By Meghan Tabor, Tourism Revelstoke
This past winter in Revelstoke has definitely been one for the books. In January, I had the opportunity to hop on a Girls Do Ski camp with Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing. Earlier this month, another great offer came down the pipes when K3 Cat Ski gave me the chance to taste a piece of their paradise. Having never been cat skiing before, I wasn’t sure what the day would entail. But with 24 centimeters of fallen snow in 24 hours, expectations were high!
The day started out with a rock star pick up at my humble abode that morning around 7:45am. We did the Revelstoke hotel tour through the snowy streets, picking up guests along the way. A large transport truck had gotten himself stuck on a snowbank covered curb, blocking the main intersection to get onto Highway #1. This painted a pretty clear picture of what the day was sure to entail! Once on the road, a whiteout drive behind two ploughs brought us out to the forestry access road, where another truck was stuck at about 1 kilometre (0.6 miles) along the way. March sure came in like a lion here in Revelstoke, and the winter lover in me continues to crave the roar.
We arrived to our staging area and it was lickety split; boots on, gear gathered, and guests loaded into the cat. By the look of eternal stoke in their eyes, it was obvious that the guides wanted to get us out skiing as quickly as possible to maximize every ounce of the day. And that we definitely did.
The avalanche danger was high, so we stuck to treed runs with nice pitches, but did get to cruise some wide open low angle terrain. With K3′s tenure of over 33,000 acres, it was run after run of untouched deep champagne powder; each averaging about 458 vertical metres (1500 vertical feet), with our only break being the ride up in the cat.
A middle-aged Swedish man chased me around all day as my ski buddy; loving my lines and refusing to lead. I was especially impressed by a father/daughter combo. At 75 years young, the dad was holding his own with the rest of our motley crew. The last run “Happy Endings” definitely lived up to its name as we finished the day slapping high-fives and exchanging massive smiles with our new 12 best friends from all over the world.
How to choose: Heli Skiing or Cat Skiing in 2015?!
For those looking to plan their dream ski vacation next season, but are wavering between heli or cat, I’ve tried to outline a few key differences which may help determine the best option for your group. A quick disclaimer is that these are from a personal perspective of what I’ve noticed between my one time heli ski day (STHS) vs. my one time cat ski day (K3).
Cat Skiing – No Frills, All Thrills
K3 found that getting everyone set up in the morning with skis and boards took too much time away from skiing. They encourage everyone to bring their own power paraphernalia (however they do arrange a special rate with Revelstoke Powder Rentals for those who don’t own powder sticks).
Heli Skiing – All Frills, All Thrills
Putting on the Ritz; a morning stretch class to start the day off, and then these guys will have a pair of powder skis or board set up by their own tech shop before your second pass at the breakfast buffet.
Cat Skiing – Nature’s Facilities
Those cat skiing folk are at one with our natural environment. On this adventure, it was straight from the trucks to the cat; boots on and geared up in Mother Nature’s finest boudoir.
Heli Skiing – The Lodge Lou
Don’t expect a bathroom in the helicopter, and once you’re out for the day, you’ll be using the forest facilities as well. But the starting base is a cushy lodge where you’ll gear up and do your paperwork.
Cat Skiing – On The Ground
The cat is a very efficient method to get you to the untouched goods. At the start of the day, avalanche training is thorough but the machine briefing is quick. After each run, the cat seems to be waiting at the pick-up zone, ready to go when you are.
Heli Skiing – In The Air
A helicopter is a pretty cool way to access some of the world’s best remote skiing zones, but these machines are serious business and require an in depth briefing by the pilot before you board. You’ll be sharing the chopper with one or two other groups (although they do have pick ups pretty much dialled).
Cat Skiing – Lunch Break
What’s that? According to K3, eating also takes time away from skiing. Don’t get me wrong, there is a TON of awesome locally catered food to nibble on to your hearts content, but that’s what the cat rides are for. I probably ate a cookie every second go (and didn’t even feel guilty!)
Heli Skiing – Lunch Break
The helicopter shuts down for a civil lunch break. Hot soup and tea is available and your guide will find a sweet spot to hunker down for a breather.
Cat Skiing – Affordable Access to the White Room
A day of cat skiing with K3 starts at $380 (+ tax, low season). Typically you’ll get between 8-12 epic runs and your legs will be crying by the end.
Heli Skiing – Save your pennies for this White Gold
The Powder Excursion day of heli skiing with STHS will run you about $797 (+ tax, low season) for 3 runs. Additional runs can be purchased for $65/run (dependant on group consensus, weather, and time constraints).
All in all, both are great options – so if you’ve got the time and the capital, I’d recommend the double down! But one thing is for sure, seats are already going fast, so you’ll definitely want to book your 2014/2015 Revelstoke ski vacation before you miss out!