What is Catskiing Like?
Think of the best day you've ever had at the ski hill, now multiply it. A lot. It's one of the best things that you can do with your clothes on, and clothing of the appropriate warmth is highly recommended. Snow conditions and weather changes throughout the year, and every catskiing operation is different, so we can't predict exactly what your particular trip will be like. But from what we've seen, it's awesome and I don't think you'll be disappointed. Deep snow and untracked lines. It's like the first run on a chairlift on a powder day, every run.
How much does it cost?
Catskiing is not as expensive as heliskiing, but you get a lot of the same type of skiing. You can get lower rates in the shoulder season for as little as $250-$300/day, and in the high season at a lodge it may be $800/day or more. It all depends on the time of year and what is included (ie. food, lodging, etc.) The prime time is from early-mid January till March.
Where can you go catskiing?
There is catskiing in Canada, USA, New Zealand, Europe, and Chile. But about 90% of the catskiing is in British Columbia, Canada. And most of that is in the southern half. Catskiing was invented here, and this is the best place on earth to find it. Check out the map of operations.
Is there a directory of Caskiing operators?
Why yes there is. Catskiing Operators
Is Catskiing safe?
There are dangers in every sport, and catskiing is no exception. But the safeguards that are taken by Cat operators make catskiing one of the safest backcountry sports around. Unlike Snowmobiling, which is known in BC for it's tragic avalanche death toll every year, Catskiing is highly supervised and regulated. Your guides are all trained by an accredited organization like the CSGA, and know how to read the terrain and keep you away from the known hazards. You are provided with an avalanche transceiver and you get a run through on what to do if an avalanche occurs in your area. It is highly recommended that you carry your own personal avalanche safety gear, and if you don't have your own, the cat operator will have gear that those people can take turns sharing.
What level of skier do I have to be?
You should be a strong skier, but you don't have to be an expert. To have an enjoyable time catskiing, you should feel comfortable skiing almost any run at your home ski resort, in all snow conditions. Catskiing operators do a good job of trying to match up the skiing levels in the groups that are skiing together for more than a day. If you get a group of 12 together and book the whole cat, you can set the pace yourself, from beginner to advanced. Plus, you usually get a discount for booking a whole cat in advance. If you are worried about being stuck with a group of skiers that don't match your ability, good or bad, email the cakskiing operation and ask. One operation, Big Red Cats, offers specific pre-booked intermediate and advanced cats.
What should I bring?
You need to bring all your regular ski gear, unless you want to rent skis, then just make sure to bring your boots and poles. Aside from the normal gear, it is a good idea to have a range of good wicking clothes in layers, as the weather can change throughout the day and you aren't going back to the lodge during the day. If you have a backpack and avalanche gear, that is also good to have, but not imperative. The operation will provide you with a transceiver (most don't even let you use your own) and guest packs with avalanche safety gear for the group to take turns carrying.
Do fat skis make a difference?
Fat Skis make a huge difference in you enjoyment of catskiing. It allows you to ski through the deeper and different snow conditions with ease and get the most floating fun out of your day. If you don't own a pair of fat ski (you should), don't feel like you have to run out and buy a pair just to go catskiing. Most, if not all, catskiing operations offer ski rentals. Some places even include them for free. But if you want to take your 218cm DH boards and rip it up in your rear entry boots, all the power to you. Don't forget your frogskins and your neon headband.
Do they allow telemark skiers to go?
For sure, and if you can rip up the steep pow while free heelin', you have all my respect. The only difference is ability. You have to be a competent skier to go catskiing, but you must be an advanced/expert teli skier. Also, most places will ask you to have an extra set of springs with you just in case.
How about snowboarders?
Yes they do, but be prepared to wait at the back for traverses, and be quick at getting you board on/off for sidehills and small uphills. It is a very good idea to have a pair of telescopic poles in your bag to get you along in spots. It is called catskiing, but we see a lot of boarders out there. Plus, if you look up catboarding on google, you end up with a reference for someone to take your cat while you're on holidays.
Is there an age restriction for catskiing?
Most operations require you to be 18 or 19 years of age to come catskiing, as you have to sign a standard waiver of liability (example only) and they want to keep the pace of the group up. If you are under age and come with a parent/guardian, we've seen trips for kids as young as 12, as long as they are strong skiers. If you rent an entire cat, then you can put together pretty much whatever type of group you want. This policy will vary greatly from place to place, so check with the cat skiing operator you are interested in for specific details. The operation that we know to offer catskiing for 12-18yrs is Big Red Cats in Rossland BC. As for being too old, as long as you are a strong skier and you're not attached to a machine that keeps you alive, then go for it.