VAIL PASS — Aaron Tucker is strapping plastic bins atop his rumbling 2009 Prinoth Trooper snowcat
“This is why I started all this,” he says, cinching down the totes packed with tiny snowboard boots, jackets, diapers, blankets and camping supplies. “My wife and I love to backcountry snowmobile. When we had kids, we worried we would have to give it up. And we didn’t want to give it up. And we didn’t want to leave them at home.”
Minutes later Tucker is plowing through neck-high drifts, carving a path for a parade of snowcats behind him. The collection of cartoonish vehicles — orange vintage Tuckers, red Thiokols, yellow Bombardiers, a wood-tracked Frandee and even a rare, submarine-shaped Kristi, all part of the third annual Colorado Snowcat Jamboree — is captained by a small, but growing, wave of wrench-ready owners. They’ve co-opted the industrial tools, turning them into toys that carry them far beyond the boundaries of crowded resorts.
Snowcats, which revolutionized remote winter travel more than a half century ago, are the workhorses of the snow world. The track-mounted cabins have evolved from worker ferries to limos for skiers, enabling groups to amble across frozen landscapes in the upholstered comfort of a mobile living room. They move technicians to snowy locales for work on weather stations, communications towers and electrical lines. They portage skiers, plow roads and groom trails, giving skiing and snowmobiling adventurers a gateway to winter wonderlands.
Today, snowcats are selling as high-end RVs on snow, with an entry-level, four-seat Tucker starting around $125,000. And there’s a growing interest in refurbishing the old machines — some dating back more than 65 years.
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