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Fernie Wilderness Adventures cat skiing

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Someone in the gear forum asked me to post about my cat skiing trip this previous weekend so here it is.

We drove out to Fernie on Thursday night, going through a heavy blizzard in Crowsnest Pass which turned to rain/freezing rain in Fernie. This was quite a concern since I expected it to be even warmer on Friday. It was still drizzling when we woke up, and at the base area of the resort. We ended up just skiing the Whitepass quad all day as the snow in the trees was a bit colder/dryer. Turned out to be a great day.

Saturday was the first day of cat skiing. Things started a bit slower than I would've liked, we left the lodge in the cat a bit after 9am for a 30-40min ride and then did a 15-20minute tranceiver test. After that there was another long ride and we didn't end up starting skiing until 11am. The snow was great, dry considering the warmer temperatures, and fairly deep but the runs seemed very short at first. Later in the day the runs got longer and the higher we went, the better the snow was. The terrain got steeper and more technical as well, but still a bit mellow for my tastes, although our group had a few skiiers who weren't that strong.

It was snowing most of Saturday but really started in the afternoon, and temperatures were dropping steadily. We woke up Sunday morning to -13c and around 30cm in 24hours. We skiied the resort and it was epic. Did a few laps on the Timber quad since Whitepass was closed due to mechanical problems, the trees were great and you could still hike up into some of the terrain in lower Currie. Eventually heard some people talking and realized the traverse through Lizard bowl was open so we hurried up and hiked the bootpack to the Stagleap/Decline area and traversed a bit farther to ski thigh deep untouched powder through the trees, it was unreal. After lunch we got lucky again and heard that Snake Ridge was opening up. Speeding down the traverse from the Boom chair and then sidestepping our way to the ridge was a lot of work but reached the best snow of the weekend, it was thigh to waist deep all the way down the ridge, and the cold temps made it so light and dry.

Anyways, Monday was back to cat skiing and we had high hopes with the new snow and cold temps. We had a smaller group this day consisting of two local telemarkers, a father and his two sons (racers) from quebec as well as my father and myself. We were done the tranceiver test and skiing right around 10am which was great, everyone in the group was a very strong skiier which let us get in more runs than saturday. The snow was much lighter and deeper which made all the difference, face shots galore. The sun was poking out all day and the scenery was excellent, there was just so much snow everywhere.

The guides were all great and well qualified, one had been an avalanche forecaster at the resort as well as a heliskiing guide in Whistler for a few years. Overall it was a great time, the weather and snow made such a difference the second day. My only concerns were the terrain was a bit mild (all the runs are through the trees, with some open pitches), I had been hoping for more technical, steep stuff, as well as if you have less experienced riders in your group, that can slow you down. FWA is a good operation and the rates are much lower ($250/day) than the other operations I looked at. I'd be a bit wary booking far in advanced due to the weather changes that can happen. Might be a good idea to ski the resort and wait for a good day (cold temperatures being the most important in my opinion).

post #2 of 3
grambo--thanks for the post. How much vertical were you able to get in in a day of cat skiing with FWA? Was the terrain and/or snow better than what you would get skiing a day at the resort (so as to justify the cost)?
post #3 of 3
Thread Starter 
Hey JW,

I wasn't sure of the exact vertical since none of has those tools that measure them (inclinmeters or something?). Our guide estimated it around 10,000. He said the runs are between 700 (short) and 1200 (long), we did about 10 runs a day (I think 9 the first day and 11 the second), so it works out somewhere around 10,000.

As far as the terrain goes, as I said, it was a little mild for my tastes, I really making big sweeping GS turns on steep terrain at high speed and it wasn't really happening there. Most of the runs would have a few steep pitches where you could get up some speed and then some traverse sections to the next pitch. Almost all the skiing is in the trees. One really nice thing is the trees are perfectly spaced, you can go pretty much as fast as you want and always find spaces as long as you are looking ahead, I only ran into one tree, on the very last run of the last day (probably because I was getting tired and lazy hehe). If you are coming from the US, with the exchange rate you will be paying around $150 USD a day which is decently cheap, I would say try one day and see if you think it's worth it. If you are lucky enough to hit a really good powder day at Fernie where terrain is actually open you will probably enjoy it more, but that is a gamble. With the cat you are pretty much guarenteed good snow (unless it rains). One thing I noticed about the operation is that there is a lot of last minute booking. For instance, we weren't even sure if we were going to be going the second day because we were the only two booked, but then later that day 5 more people booked as well as a group of 12 Swede's.

Have fun.
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