens and playfully bouncing off little terrain features. I follow, delighting in the free rein given to us—there’s no stopping, no one telling us to “keep it tight.” We ski 1,000 feet of mellow, continuous vertical before we hit the cat track, my legs already shaking from the first top-to-bottom run. Two minutes later, the cat appears, ready to transport us to a different zone within Whisper Ridge’s massive playground.
This routine repeats itself eight more times. Our last run of the day culminates in a party shred back to the yurt village, where an après spread of charcuterie, ceviche, beer, and wine awaits. Most grab a plate and a brew and head for the outdoor firepit, while some sink into the couches of the dining yurt to listen to one of our group pick at a guitar.
It’s a scene that seems fundamentally at odds with our remote location—and with the notion of backcountry skiing in general. But then, Whisper Ridge prides itself on serving up a unique experience where you don’t have to choose between the amenities of a world-class resort and untracked lines. Here, you can have your ceviche and eat it too.
Whisper Ridge Cat-Skiing – Trip Planning
Getting There: Whisper Ridge’s operational base is located in the town of Eden, Utah, a 60-minute drive north from Salt Lake City International Airport. Don’t want to bother with renting a car and driving yourself? Whisper Ridge also offers a heli-taxi to and from the airport for those willing to pay a premium for hassle-free convenience.
Cost: $795 per person for a full day of cat-skiing; includes gourmet breakfast, lunch, après, and dinner. $7,995 to book a private cat for up to 12 people. $1,440 per person for a full day of heli-skiing; includes breakfast, lunch, après, and dinner. Contact Whisper Ridge for custom packages and stays at the yurt village.
Info: Whisper Ridge’s Website