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Spur of the moment cat and heli opportunities???

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

My son and I are hoping for the opportunity to do a little cat skiing this season.  I don't have a problem with paying the price for a couple days of great powder riding, but I would only want to go if there was fresh snow to be had.  We live in central Washington, right on the Oregon/Washington border so many of the interior BC options are doable with only a day or two notice.  It would be a bit of a drive, but not unreasonable for 2-3 great days of powder skiing.


I guess what I am hoping for is any advice on finding open seats on a cat trip on short notice?  We would even consider a day or two of heli skiing if the price was reasonable and conditions were going to be epic.  Do cat companies keep lists of people that they call or send e-mails to in the event of cancellations, or do we basically just have to check the websites or call them to see if by chance there is an open seat available?  Are there any tricks to finding open space on cat or heli trips on short notice or is it just being int he right place at the right time?  I am generally fairly flexible in terms of my work schedule and I would usually have no problem pulling him out of school for a day or two of untracked powder.  Basically, it's just finding the available space in conjunction with favorable conditions.


Thanks for any advice,


post #2 of 14

Sort out who you are interested in and call them. Some operators will offer very good deals to fill the odd empty seat or a seat open due to a last minute cancelation. Often offered to "regulars" first. But it can't hurt to call or email...

post #3 of 14

I agree with the above idea.  You may have to be persistent with the calls.  The "last minute cancellation" is likely to be 2-3 weeks ahead rather than 2-3 days (the weather prediction window), particularly at remote lodges with fixed multiday packages.


With resort powder you have to be there the day of/day after the big storm.  With cat/heli that's not necessarily what you want.  During storms not all terrain is going to be available due to visibility or snow stability issues. So if you know the area has a good snowpack and nothing recently adverse in terms of weather and you get that call 2-3 weeks ahead, you should probably take it.  That assumes you're looking at the places that have the best snow reliability of course.

post #4 of 14
There is a discounted trip posted in the classified forum by someone who got injured and cannot make the trip. Check it out.
post #5 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the replies.  I'll pick out a few of the operations and keep an eye on them, making calls when conditions look like they'll be decent and we can get away.  I'm thinking Valhalla, Big Red and Wildhorse would be good candidates for a spur of the moment trip as they are a bit closer for us.  Maybe not quite as much snow as the more northern one, but if we time it after a good dump it shouldn't really matter.



post #6 of 14

Valhalla is fairly far up north in the higher snow zone.  I had a very unpleasant experience with a booking mixup and as a result did not ski there.  Based upon numerous TR's I have little doubt they are the best day operator up there in terms of both snow and terrain.  Be meticulous in documenting your reservation though.


Big Red and Wild Horse do not have sufficient snow reliability IMHO to book other than within the immediate window after fresh snow.  After the Valhalla screwup I did get a short notice day at Wild Horse.  Snow and tree skiing were very good. Logistics are slow so you don't get a lot of vertical, but Wild Horse is cheaper than the other places, particularly for a last minute booking. 


Big Red has much more terrain than Wild Horse but gets no more than 300 inches of snow.  We were going to get a day there too, but it rained so they called it off.  Due to our circumstances we were not charged.  Most people will get a "rain check" to come back some other time. 

post #7 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks again.  Guess I'll focus on Valhalla and Wild Horse then.  Trying to convince my wife we should drive up there for our spring break which is the week split between March and April this year.  I think we'd aim for Revelstoke, but could stop along the way if anywhere looked promising.  Conditions still good that late in the year?  Or is it more his or miss?


Back to my original query, too bad there isn't a central website for finding last minute cat and heli trips.  Would be so nice to be able to go to one website where all (participating) outfits list their open seats for the upcoming week.  The website could charge a small commission or fixed price for a listing, and the outfit would be able to reach out to many people - maybe even charge more than they otherwise would in trying to fill an empty seat.  There could also be a section where individuals could list or auction a trip they had to cancel.  The website would only be a listing agent and not deal with any transactions - kind of like a Craigslist for snowcat and heli skiing.  Or maybe it could handle the transactional side of things and pull the commission out of any sales.  Might give the purchaser more piece of mind.  If I was more computer literate I'd take that on but I am busy enough with my own job and family...



post #8 of 14

Watch the snow and more important, the freezing levels, then go at the last minute.  I wouldn't discount Big Red.  They're good people, the closest, have the most cats and have a nice setup right at the base of Red Mt.  The Red Shutter Inn is spartan, but it's a great deal at $65/ppdo including breakfast, for slopeside accommodations.


Baldface Lodge still has some spots and is in the same general area.   It's a luxury lodge based operation,  with the highest tenure. 


Late March, April can have good skiing, but that's getting pretty late and an even more important time to monitor the freezing level.

post #9 of 14
Trying to convince my wife we should drive up there for our spring break which is the week split between March and April this year.

Not a good idea for cat skiing, unless it's immediately after a big dump.  That late you need to be high up in the alpine, which usually means the heli.  Chatter Creek is the only cat operator with a lot of high alpine terrain.  Mustang and Island Lake have some, but Chatter is higher and colder.


Revelstoke also has pretty severe exposure issues that late and its base is very low. You'll likely confine yourself to the 2 upper lifts.  Best bets in Canada then are Whistler, Kicking Horse, Panorama and Banff/Lake Louise.

I wouldn't discount Big Red.  They're good people, the closest, have the most cats and have a nice setup right at the base of Red Mt.

Yes, their reputation is good, but you absolutely need to go there as a last minute storm chase.  That's a very viable option from where the OP lives.

post #10 of 14

Looks like this classified might belong here as well...


Broke myself. Have 12/28-30 spot @ Mustang Powder. Please Help!

post #11 of 14

Matt - I was shopping around for standby cat skiing myself and thought Valhalla made sense since you can do a single day, near a town, near other areas (Red/White), etc. Since I am limited to when I can go (MLK weekend) I decided it may not be wise if it didn't pan out so I am now considering just a BC road trip instead (just posted on that as well).


If you do make your way to Revelstoke...my older son I did a day with Purcell right from Golden, BC.  I picked that so we could ski other places as well (KH, Revy) since I was only willing to shell out the money for 1 heli day (I should say my wife was only willing...).  That season my son broke his foot so I canceled and re-scheduled that trip a few times which Purcell were able to accommodate. Skiing mid-March wasn't phenomenal since it was a bit warm in the afternoon, and the terrain was limited due to avalanche concerns (lots of slides reported from other operators while there).  I'm not sure I would spend that much money to do it again, but I certainly have no regrets doing it.

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info lonepeak.  I just read your other post about a road trip.  I am thinking that a road trip to the resorts up there would be fun as well, but I hate making the effort and spending the money if conditions aren't good.  Utah isn't much father than the Canadian resorts so I'm just going to play spring break by ear and go where it looks best.  That may be Canada, it may be Utah, it may be my back yard.  Outside of that though I am still hoping for a short jaunt up to ride in a cat or helicopter.  Looking at the heli sites sure has got my blood pumping...   but one day in the heli for my son and I would cost more than we paid for season passes for the whole family, plus involve quite a bit of travel time, so it would have to be a great day.



post #13 of 14

Another Cat Op to consider is K3. They are a day ski op (no lodge of their own) near Revelstoke and they will pick you up at your hotel/motel.


Most of the Cat and Heli ops have locals, many that they know or owe favours to, on a standby list so really it is best to try to book something in advance.


If you end up in the Revelstoke area DO NOT go cat skiing with Revelstoke Mountain Resort as they have limited terrain compared to other cat ops and they operate right beside the lift served skiing and lots of skiers do a small hike and then poach lines that buddy has paid $500+ to cat ski. They also seem to cancel for no apparent reason on little or no notice.

post #14 of 14
I'd recommend a couple of cat trips prior to a heli trip. It's more relaxed and a much slower pace.
Heli's the ultimate, but it's expensive. You really want to be on top of your game and nobody wants to be the soft skier, in an aggro group.
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EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Spur of the moment cat and heli opportunities???