It was November and anticipation for the season to come was high. We were busy doing the early season rituals; reading all the ski mags, watching videos from the previous season, going to the ski movie premiers and planning out our first trip of the season. This particular season it was to be White Grizzly Catskiing. No one in our group had been to White Grizzly before but we had been wanting to check it out for some time. Rumors of long tree runs and steep powder had piqued our interest years before. Also the allure of an operation that runs only one cat and, for some reason, stays out of the lime light. We had to make the trek and check the place out.
We had made arrangements with Brad, one of the owners of White Grizzly, sometime in late November. As far as we were concerned, that phone conformation was the beginning of ski season. The trouble was that we lived in the low lands of BC and over the years it has become quite brown and dry through November. This is not a good thing for the psyche of a skier. As out mid-December tour date drew closer the weather systems had not fully engulfed the BC Interior yet. Some storms had hammered the coastal range but powered out by the time they reached mid-province. Brad, being the powderhound that he is, recommended that we wait a week and come out during the upcoming storm cycle. We were a little bummed but appreciated Brad's honesty...and foresight. He also said that there would be room for two more skiers if we had anyone in mind. We have a list.
Two of our great ski buddies from opposite ends of the province dropped everything and joined us at White Grizzly. One, from just south of us in Idaho, did some creative scheduling with his boss (a natural skill of any powder obsessed skier). As for the other, I am sure he has his vehicle packed at all times waiting for our call. We all met in Kalso BC just south of White Grizzly's lodge and headed up for our first turns of the season.
Upon arriving at White Grizzly, you feel like you have just pulled into a long time friend's driveway. We parked the truck and headed into the inviting timbre framed lodge. Lodge is probably the wrong word. It is more like someone's house that has been designed with catskiing in mind. Carole, Brad's wife and business partner greets us and shows us the lay of the land. They have the program dialed right from the first minute of your arrival. Each person gets a place to hang their gear and warm up their boots. Carole gave us the run down of events and then we were invited in for some beverages and appys. We gathered in the living room area after our tour of the lodge and started to get to know the other guests. Many of them had skied the day previous so the conversation mostly consisted of them smiling like mischievous school children with a secret and us begging them for details. We would find out soon enough what early season at White Grizzly Catskiing was all about.
After a delicious home cooked meal we were able to relax and unwind. The hot tub was all warmed up and the beer was all cooled off so we took the conversation outside. Once we solved the world's problems we nestled down in the comfy rooms and tried to sleep in anticipation for the next day. We were up early with a friendly wake up call from Carole and another fantastic meal to get our day started off right. The food spread was out to construct our lunches and we were off.
Down the road we went to find the rumbling snowcats warming up for us. It is funny how fast a group of skiers can move when loading a cat. It had snowed some more overnight and the stoke was high. The temps were a cool -14 so that meant light BC powder waited for us up top.
We skied run after run of fresh, light untracked powder with Brad as our guide. His passion for powder and leading backcountry groups is really evident when you are out skiing with him. He truly loves it. You can tell he gets joy out of showing people the terrain him and his team have spent years developing. It adds to the experience of White Grizzly for sure. Brad took us to some fun spots where were able to find interesting lines and cool features. Much of the glading at White Grizzly is natural with a little help from chainsaws in the off season. Eventhough it was early season, there was quite a lot of snow up there. We could ski pretty much anything we wanted. Usually operations have areas closed because snowpack hasn't built up yet or roads haven't been built. Also, the fact that White Grizzly only runs one group of 12 skiers at a time means that Brad doesn't need to farm snow. By the time all the runs are cut up with tracks, the next storm cycle has blown through and reset the place.
On day two we found more fresh and more steep. White Grizzly consists of mostly tree skiing and consistent fall lines. You should definitely be in shape to ski there and have a love for tree skiing. For me, tree skiing is where it is at. Growing up in BC, that is what we have here. Sure there is alpine skiing, but there is nothing like blasting through deep powder between massive old growth trees. Brad took us to a little spot hidden in the trees called Pride Rock. I am not sure how high it is but it was a good hit. Of course, once one guy went all of us had to hit it!
Back at the lodge that night we shared more stories from the day and really got to know the people we skied with. What we found interesting was that the rest of the group had been coming to White Grizzly annually for the past 15 to 18 years. We had no idea! These people consider Brad and Carole part of their extended families. It was quite a cool experience to hear these people reminisce. It was like they had some sort of ownership in the place, that part of it was theirs. I suppose in a way it is. This is their spot. The place they save up all season to go visit. The retreat they dream about while working long weeks. The great thing is, Brad and Carol realize this and do their very best to make the experience a memorable one for all of their guests.
So if you are looking for a down home feeling place where the owners are just as excited as you are and want to ski some light steep BC powder then White Grizzly just may be the place for you. Don't be afraid to book an early season date either. You will benefit from some early season rates and still get some incredible skiing in.
White Grizzly is located in the interior of BC at the top end of what is now known as the Powder Highway. They get a crazy amount of snow each year and it is always light and powdery. The trip is a bit longer than most but you really feel like you are in the BC backcountry. We've been to the area a number of times and once you have been, you will be drawn to it and feel the urge to go back. Especially during the hot summer after working all day!
So book your trip today and say hi to Brad and Carole from all of us at Catskiing.ca