By Stan Bush

EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Snow cat operators says they were stunned when they heard of the heist of a piece of machinery over the weekend.

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It was stolen from Minturn in Eagle County and was found hours away in Mesa County.

“Well I laughed, quite honestly, knowing the maintenance in these things,” said Carter Spencer, a guide with Powder Addiction, a snow cat skiing company that takes skiers to the deep back country. “The tracks alone are $30,000, why the headache?”

Stolen snow cat (credit: John Vandenburg)

Spencer operates a significantly newer snow cat than what was stolen – which is like comparing a military tank to a hot-wired 1970 El Camino.

“A little wiggling and jiggling and you could have gotten in on the back of a truck, it’s not that hard to steal,” Spencer said.

Snow cat seen in the top right hand corner of the screen. (credit: CBS)

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He also says the snow cat that was stolen would have been easy to load onto a flatbed by one person and would be as easy to drive as an SUV, but the risk, in his mind, far outweighs the benefits.

Recovered snow cat (credit: CBS)

Snow cats have to be registered with the U.S. Forest Service and there are so few independent snow cats in circulation that a stolen one would be easy to spot.

Typically, operators also need leases to use them on public land, so whoever stole the snow cat may have been stuck without having anywhere to take it.

Spencer says the most plausible reasoning for the heist would have been to sell the snow cat for parts. The engine and the treads are extremely valuable, but Spencer believes the culprit wasn’t thinking that far in advance.

“I think they just saw a snow cat and jacked it,” Spencer said.

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Stan Bush is a general assignment reporter at CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 10. Read his bio and follow him on Twitter @StanBushTV.