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Cat/Heli Skiing 2007?

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
I want to plan a trip next year with my 17 year old daughter that is as close to "can't miss" as possible. Since I have been recovering from an indoor soccer injury (broken leg 1/11/05 - tibial plateau fracture requiring bone graft and implant - buttress plate and 6 screws) we were not able to take full advantage of the INCREDIBLE snow this year. The leg works better than expected with the help of a brace, we did catch a long weekend to Vail/Breck/Winter Park in January with one decent powder day in Vail bowls.

I ski (level 8) and she rides a snowboard. Next year, I want to take her on a 7-9 day (Thursday > following Sunday) trip where we can be GUARANTEED great conditions and thus I have the following questions for cat or heli skiers:

A) January or February trip?
B) Where should I consider in US? (We live in Wisconsin)
C) Where should I consider in Canada?
D) Cost difference between cat and heli skiing?
E) Is cost difference between cat and heli justified? Hoping that the answer is no since that long a trip could get really expensive if heli skiing.

Now I know there are no guarantees that we'll have another year like this. But where are our odds best for great conditions? It also does not have to be the most incredible and amazing place in the world. Just darn good rock solid cat or heli skiing. (Means good guides as well.)

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Mark
post #2 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by exoman
I want to plan a trip next year with my 17 year old daughter that is as close to "can't miss" as possible. Since I have been recovering from an indoor soccer injury (broken leg 1/11/05 - tibial plateau fracture requiring bone graft and implant - buttress plate and 6 screws) we were not able to take full advantage of the INCREDIBLE snow this year. The leg works better than expected with the help of a brace, we did catch a long weekend to Vail/Breck/Winter Park in January with one decent powder day in Vail bowls.

I ski (level 8) and she rides a snowboard. Next year, I want to take her on a 7-9 day (Thursday > following Sunday) trip where we can be GUARANTEED great conditions and thus I have the following questions for cat or heli skiers:

>I don't know if you have used the search feature - but there is plenty of info on this subject already.

A) January or February trip?
B) Where should I consider in US? (We live in Wisconsin)
C) Where should I consider in Canada?
D) Cost difference between cat and heli skiing?

>$250-300/day Vs $650-$800 a day not including food/lodging.
if you include the down days in heli-skiing - the cost is higher for heli.

E) Is cost difference between cat and heli justified?

> Only you can answer the question.

Hoping that the answer is no since that long a trip could get really expensive if heli skiing.

Now I know there are no guarantees that we'll have another year like this. But where are our odds best for great conditions? It also does not have to be the most incredible and amazing place in the world. Just darn good rock solid cat or heli skiing. (Means good guides as well.)

Thanks in advance for any advice.

Mark
>may not apply to you - but I really wanted to go heli-skiing this year. I went on a cat-skiing trip instead - and realized that I am not yet ready for heli-skiing.
post #3 of 16
Thread Starter 
Marty:
I'm pretty sure that's what we'll do also.
Where did you ski?
Mark
post #4 of 16
Exoman,

There are no guaranteed great conditions. Weather happens. In general, the farther North you go, the more annual snowfall you can expect. There are certain areas of the country (e.g. coastal Alaska) that traditionally get a lot of weather that effects flying days (e.g. when I went to CPG in Girdwood we only flew 1/2 the days I was there). The whole point about any cat or heli operation is you will get untracked snow top to bottom on every run. As long as the heli can fly, they can usually find great snow somewhere in their permitted area on any given day. Cat operations do so at a lesser extent due to their lesser range, but have the bonus of operating during no fly weather.

The farther north you go, the less daylight you will have in January. You may want to consider a March trip.

There are dozens of places to consider between Canada and the US. Freeskier has a good list. I have a crappy list on my site as well. To help narrow the list down, you might want to start with the number of days you want to go for, whether or not there is a resort nearby and what kind of lodging is available. Due to the recent surge in new Canadian outfits, availability is not as bad as it used to be, but prime times can sell out quickly. Other major factors such as guide quality, safety protocols, size/number of groups, amount of waiting will affect your experience, but are harder to evaluate up front.

There are some operations that offer resort or cat skiing as a backup for no fly days.

If you have the money, heli skiing is worth every penny. You should get roughly the same amount of vertical per dollar heli vs cat skiing.
post #5 of 16
Hi, exoman.

Watch these pages in about ten days. I leave tomorrow for a week of heli-skiing in Valdez, Alaska, out of this lodge:

http://www.arlinc.com/

I'll be doing a full report when I get back.

I've done a few days of heli skiing here in Wyoming (years ago) and one day of cat skiing at Grand Targhee. All are among the very best days of skiing I've ever experienced. When that chopper flies away and you're standing at the top of some peak, surrounded by untracked bowls, ridges, and faces in every direction, you feel like a kid in a candy store. :

One thing though. As therusty says, it's impossible to GUARANTEE great snow anywhere at any time of the year. From what I've heard, the place we're going to probably only flies an average of about 60% of the days. I know people who have gone to British Columbia for a week of heli-skiing and never even gotten out of the lodge because the weather was socked in.
post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Bob:

Have a great trip! I was thinking about giving you a call to discuss the Cat-Heli subject. Any recent news on JHMR Tram replacement?

Mark
post #7 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by exoman
Bob:

Have a great trip! I was thinking about giving you a call to discuss the Cat-Heli subject. Any recent news on JHMR Tram replacement?

Mark
Hi, Mark.

Thanks, we're hoping to.

No news at this time on the tram. The most recent thing I've heard is that two different companies are preparing proposals for the management. One would be for a brand new tram (probably 80 passengers). The other would be for a gondola or gondola-variant.

Both would use the exact same route of the current tram. The gondola option supposedly would be cheaper and carry more skiers per hour, but it wouldn't be a TRAM and it would potentially be somewhat more susceptible to wind-closure.

There is also some speculation that a miraculous "cure" for the present tram will materialize out of the woodwork. I don't have any idea how likely that is, but people are still talking and bets are being made.

As to the two replacement ideas, the rumor is that if the proposals are submitted in time for full consideration, there might be a decision announced after the April board meeting. Much more likely would be an announcement sometime after the June meeting.
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Bob:

I'm glad to hear they are pursuing a base to summit solution. Maybe we should develop a gondola that is bottom heavy, aerodynamic (like a wind vane), thus rotates into the wind.

Mark
post #9 of 16

Diamond Lake

I've been planning on doing some cat skiing here if I can ever find the time. Kind of a small out of the way operation but folks I've talked to that have done it been very sassisfied. Good luck in the search!!!

http://www.catskimtbailey.com/

- Fossil
post #10 of 16

cat skiing for exoman and daughter

EXOMAN:
MY WIFE AND ARE GOOD INTERMEDIATE SKIIERS.
WE ARE GOING CAT SKIING NEXT YEAR (FOR THE FIRST TIME) AND WE ARE HEADED TO GOLDEN,CN
CHECK OUT: WWW.CHATTERCREEK.COM

NO ONE HAS ONE BAD THING TO SAY ABOUT THIS COMAPANY.

TOUGH TO GET IN...HUGE REPEAT BUSINESS

ALSO ISLAND LAKE LODGE IN FERNIE, CN HAS A VERY GOOD REPUTATION

GOOD LUCK LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU DO
post #11 of 16

Warning on Diamond Lake - Mt Bailey

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying Fossil
I've been planning on doing some cat skiing here if I can ever find the time. Kind of a small out of the way operation but folks I've talked to that have done it been very satisfied. Good luck in the search!!!

http://www.catskimtbailey.com/

- Fossil
I cat skied there. For what it's worth: the worst skiing experience of my life - no kidding.

Reasons:

1) Grooming cat broken (washboard run-out on every run - exhausting)
2) Stoner guides (felt like a Cheech & Chong outtake)
3) Safety seminar given during cat-ride in - which nobody could hear
4) Guides didn't wait for group to assemble before giving instructions
5) On our day, snow was mashed potatoes with breakable crust (not their fault - but no notice given or re-scheduling option offered)
6) Van to cat-loading point was overloaded and claustrophobic
7) Guides tried unsuccessfully to blast a slope several times, then gave-up and asked us to ski it anyway
8) Lodge was filled with drunk snowmobilers - many up all night gunning their engines. Nobody in our group got more than 2 hrs sleep.

I'm sure others have had different experiences. For us, it was the ski trip from Hell.
post #12 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by oldefarms
EXOMAN:
MY WIFE AND ARE GOOD INTERMEDIATE SKIIERS.
WE ARE GOING CAT SKIING NEXT YEAR (FOR THE FIRST TIME) AND WE ARE HEADED TO GOLDEN,CN
CHECK OUT: WWW.CHATTERCREEK.COM

NO ONE HAS ONE BAD THING TO SAY ABOUT THIS COMAPANY.
Is the wine that good? Does it make you feel like you're cat skiing?
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Oldefarms:

Thanks for the referral. Will check out Chattercreek.

Regarding Fernie, I've heard it's a great mountain, but
elevation a little low, so snow not as reliable. Can anyone
confirm this? I know "weather happens", but I want to go
somewhere that the odds are in our favor for good snow.

One other question about advance bookings... I know it's
common and necessary for heli skiing. But since there are
so many cat operations now, is it really that necessary? I'd
really like to put off booking anything until we have a good
idea where the snow is falling next winter. OR, watch for a
good storm system brewing and go find the snow, hoping we
will find space in the cat. Make sense or not?

Thanks,

Mark
post #14 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by exoman
One other question about advance bookings... I know it's
common and necessary for heli skiing. But since there are
so many cat operations now, is it really that necessary? I'd
really like to put off booking anything until we have a good
idea where the snow is falling next winter. OR, watch for a
good storm system brewing and go find the snow, hoping we
will find space in the cat. Make sense or not?

Thanks,

Mark
At Island Lake Lodge, I'm told the cats are booked a year or more in advance. At other places, such Targhee snow cats, you can often sign on the same day. Locations vary greatly.

To be on the safe side, I'd reserve in advance. Usually, cat operations as busy enough that "storm watchers" don't have the option of tagging on at the last moment.
post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by exoman
Oldefarms:

Thanks for the referral. Will check out Chattercreek.

Regarding Fernie, I've heard it's a great mountain, but
elevation a little low, so snow not as reliable. Can anyone
confirm this? I know "weather happens", but I want to go
somewhere that the odds are in our favor for good snow.

One other question about advance bookings... I know it's
common and necessary for heli skiing. But since there are
so many cat operations now, is it really that necessary? I'd
really like to put off booking anything until we have a good
idea where the snow is falling next winter. OR, watch for a
good storm system brewing and go find the snow, hoping we
will find space in the cat. Make sense or not?

Thanks,

Mark
As you've already been told, no one can guarantee snow until it's already on the ground. The Fernie ski resort claims to average on the order of 360" per season, but, like most resorts, the standard deviation is large.

Note that in southern British Columbia, where Fernie is located, it is common for the townsites to have rain while it is snowing a couple of thousand feet higher. The tenures accessed by the cat operations vary in altitude and aspect, but they all get more snow than the towns with which they may be associated.

Nelson, British Columbia has at least half a dozen cat operations nearby. Some (e.g. Baldface) are booked a year or more in advance; others, less well-known, offer stand-by seats, but finding two seats for 7-9 days in a row at the last minute could be difficult. Search the web and make some phone calls to find policies for each operation. Some of the operations offer their own lodges; others will ask you to find your own lodging in Nelson or elsewhere.

For conditions in the Nelson area, you can watch the ski report for Whitewater, with the caveat that conditions can change radically in just a few miles. Whitewater claims an average of about 480" per season.

Environment Canada's website gives various 5-day forecasts for townsites, but it often includes an estimate of snow level.


Go play!
post #16 of 16

Some cheese for that Whine

This is the correct link for ChatterCreek.
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