Sorry for the long pause during the last few days, but Telstar Logistics was away at an executive offsite in Vail, Colorado. So Jet Set. So glam. So not our usual kind of scene. But while we were hitting the slopes, we spied a flock of Pisten Bully snowcats, shown above as they were resting near a Vail mountaintop.
There's something innately fascinating about highly-specialized vehicles the kind of machines that were put on this Earth to do one rather unusual thing, and by gosh, do it damn well. Like the goofy 747s Boeing built to carry giant aircraft parts. Or veteran fireboats that save cities from flaming disaster. Or, as was the case at Vail, snowcats that function like high-alpine farm tractors but look like space buggies from Lost in Space.
Most of the snowcats we encounter are built either by Pisten Bully or Bombardier. Both exude tasteful modernism, but if we had to generalize, we'd say that all the recessed flashing lights on the German-built Pisten Bullies make them look like a teutonic vision of Mad Max on Ice. (Indeed, the official Pisten Billy website awkwardly touts a Future Made by Men. Perhaps it sounds better in German?) Meanwhile, the Canadian-built Bombardiers are angular and husky, in a 1970s Cylon kind of way. They're also extinct, as Bombardier was acquired by a private equity firm in 2003, and the company's snowcat manufacturing division was shuttered.
These are some of the cockpit controls inside a Bombardier snowcat built in 2001:
What's it like to operate one of these beasts? Frankly, we have no idea. But if it's anything like this video of a Pisten Bully hard at work after a snowstorm at Squaw Valley USA, we'd like to sign up for driving lessons:
Snowcat! (Flickr photoset by Telstar Logistics of a 2006 snowcat odyssey in Lake Tahoe)
Snowcat (Wikipedia page, with detail on snowcat history and development)
Resort Boneyard (Website for used snowcats and equipment)
Snowcatting Through a Winter Wilderness
(IMAGES: All photos above by Telstar Logistics)