Category Archives: Kootenays

Big Red Cats

Remember way, way back when my buddy and I won a catskiing day in Rossland? We went to Red Mountain and had a fantastic time, but fluctuations in the freezing level skunked the catskiing part of the trip. The next year, there was no snow. Fortunately Big Red Cats are awesome, and they gave us a raincheck to 2015/16. Some things, it turns out, are well worth waiting for.

Catskiing in the Monashees

B and I were the only people in the group with avvy training and gear, so we helped out with the morning drills for the rest of the group. Then we headed out into the Monashees for a day of skiing some of the lightest, coldest snow I’ve ever encountered.

The Big Red Cat coming back to get us

We were booked on an intermediate/advanced cat, and it was strange for me – so used to lagging behind my far more experienced and technically capable ski buddies – to find myself the strongest, fastest skier in the group. Our final run of the day was a grand finale on Mount Neptune, and with legs that still felt like they had miles in them after being shuttled around by the cat I was happy to charge right behind the guide through perfect Kootenay coldsmoke in the trees.

Monashee magic

An amazing day out, and getting so many powder runs in a single day really gave my untracked skiing a big boost that would hold through the rest of the season. If you’re ever in Rossland, I highly recommend giving Big Red Cats a go.

Day out with Big Red Cats

The road to Red

I must have entered a thousand “win a ski trip” contests over the years. Hundreds of hopeful submissions disappearing into the ether, because of course you never actually win.

Except this time, I did.

Catskiing heli sticker

The contest, which was run by ski.com, involved taking some adorable stickers of a skiing kitty, sticking them to cool things, and then sending them in via Twitter for an online vote to determine the winner. My friend B set up a fantastic shot of the sticker on the tail of a helicopter and the next thing we knew, we’d won the vote and the two of us were off to Rossland for two days of skiing at Red Mountain and a day out with Big Red Cats.

Osoyoos, on the road to Rosslan

Most important things first: Red was awesome. I had no idea how big it was; there were acres and acres of terrain, really long runs with incredible fall lines, and swathes of amazing looking backcountry beyond every rope. The weather lined up almost perfectly while we were there, with a first day of skiing under bluebird skies with unlimited views of the Monashees and a completely unexpected storm on day two that dumped fresh snow all over the mountain.

Monashee views, Red Mountain

We rapidly established that the Grey Mountain side was our preferred skiing area. This is a new addition to the Red tenure (the chair just went in this season) and in itself is the size of Baker. On the day of the storm, the east slopes were experiencing tremendous wind loading and we scored incredible, unexpected powder turns all the way down through the trees that started boot deep and kept improving as the day progressed.

Accumulating snow

On the days either side of the storm we skied the long, steep groomers on Granite. They were icy, fast, and more or less deserted. With so few other people to worry about we pretty much cast speed limits aside. I’ve skied so little hard snow this season that it took a while to dial my carving back in, but once I did I had a ton of fun.

Rafters, which was named Best Ski Bar in North America by Powder last year, was our apres go-to. This was the part of the trip that felt the most crazily luxurious. I’m used to ski days that start with a 5am alarm and are book-ended by two hour drives, often in terrible weather. Sleeping in till 8am and having a leisurely breakfast before rolling out of the door onto the chair felt almost as unusual as lingering over beers in the bar at the end of the day.

Lolrus at Rafters

The bad news, which came shortly after we arrived, was that a vicious melt-freeze cycle had scuppered the catskiing part of the trip. I have to give a lot of credit to Big Red Cats for how they handled this; they were still quite prepared to take us up if we wanted to go, and gave us the option of a two-winter raincheck if not. We opted for the raincheck once we’d had a day on the mountain to check out conditions. While the catskiing was supposed to be the point of the trip, I’m actually not sad at all about how things turned out: it gives us the perfect excuse to go back to Red next year.

Last day at Red

It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to check out a completely new area. We have so very much so close to home – the Sea to Sky corridor, the Duffey, the Coquihalla, Baker – that we could ski for a lifetime and never want for new terrain. But sometimes it’s fun to go somewhere else, experience a different snowpack, and be reminded that there’s still more out there than just the amazing Coastal ranges on our doorstep. I loved Red, and I can’t wait to go back. Thanks, ski.com – that was a fantastic contest prize.

Toast