I count myself lucky almost every day. Some days, like my recent trip to Cariboo Cat Skiing in Valemount, I lose count completely. If you are one of the many who talks about maybe one day taking the plunge and spending the large dollars on a catski trip stop doddling and act now. I would trade 5 resort days for one day in the cat, and if you do the math it about evens out.
Is it expensive? Yes. The finer things in life can cost more and we all have our vices. After my first trip I added an annual pilgrimage to powder mecca as mine. Maybe lay off the craft beer or buy some cheap shampoo to offset a trip. I guarantee it will be worth it.
Day one of my most recent trip started with training. This is where all backcountry and off-piste skiing should begin. Our group had a wide range of experience; some had taken avalanche training, some had cat skied before, and others were about to be hooked. The simple truth is to cat ski you need to be able to competently go down any black run at a resort and be willing to listen, learn and participate. There is a wide range of terrain and each skier is able to pick their path down. At Cariboo we had a 45 minute briefing where potential hazards and responses were discussed. Whether you are in the backcountry or on resort knowing how to deal with a tree well incident and where terrain traps are located is essential to picking your way down the mountain. This was followed by active shoveling and probing techniques which were performed outside, as well as beacon training where you had to locate and mark several buried devises. The training then continues throughout the day as the guides are constantly engaging the group.
The training shortened the first day and as we skied the first couple pitches the team of 3 guides assessed our abilities. The system at Cariboo has one guide leading with two tail guides. You follow the lead guide’s tracks and the group musters after each pitch in a safe spot. For most runs you partner up but when crossing any alpine terrain where there is risk of avalanche the group goes one at a time to mitigate the risk. The ability of the group dictates the difficulty of your runs as the guides have flexibility to pick and choose throughout the day.
The second day in my experience has always been the best. There is no training in the morning so you know you will be getting in more vertical. Your group has also settled out and any first-day nerves are gone. We were fortunate to have bluebird conditions and the view was heavenly. Run after run our group landed at the bottom all smiles and all I could think was how does this keep getting better?
So there are a few considerations you need to take before planning your next cat skiing trip.
Is cat skiing for you? I have yet to meet anyone who has gone that doesn't dream of their next opportunity. Find a friend, book a couple seats and find out. Any doubts? Just look at the pics in this post: they are from our last trip out!
Want to catch a cat skiing trip? Join us February 26th & 27th in Valemont. Email [email protected] for details.