With thousands of acres of runs as assiduously manicured as the grass courts at Wimbledon, Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek have rightfully earned their reputations as international epicenters of on-piste skiing. As Beaver Creek director of mountain operations Dan Ramker says: “There’s a reason why our cats are gold here.”

Ramker started his career at Beaver Creek driving a snowcat and continued as a frontline groomer from 1999 through 2009. He worked year-round for the first three years, leaving Colorado each summer to groom slopes in New Zealand. Though seasonal dumps of fresh powder make the headlines and dominate Instagram feeds, it’s the preponderance of blissfully predictable, mesmerizingly scored, and scoured groomers at both resorts that bring many guests back year after year—or for life. When speaking about Beaver Creek’s status as a mecca for corduroy purists, Ramker notes, “We take a lot of pride in trying to be the best in the world at what we do.”

Although sister resort Vail may be better known for its Back Bowls powder trove than its network of corduroy, a crew of two-dozen snowcat operators grooms an average of 1,200 of the resort’s 5,317 skiable acres each night—a mind-boggling total that ranks among the highest in the industry. “We pride ourselves on really high quality and quantity,” says Kate Schifani, Vail’s director of mountain operations, who rose through the ranks from her humble beginnings as a hose-hauling snowmaker. “Skiing perfect corduroy is a whole different experience. In powder, it feels like you’re floating or skipping through the meadow. Skiing a groomer is like driving a racecar. You feel the mountain respond to you in a way that you never do in soft snow. I don’t think groomed runs get enough love, and that’s crazy because they’re so fun—every time.”

In This Feature:

Best Job Ever

Stephen Becht has spent a decade on Vail’s 40-person snowcat crew

11/28/2022 By Devon O'Neil

Anatomy of a Snowcat

Identifying the essential elements of a mountain grooming machine

11/28/2022 By Devon O'Neil

Top Runs

We asked snowcat drivers at Vail and Beaver Creek Mountains which ski runs they’d hit first thing

11/28/2022 By Devon O'Neil