It has been a dream of mine, for quite some time, to go backcountry cat skiing in Canada. Cat skiing has been referred to as the poor man's helicopter skiing. Instead of flying to the top of a mountain on a helicopter, you ride in a snow cat. The snow cat is similar to those used for grooming runs at a resort but has been modified to include a box on the back to hold skiers. Three years ago, I started planning to make this dream a reality. I asked my son if he would like to do this for his golden birthday. He was all in! [Side bar - when my kids were little, I promised them a long weekend at the destination of their choice for their golden birthday. My daughter, who chose to go to Disney World (at age 12) felt a little cheated and ask to come along (which she did)]. I did my research and picked Big Red Cats located in the Kootenay Rockies Powder Highway region by Rossland, BC in Canada. Big Red Cats has 19,000 acres and 7 summits at their disposal. They have six cats and use no more than four each day. The motto in Rossland is "First stop on the powder highway." We were pumped!
On Feb 25, 2015, my dream was almost destroyed when I was blindsided by a reckless skier in Montana resulting in a shattered humeral head (shoulder) and a labral tear (hip). The shoulder surgery on March 2 resulted in nine pins, one plate, one cadaver bone and an 18 month recovery period. My surgeon gave me a gift when he came up with this fix in lieu of a complete shoulder replacement. The hip surgery was at the end of June. The rest of 2015 was spent rehabbing my injuries. My shoulder will never be the same (physically & aesthetically) and I'm not as strong as I once was, but I'm not going to let it stop me from doing the things I love to do.
We headed out to Rossland, BC on March 12, 2016. Our cat skiing reservation was for Monday the 14th. We rented Rossignal Soul 7's for the day (I highly recommend them). We arrived at Big Red Cats office next to Red Mountain Resort, loaded a bus at 8 am and drove to the base parking lot some 45 minutes away. The group consisted of 3 guides (Kauri, Kine & Sasha) and 11 clients [2 Swiss, 1 German, 1 Dutch, and 7 Americans (1 Californian, 1 New Yorker, 2 from Connecticut, 3 Minnesotans)]. Each member of the group was equipped with a avalanche beacon, a 12 foot probe and a shovel. We learned how to assemble our equipment and practiced using it in case of an avalanche. After that is was time to load up Goldfinger (our cat) and head out to untracked powder!
It is beautiful, peaceful and quiet in the backcountry. I was able to do 5 out of eleven runs before my shoulder wore out. My kids did an amazing job skiing the powder and trees. Kevin caught big air off a huge snow covered car size boulder and threw down a spread eagle before nailing the landing. That jump was the talk of the day. By our last run the group and guides were bonded by this incredible shared experience. Enjoy the images from the trip!