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Resort Skiing experiences vs Cat or Heli skiing in Back country

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I like to ask the Peanut gallery here of all you people who have ski or board in the back country. Of either a Cat ski trip or Heli Ski trip in the back country runs.

 

How did your experience compared to skiing at a big resort in major ski country like Canada in BC, Alberta or Europe etc etc.

 

I am talking about the big powder runs you encounter at resort and back country. What was your experience and your thoughts on it all.

 

What did you find more fulfilling.?

 

Did you find a back country experience unlike anything else? or did you say " what was the big deal"

 

I am having a hard time deciding on doing one. Reason it is costly to do a cat or heli ski. So feedback from anyone who has done both sides of REsort and back country is what i need.

 

thanks

post #2 of 11
It depends. I've had resort and backcountry days that are as good as heli days.

In terms of resort, you just need to get very lucky. For example last year in NZ we had 2 heli-quality lifted days at the Craigieburn Club Field:

http://powderbible.com/2010/07/27/nz-club-field-heli-trip-day-4-nutcrackers-1-us-1-oh-and-some-pow-skiing-too/
http://powderbible.com/2010/07/29/nz-club-fields-heli-trip-day-5-nutcrackers-2-us-1-bluebird-craigieburn-pow/

and also this day at Solitude:

So in resort it just comes down to luck - in each of those cases for whatever reason the snow report under-stated what was going on up top, and there were very few people there.

Backcountry - again heli-quality experience possible, but you have to work your butt off for it. A couple of times we have put the very first tracks down a valley the size of a decent Western US resort, but we had to hike thousands of feet to get there, and obivously you get a lot less vert:

http://powderbible.com/2011/03/12/tr-days-7-9-road-trip-dormillouse/
http://powderbible.com/2011/03/13/tr-days-10-11-road-trip-abries/

So this basically shows that with either luck or effort you can find yourself some pretty decent conditions. A heli trades this off for $$$. In the case of the 2 NZ days listed above, we decided that on the third day after the storm the resort was tracked and certain aspects were windpacked, so we booked a heli day & this was the result:

http://powderbible.com/2010/07/29/nz-club-fields-heli-trip-day-6-heliskiing-so-happy-day/

In this case we got about 6 or 7 2500' runs, all of them stunning.

In terms of your question about what was the most fulfilling - I would have to say Backcountry. Resort powder relies on luck, although you can lessen it with the techniques in my book, and heliskiing really just requires money. There's nothing quite like skiing down an enormous bowl of powder knowing that every single turn was earned.

But for overall thrills heliskiing is amazing and worth every cent in most cases.
post #3 of 11

Ive never been heli skiing, but ive had days in the backcountry that are much more gratifying than any resort day. While I love lift served skiing, theres something special about only leaving your tracks on a mountain, and earning your turns.

post #4 of 11

How about adding cat skiing, and snowmobiling and ghosting to the mix? How do they compare? 

post #5 of 11

I would argue that once it comes to spending money to fly to a resort and ski you can start considering going somewhere like Chatter.  It will be more expensive but I believe that experience would far outweigh any resort experience.

 

That being said it depends where you are coming from.  If you live out east and go to Squaw, Alta, or Jackson for example - you will think you died and went to heaven anyway.

 

But if you are like me and your hard earned money is going into a plane ticket, etc... I want to try to guarantee two things 1. powder and 2. no crowds.  Gettng on a cat trip with good guides should ensure both of those criteria are met and your money is well spent.

post #6 of 11

I've had huge days at major resorts in CO, UT and CA and none of them even come close to my worst day on a cat or a heli.

 

I'm sure it's possible to have bad days on cats and heli but I've never had one.

post #7 of 11
For powder

Resort: usually tracked out in one day, sometimes by 10 am depending on the reosrt. Willingness and skill to go out side country gates may extend this. For truly untracked runs you have to be in the lift line before it opens or @the rope b4 it drops. Often requires waiting an hour or more, but can produce heli quality runs on powder days.

Backcountry powder can last weeks untracked in remote areas, stuff with easy access may get tracked in a few days or less.

Good cat operations will provide untracked snow at least a week after a storm, the best ones in canada can go over 2 weeks. Smaller US cat ops may get
Skied out a few days post storm.

Best heli ops can provide untracked snow almost any day of the season. Takes bad luck to not get untracked powder at a good heli op.

In terms of effort and money, that's all pretty obvious for each
post #8 of 11

I would do cat skiing in BC. Cat skiing is cheaper than heli plus no grounding due to weather. 90% of people still get plenty of runs. I have been on cat trips where a few people still had to sit out a few runs to rest (I know crazy!).

 

In Europe just go to a big resort. Places like Les 3 Vallees are so big it doesn't matter. Plus most of the Europeans seem to stay on the swaths of groomed while everything else is wide open. Hire a guide to take you to the good stuff.

 

My biggest powder days (which have been few for the truly big days) have been at resorts but that is just due to the law of averages (more resorts days = more chance of resort powder). That is probably true for most people.

 

You could also mix it up. Go to a resort in BC like Fernie and then do 2-3 cat days in the middle of your trip. That's the way I have done it.

 

It's a fun experience and well worth doing. You just have to decide for yourself if it's in your budget. I don't think you will find anyone here that says cat or heli skiing sucks! LOL

post #9 of 11

Ski touring > Heli > Cat > Resort.

 

With touring, you get to ski what you want. No one tells you what line to ski, no randoms in your group to slow you down and force you to ski intermediate terrain. Fitness is the primary factor as far as how much skiing you'll end up doing. Fit people will get as much vert in a day hiking as they would riding a cat or heli. 15-20k in a weekend is pretty reasonable for someone experienced.

 

Not trying to take anything away from the cat/heli experience. It's totally worth it. You'll ski lots of untracked powder with little effort. Especially if your inexperienced with snow safety.

 

Resorts are great during the big storms. Usually means danger is high, and a controlled environment is nice. It all comes down to timing. Timing the right storm, with the opening of good terrain.

 

Heli assisted touring seems like the way to go. A quick heli bump allows you to avoid the long slog in the morning. Gets you up top early, with fresh legs. Price is pretty reasonable too. Hoping to do a bunch this year.

 

 

post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by world-traveller123 View Post

I like to ask the Peanut gallery here of all you people who have ski or board in the back country. Of either a Cat ski trip or Heli Ski trip in the back country runs.

 

How did your experience compared to skiing at a big resort in major ski country like Canada in BC, Alberta or Europe etc etc.

 

I am talking about the big powder runs you encounter at resort and back country. What was your experience and your thoughts on it all.

 

What did you find more fulfilling.?

 

Did you find a back country experience unlike anything else? or did you say " what was the big deal"

 

I am having a hard time deciding on doing one. Reason it is costly to do a cat or heli ski. So feedback from anyone who has done both sides of REsort and back country is what i need.

 

thanks


Fulfilling??!? Backcountry. You earned the turns. You slowed down. You got a good look at the country on the way up. And the snow is all yours.

 

But you might only get two runs per day.

 

My perception of the comparison between resort, cat and heli is warped by the fact that I do most of my resort skiing at Whitewater, British Columbia. Whitewater eventually gets tracked out like any other resort, but it takes a lot longer than at most places. Stashes can be found for days after a storm. Also, they frequently underreport. Also, it's easy to find yourself alone in the trees somewhere even on a "busy" day. Also, they have great side and backcountry. Also, they have great food in the lodge. It's a different place. Many days, it's about as close as you can get to cat skiing without the cat and the huge bill.

 

Nonetheless, it ain't cat skiing. You won't cross tracks as often cat skiing. You won't see anybody except other people in your cat. The bumps in the trees will be caused by rocks and stumps, not last week's skiers. (The ones at Whitewater are mostly rocks and stumps, too, but there are enough skiers to add a few more bumps. Barely.) With cat skiing, you don't necessarily know what's over the next drop or mound. At the resort, you've probably been there before. You don't have the thrill of discovery at the resort, but you might have more confidence that you're not going to hit something unexpected.
 

Heli? I live in Heli Central, but I've never done it.

post #11 of 11

Did Heli Skiing (Snowboarding actually) in 2009 in British Columbia with Whistler Heliskiing. The runs on heli were LOOOONG. Way longer than any backcountry runs I've ever done. It was probably over 3000 feet of vertical and the runs were at least 4-5 miles(imagine the longest possible run at whistler). Over the course of the whole day, we did about 4 runs. I did backcountry in Utah, and nothing was quite as long.

 

The thing I would recommend is to make sure you get up there on a bluebird day. Because you are above the tree line, you have no trees or exposed terrain to give you a frame of reference if its cloudy. So make sure you get up on a bluebird day.

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