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Cat skiing...is it worth it? - Page 3

post #61 of 87

You can check my posts on White Grizzly and Selkirk (http://www.epicski.com/t/102538/prickly-gives-up-his-stashhttp://www.epicski.com/t/117877/prickly-checks-his-stashhttp://www.epicski.com/t/125622/prickly-branches-out.) Is it worth it? Yes, sort of. The value proposition is slipping a bit in my view, used to be that cat skiing cost significantly less than heli, but now if you look at peak prices at high-end places like Mustang vs. low-season deals at some of the cheaper (but still good) heli lodges, you wonder what you're getting. 

post #62 of 87
Quote:
but now if you look at peak prices at high-end places like Mustang vs. low-season deals at some of the cheaper (but still good) heli lodges, you wonder what you're getting. 

At Mustang you're still getting 15K of skiing in great terrain and perhaps the snowiest non-coastal microclimate in North America.  Plus food and lodging for $1050/day.  My average day at Mustang is better than my average day in the heli.  Nothing beats the best days in the heli, but Mustang is more consistent.  $1,000 a day for ~10K of skiing, that's probably a lesser value than the heli. 

Quote:
low-season deals at some of the cheaper (but still good) heli lodges

If you go for the shoulder seasons, you lower the odds of getting one of those "best days" substantially, and raise the odds of snow actually being bad.  A low season price is still $500+/day, and I can tell you it's pretty depressing to pay that and get mediocre snow conditions. Ski resorts price by customer demand based upon external factors like holiday schedules.  I think cat/heli pricing correlates quite well with expected snow conditions.  Low altitude cat operators start cutting prices mid-March.  High altitude heli operators are full price until April. 

post #63 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by prickly View Post
 

You can check my posts on White Grizzly and Selkirk (http://www.epicski.com/t/102538/prickly-gives-up-his-stashhttp://www.epicski.com/t/117877/prickly-checks-his-stashhttp://www.epicski.com/t/125622/prickly-branches-out.) Is it worth it? Yes, sort of. The value proposition is slipping a bit in my view, used to be that cat skiing cost significantly less than heli, but now if you look at peak prices at high-end places like Mustang vs. low-season deals at some of the cheaper (but still good) heli lodges, you wonder what you're getting. 

 

Hey, I hadn't looked at those before. That was fun! Great narrative to go along with some fine photos. Thanks!!

post #64 of 87
Not as good as your videos dude
post #65 of 87

Another plug for Mustang. Want some steeps? Just a sample photo:

 

Mustang Cat Skiing, 2012 - Steep!

post #66 of 87
I haven't gone cat skiing, but like the OP wonder if it will be worth the dough, especially since in the "good" window they can get close to 1000$a day.
I have had a chance to go heli ski on stand by tickets, which is the best option if you live close enough to an operator and have the flexibility to go Last minute.
The day we went ended up being magical bluebird with anice 15-20cm fresh overnight pow....that said just the day before they had weather, but not bad enough to ground the heli so they skied the lower elevation trees...now let me tell you ..we funneled back to the heli a few times through some of those lower elevation sections and they we're complete shit...if I had been at the resort I would have packed it in and hone home...terrible and borderline dangerous rain/freeze thaw breakable crust with light pow underneath...

All in all...yeah the skiing was pretty damn good, but it is quite often pretty damn good in my home resort whistler...especially mid week...what was mind blowing was the views and the terrain of the heli- op...unreal, felt like being in a ski movie wink.gif...

Personally I feel that we got lucky and it's a gamble on snow conditions if you stay out of the snow safe windows and even those become harder to predict. I would never book well in advance after our experience.
I would save my money and instead go ski 10 days at a place that gets reliably snow and doesn't get tracked fast.... Revelstoke would be a great choice for that...and heck maybe you'll even end up on a standby cat day- but you prolly be in line after the locals wink.gif
post #67 of 87

Let's be clear here...nothing compares to a good day in the heli and almost nothing compares to bad day in the heli.  The problem is that you will have heli days where you simply can't fly or are very limited in the terrain you can access...I don't count those as bad heli days but as no heli days.  On those days you would be better off in the cat which is why numerous smaller heli ops have a cat backup so you are skiing all day every day.   There are some downsides to that if you think through the incentives for operations but on balance it's a good thing.  Anybody who thinks a great day inbounds compares to an avg heli day is nuts.  Heli can cover massive amounts of terrain to find the best snow and with a good group you can lap fast, real fast.  Both Cat skiing and heli skiing avg days are MUCH better than almost any day at a resort.  Of course all of this assumes that you have the spare cake laying around to pay for those trips.  

 

Ultimately only you can decide if it's "worth it" to you.  I have lots of friends who live within a few minutes to 1.5 hours of some of the best skiing and resorts in the world with pass prices less than $500 a year and they are good skiers but they choose not to ski because they don't think it's worth the time, money and effort involved.  They prefer to do other things.... I personally believe they are all crazy:( but it's their value judgement.

post #68 of 87

^^^^ Worth it, maybe, or maybe you can only decide if you can afford it, period. Many of us can spring for a season pass, or perhaps a day of cat skiing, but that heli trip is just not on the table. Unless we sell our kids into servitude. Everyone not offering an IPO has an upper limit...

post #69 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by UGASkiDawg View Post
 

Both Cat skiing and heli skiing avg days are MUCH better than almost any day at a resort.

 

Reading stuff like this bums me out because my 2 cat trips were absolutely worse than an *average* day in bounds, much less a good day.  I know I just got really bad luck, but it still has been enough to discourage me from trying again.  Perhaps at some point I'll give it another go.


Edited by jaobrien6 - 9/16/14 at 4:36pm
post #70 of 87

I should have added a disclaimer  - If I win the lottery ...and really I'm pretty happy with my life as is , so my only reason to play the lottery really is : Every year I shall book a private heli for 4-6 days at a sweet lodge and invite 8 of my friends to join me....

 

Otherwise, I just ant justify spending the money on a 50/50 chance ....but yeah for sure, the Heli Day was amazing, so I count myself lucky to have had the chance, but contrary to a  few folks at the lodge (these are the folks that were on a 30 day a year Heli program - dressed in Bogner) stated, it did not ruin my inbounds fun ! ...

post #71 of 87

Hi, to help parse the comments from diehards in this thread, it might be helpful to understand the assumptions we make around here:
-We assume you want to ski powder, thus any heli or cat day is better than a day at the resort. If you really like resort skiing, you may not "need" to go cat or heli skiing
-We assume you don't live at or very, very near a resort that gets above-average snowfall, allowing you to get a lot of lift-powered powder days. There's a reason Mr. Cooley never goes cat skiing, and it's not 'cause he doesn't think it would be good
-We assume you don't have time/inclination/positioning to tour for a significant number of powder turns. If you have, say, 25 days available to tour in a good snow region, and you're committed to doing that, you don't "need" to go cat skiing
-We assume you're not really, really rich. If you were, you'd be skiing rather than posting here, and your definition of "skiing" would be private heli

-We assume that you're willing to spend an unjustifiable portion of your earnings/savings to make turns in powder, and then lie about it to your spouse/partner

post #72 of 87

2015 Update.

 

Have been cat skiing 5 days.  My best powder day ever was cat skiing with Big Red Cats in Rossland BC heres some pics I took:

 

IMG_0774.JPG

 

IMG_0784.JPG

 

IMG_0768.JPG

 

AND the worst day of skiing I have ever had was at Big Red Cats and was due to really bad conditions.  No powder, frozen everything, crust, windblown crust, breakable crust, unbreakable crust, windblown icy powder covered with tree limbs of all sizes.   Have been skiing over 40 years and this was my worst day ever anywhere anytime.

 

Lesson, pick your day.  My best day skiing was a last minute midweek add on and my worst day was scheduled ahead of time.

 

As stated above in several threads  Chatter Creek and some other BC operations have a great record.  Another option is like Schweitzer Mt. has in Nol. Idaho.  They have a cat operation on the backside of the ski area, if it is a good day try to get on if not ski the groomers.  You have a chance if it is midweek and you can make a decision the night before and if you are there you will know the weather and conditions.

 

Standbye is the way to go it is cheaper and you get to pick the time. Sure you may not make it on the Cat but then you can ski somewhere else but you won't have THE WORST DAY EVER and have to pay extra for the privelege 

post #73 of 87
That's surprising because Kieren and Paula are pretty lenient with their cancellation policy.
post #74 of 87

Steamboat Powdercats is usually a great trip for a day or two, especially the level 3 cat.  But the price went up to six hundred dollars per day this winter.  Still worth it, priceless if you are there for a deep "golden swoosh" day.

post #75 of 87

I did a day with the Steamboat Powdercats this last Jan. It was my first time cat skiing. In my case I had made the reservation months ahead of time and planned the trip to Steamboat around going cat skiing. The conditions are what they are. In this particular case, they hadn't had significant fresh snow for over a week (maybe longer). The guides did find untrack areas for us, but I was hoping for deeper and it wasn't that. They group the cats by experience level, and because this was my first time, I was in the level 1 cat. I enjoyed it very much. Lunch was provided, and it was awesome.

 

I think we got 13 runs in. And you get to know the other in the group, afterwards, back at the office, they have drinks and show the pictures that were taken throughout the day of everyone. The instructions about the beacon was scant and personally I would have preferred a lot more, maybe they do more if the snow conditions are heavier/riskier.

 

All up, it was a great experience. I'd highly recommend Steamboat Powdercats if your headed to that area.

post #76 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by easySlider View Post
 

I did a day with the Steamboat Powdercats this last Jan. It was my first time cat skiing. In my case I had made the reservation months ahead of time and planned the trip to Steamboat around going cat skiing. The conditions are what they are. In this particular case, they hadn't had significant fresh snow for over a week (maybe longer). The guides did find untrack areas for us, but I was hoping for deeper and it wasn't that. They group the cats by experience level, and because this was my first time, I was in the level 1 cat. I enjoyed it very much. Lunch was provided, and it was awesome.

 

I think we got 13 runs in. And you get to know the other in the group, afterwards, back at the office, they have drinks and show the pictures that were taken throughout the day of everyone. The instructions about the beacon was scant and personally I would have preferred a lot more, maybe they do more if the snow conditions are heavier/riskier.

 

All up, it was a great experience. I'd highly recommend Steamboat Powdercats if your headed to that area.

 

 

Could you provide more details of the scant beacon instruction. I would be interested in comparing you experience to what I experienced at two different Cat ski operators in B.C.

 

We where shown how operate the beacon plus we had to find, probe and dig out a buried beacon, Before we took the first run everyone was checked to make certain that we all had our beacon correctly turned on to the send mode. One of the Cat operators also provided 2 guest backpacks that had shovels and probes and we took turns skiing with the packs. The other operator provided each guest with their own pack containing shovel, probe, and rope. The rope was for tree well rescue and there was some discussion about tree well danger and rope rescue techniques.

post #77 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post
 

 

 

Could you provide more details of the scant beacon instruction. I would be interested in comparing you experience to what I experienced at two different Cat ski operators in B.C.

 

We where shown how operate the beacon plus we had to find, probe and dig out a buried beacon, Before we took the first run everyone was checked to make certain that we all had our beacon correctly turned on to the send mode. One of the Cat operators also provided 2 guest backpacks that had shovels and probes and we took turns skiing with the packs. The other operator provided each guest with their own pack containing shovel, probe, and rope. The rope was for tree well rescue and there was some discussion about tree well danger and rope rescue techniques.

To be fair, I'm sure the avy danger on a Level 1 cat trip at Steamboat last January was somewhere between nil and none. I have done a Level 2 trip there, and we didn't ski much anything steep enough to slide, with or without new snow (which we did have that day). Not sure it compares with much in BC, tbh.

 

Also, I believe it's still the case that SPC has never had to dig anyone out, so their safety record is exemplary. 

post #78 of 87

SPC mentioned they have never had to dig anyone out, so yes I would agree their safety record is unblemished. And I also agree the avy threat was nil/none when I was there. So I wasn't too concerned. Basically, they showed us the beacon and and the indicator that it was in send, and how to switch to receive. I know the guides carried packs, I assume they contained rope, shovels, probes, etc. There was always a guide up front and one skiing behind the group. We did not do practice searches/dig.

 

I would expect if the avy threat was greater there would be much more instruction at the beginning. It's probably a question I will ask the next time I make a reservation to go cat skiing.

post #79 of 87
Quote:
I would expect if the avy threat was greater there would be much more instruction at the beginning.

I'm almost positive that an instructional search is required in Canada and I'm surprised if it is not in the US.  I have not been cat skiing in the US since 2001 so I don't recall.  There is still variation on the level of instruction.  Some places just do a search; others bury the transceiver down a bit with a wooden board you need to find with a probe and then shovel out.  Mustang buries 3 transceivers so they can instruct multiple burials.

post #80 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tony Crocker View Post
 

I'm almost positive that an instructional search is required in Canada and I'm surprised if it is not in the US.  I have not been cat skiing in the US since 2001 so I don't recall.  There is still variation on the level of instruction.  Some places just do a search; others bury the transceiver down a bit with a wooden board you need to find with a probe and then shovel out.  Mustang buries 3 transceivers so they can instruct multiple burials.

My understanding is that cat skiing is much more highly regulated in Canada than it is in the US. I've been on four or five trips here, and never have we been given any instruction on searching. Mainly they make sure your beacon works and is turned to send. The last time they specifically instructed us not to help if there was a slide; they had at least two maybe three tail guides, and just wanted us to turn beacons off and let the pros do it. This was not a particularly high-risk day, a few sloughs were kicked off, but it was more about being too warm than anything. 

post #81 of 87

I'm not sure that SPC terrain is capable of a dangerous avalanche except on very rare days.  Noting is steep enough for long enough and with trees or rocks to sluice through to create much of a hazard.  I'm not saying nothing ever slides but that anything that would normally be high risk terrain is very short with few consequences.  SPC terrain is for the most part just like Steamboat Resorts.  Mostly mellow terrain with only short steep pitches and even those short pitches aren't anywhere near what you will find at British Columbia Cat Ops in terms of steepness.

 

Once again I'm not saying no risk just very low risk for backcountry terrain.

post #82 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by SHREDHEAD View Post

That's surprising because Kieren and Paula are pretty lenient with their cancellation policy.

 

Agree 100% they are both great to deal with in all my experience with BRC.  I could have cancelled but chose to go anyway and it was my mistake not theirs.  Still my best day powder skiing and my worst day skiing period.  No ones fault just a fact.  Was my way of addressing the question and the answer was good and bad depends on old man winter.

post #83 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by easySlider View Post
 

I did a day with the Steamboat Powdercats this last Jan. It was my first time cat skiing. In my case I had made the reservation months ahead of time and planned the trip to Steamboat around going cat skiing. The conditions are what they are. In this particular case, they hadn't had significant fresh snow for over a week (maybe longer). The guides did find untrack areas for us, but I was hoping for deeper and it wasn't that. They group the cats by experience level, and because this was my first time, I was in the level 1 cat. I enjoyed it very much. Lunch was provided, and it was awesome.

 

I think we got 13 runs in. And you get to know the other in the group, afterwards, back at the office, they have drinks and show the pictures that were taken throughout the day of everyone. The instructions about the beacon was scant and personally I would have preferred a lot more, maybe they do more if the snow conditions are heavier/riskier.

 

All up, it was a great experience. I'd highly recommend Steamboat Powdercats if your headed to that area.

+1 on Steamboat Powdercats, especially if you happen to be skiing at the resort it's a nice day away. I went there in a bad ski year and we skied untracked runs each time. Not super deep, but much better than was available lift served. 

 

Buffalo Pass is a great backcountry area. If you were there in summer you'd swear they were cut ski trails.

post #84 of 87

Tony Crocker's response is spot-on.  I can add that at Big Red, one option is to go there to ski the resort (Red Mountain), but if conditions look good try to get a seat last minute when available.  When I did this a few years ago it was only $150 for a single available seat that was booked the day before.  That was half-price at the time.  I did this 2 days in a row and only ended up skiing the resort 1 day.  Don't know what the price is now, but $150 was a no brainer for what you get.  Conditions were icy down low the first day, but great top to bottom the second.  Even on the icy day there was enough soft snow up high to make it a great day.  Totally worth it.

 

If the normal price is $300-400, it starts to get closer to the price for heli, but it is a more reliable option.  I spent 7 days in New Zealand and got exactly ONE day of heli-skiing due to winds.  The trip had been planned to be full heli, so that was really sad.  There weren't any snowcat operations available there at the time to fall back on.

post #85 of 87
Quote:
I spent 7 days in New Zealand and got exactly ONE day of heli-skiing due to winds.  

New Zealand has no trees and lots of wind at high altitude. When I heliskiied with Harris in 2006 they said they run about 5 days a week in average seasons and only half the time in big seasons. Alaska is similar.   Most Canadian heli operations are closed less than one day per week because they have some tree skiing available.   But that's a reason you want to know about the quality of the tree skiing, as it varies by location.

post #86 of 87

At Mike Wiegele Heli-Skiing they have a Cat that they use when the choppers can't fly and some slopes that you can see from the highway when driving through Blue River, B.C.

post #87 of 87
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanoT View Post
 

At Mike Wiegele Heli-Skiing they have a Cat that they use when the choppers can't fly and some slopes that you can see from the highway when driving through Blue River, B.C.

It would be a long week being confined to Wiegele's cat terrain visible from the road. But the time I was there for a week alpine conditions weren't good and Wiegele flew often to their excellent tree skiing in the Monashees. 

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