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Monday, November 07, 2005

Cat Skiing Photo of the Week

Powder Skiing at Chatter Creek
A snowboarder crests a series of "powder pillows" while "cat skiing" in the Canadian Rockies. There is no end to interesting features to ski over or around, depending on your preference. The landings are soft, if not forgiving. If you come unglued, your buddy or the tailgunner is close behind, ready to pick you up. If you don't, it's a great "buzz". Somehow, you can do things in this powder that you would never attempt elsewhere.

Scroll down to learn all about cat skiing. Click on any image to enlarge it. Use the browser's "Back" button to return. Make your browser's window as wide a possible.

For more cat skiing photos and a collection of our past ski photos of the week, look at our Cat Skiing Photos Ski Weblog.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Ski Articles related to snow cat skiing and cat boarding, set to photographs and written by backcountry skiing enthusiasts.

1. Snow cat Skiing: What is it?: - Scroll down to find out.
2. Mountain Lodge Construction - Click on the link for the story of the construction of a large log ski lodge at a remote mountain site.
3. - a directory of information about cat skiing.
4. A collection of written ski articles about snowcat skiing.

Friday, September 24, 2004

What is Cat Skiing?

Cat Skiing on a Glacier
Snow cat skiing on Vertebrae glacer, the largest and highest glacier in North America regularly accessed for commercial cat skiing and cat boarding. Scroll down for our description of cat skiing.

Click on any photo to enlarge it. Use the browser's "Back" button to return to "Cat Skiing Articles".

Glacier Skiing by Snowcat

Cat Skiing in the High Alpine and on Vertebrae Glacier
Snow cat skiers and boarders near Golden, British Columbia travel high into the Rocky Mountains in the warm comfort of snowcats. In groups of 12, led by two well-qualified guides, guests are carried to an elevation of almost 10,000 ft., to ski and ride on the Vertebrae glacier, or on high alpine slopes amid spectacular views. For more views of the Vertebrae Glacier, "click this link"

Click on the images to enlarge them.

High Mountain Experience and Views

Cat Skiing views at almost 10,000 ft in the Canadian Rocky Mountains
In every direction, the vista is stunning. To the east, Mt Columbia and the Snow Dome are clearly visible, with other peaks and glaciers of the Continental Divide. To the west, the Selkirk and Adamant Ranges form the horizon. Cat skiing provides everyday skiers easy access to the very heart of the high mountain backcountry. It provides a relaxing ski holiday and a true wilderness experience.

Alpine Skiing by Snowcat

Cat Skiing in the High Alpine
Snowcats access the tops of high bowls and great alpine slopes. Runs can have vertical drops of 1200 ft to over 2000 ft.

Snow cat skiing is well adapted to short holidays and many operators offer 3-day and 4-day full-service tour packages. Cat skiing is not normally weather-dependent and there is rarely any “down-time”. Almost every day is a good cat skiing day. Cat skiing provides a relaxed vacation that requires no prior experience or special equipment.

Cat skiing is not typically "hard core". The pace of skiing is set by the skiing group. With a dedicated snowcat, there is no pressure to keep up with a machine and with other groups. Cat Skiing is well suited to strong intermediate skiers and expert skiers alike.

Tree Skiing by Snowcat

Tree Skiing by Snowcat
When weather turns cloudy, or a storm comes up, cat skiers head for the trees, where the protected snow is deepest and lightest and the visibilty is best. There are many open forest glades, old burns and cut blocks at lower elevations. Skiers with little experience “in the trees” find that the consistent snow and the powder skis not only allow them to “do it”, but that it’s great fun.

Cat Skiing: Fun and Comfort on Tracks

Cat Skiing Comfort in Snowcats
Each group of 12 snowcat skiers enjoy a dedicated cat that moves according to the needs and ability of the group. Snowcat rides are warm, quiet, relaxed and very sociable. They give guests an opportunity to converse with their companions, to rest for the next run, and to adjust clothing. Guests wanting a longer rest can sit out a run and visit with the cat driver on the ride back down the mountain. Lunch is grazed on over the course of the day. Guests can leave extra clothing in the cat and adjust what they wear each run.

Comforable Living in the Backcountry

Cat Skiing Accommodation in the Backcountry
Remote backcountry lodges are very comfortable and provide a unique wilderness experience. They offer double-occupancy bedrooms with private bathrooms, excellent cuisine, a games room, a well stocked bar, hot tubs and massage facilities. The first run of the day is nearby and guests often ski to the lodge door at the end of the day.

Guests arrive at the lodges by helicopter, by snowmobile or by snowcat. Lodge life is very informal and few changes of clothing are needed. Operators that transfer guests by helicopter will restrict luggage to one small, soft-sided gym bag. Guests wear their ski clothing for the short trip. Don't forget your swimsuit for the hot tub!

Life in a Backcountry Lodge

Cat Skiing fun in Backcountry Lodges
The informality and peace of remote lodges helps guests relax and enjoy their vacation. Guests are isolated from telephones, TV and the bustle of civilization. Hot tubs, complete with bar service, ease tired joints before or after a massage. Dinner is a time of joviality, impromptu speeches and awards, good humor, very good food and fine wine.

Soaking in a hot tub, refreshment in hand, watching drifting snow or the last rays of sunlight leave the surrounding peaks is a relaxing way to cap a full day of powder skiing.

Sampling of food photos from a backcountry lodge. Breakfasts are usually buffet-style including a different egg dish every day, sausage or ham, a variety of baked goods including fresh bread, muffins and croissants, as well as cereals, fresh fruit, yogurt and juices.

Lunches are browsed on in the snowcats and comprise a variety of sandwiches and wraps, cookies, cakes and other baked goods, fruit and fresh-cut vegetables. A good supply of water is always available in the cats.

At the end of the skiing day, the chef will have appetizers and perhaps soup in the bar and there are always snacks, fruit and drinks set out to ward off the odd hunger pang. No one goes hungry at a backcounty cat skiing lodge.

Dinner is an informal affair, which may be buffet style at some cat skiing operations or served by the staff in others. Meals usually include a salad, vegetables, a meat course and an excellent dessert.

Cat skiing operators are always very careful and accommodating with clients having food allergies, special diets or other food-related needs, or just fussy tastes. Make sure you give operators lots of warning of special needs.

Cat Skiing: The Way it Works

Backcountry Guiding for Cat Skiing
While sheparding their group and keeping it together, guides are expert at finding “lines” to challenge more competent skiers/riders while leading others on a more “mellow” path.

Guides set the bounds on every run leaving guests ample opportunity to find “fresh tracks”. Safety is always the first priority. When the guide says, "'Don't ski to the left of my track", there is usually a good reason. With faster groups, the guide is likley to say, "Cheers, see you at the bottom." Guests fan out behind, finding their own "lines". The second guide, the "tailgunner" is always behind, watchfull and ready to help. In the trees, a "buddy" system is used and guests ski in pairs. Where the guide stops, everyone stops too. Skiing below the guide is not encouraged!

Cat Skiing Capacities and Density

Cat Skiing Capacities and Density
Most cat skiing operators cater to 12, 24 or 36 clients who ski from one, two or three independent 12-passenger snowcats. Skiing tenures are sufficiently large that groups often won't see one another in the course of the skiing day, even at a distance. Each group determines its own pace.

Guides don't stay long in any one place. Two runs perhaps, in the same general area, then off to a fresh spot nearby.

Cat Skiing: How Good Do I Have to Be?

Cat Skiing at lower elevations
Clients should be at least "strong intermediates". However, some operators can accommodate less experienced intermediate skiers that have good physical fitness. Other operators want experts only. It depends on predominate terrain. Clients should discuss concerns with operators. The short, fat "powder skis" that operators rent are forgiving and easy to turn in the soft, consistent powder snow. Skiers having little "off-piste" experience find they learn very quickly.

Cat Skiing: the Vertical Stuff.

Cat Skiing Terrain in the Rocky Mountains
The amount of skiing done in a day depends on the group. Typically, 9 to 15 runs will be skied for a 'total vertical' between 9,000ft. and 16,000 ft. Individual runs vary in vertical drop from about 800 ft and 2000ft. At operations having generally steep terrain and longer runs and which cater to expert skiers only, over 20,000 vertical might be skied in a day. There is no guarantee of a “minimum vertical” in cat skiing. Hence, guides focus on the needs of their group and on finding the best skiing. There is no need to “rack up the vertical”.

Long cat rides are usually broken up into a number of short “hops” that provide short rests between runs but keep guests active.

More Cat Skiing Information

Cat Skiing Terrain in the High Alpine
The Chatter News provides a client's view of snowcat skiing at Chatter Creek ( ), in the Canadian Rockies. This photo journal has many pictures and descriptions of different aspects of cat skiing and boarding. For even more information, check out the various ski articles on the Chatter Creek Web site.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

More Cat Skiing Photos

A snowcat overlooks many kilometers of untracked powder skiing terrain.

For more cat skiing photos and a collection of our past ski photos of the week, look at our Cat Skiing Photos Weblog.