Tours: Ride With Your Bros
What’s better than backcountry powder shared with a couple of good friends? Skiing with your buddies in the trees, sharing a great line on an open slope and watching your mates pop off bumps into the pow is a great way to spend a day. Now, if that makes you smile, think about expanding it to 12 good friends. Think about a day of good powder and good runs shared with the 12 friends you would most like to spend time with. Then expand the thought to three of four days in succession.
If it seems like a wild dream, it’s not. Snowcat skiers are doing it every year. Many snowcat operators will provide a discount to the organizer of a group of 12. Assemble your own group to share its own cat and guides and determine the pace of each day’s skiing. The cat rides back up the mountain become almost as much fun as the runs down, filled with the old lies and jokes and stories that you all enjoy sharing. Evenings in the lodge in the bar playing pool or darts for “shots” or soaking in the hot tub just continue the fun of the day. The photos found at Favorite Chatter Creek photos were taken by members of a group of old friends who go cat skiing together every year. By the way, if you don’t know all about it, check out the cat skiing articles at cat skiing articles.
Most, but not all, cat skiing operators encourage groups and group organizers. At least two operators in BC offer no particular incentive to group leaders, but point out the advantage to having ski companions that know one another and are all compatible skiers. However, at least three BC operators provide group organizers a free seat and one operator offers two free seats (take 12 people, pay for 10). Other operators offer a discount ranging from $1200 per day, to $1500 for a 4-day tour. Organizers shopping for a cat skiing tour should consider group discounts last, after selecting a short list of operators having terrain and skiing conditions that best suits their group’s needs.
Organizing a group is no cakewalk. The group organizer is the sole point of contact with the company. The group organizer collects and accounts for all funds, makes lump payments on behalf of the group, distributes company literature, collects client information and submits it to the company. Above all, the organizer ensures that group members understand the tour dates, transportation arrangements, meeting times and special conditions like baggage restrictions or clothing needed for the trip in to a remote lodge.
Finally, the organizer handles last minute changes. People get sick or have emergencies or “things” happen at work and substitutes have to be arranged. Snowstorms can require last-minute telephone calls to the group to change travel plans, as described in the article, “Getting to Chatter Creek:Go Early and Get There”.
You may have known your buddies for years, but you don’t really understand them until you try to organize their ski trip. As one cat ski operator noted, “It’s like herding cats”. One or two email messages is not enough to convey critical dates and other information. There is always someone who forgets or is confused or loses forms or is always late with payments.
Regular reminders and specific confirmation is needed to ensure that people really do understand what they need to know, and that critical dates and times really have been recorded in next year’s calendar, and not this year’s. If the meeting point is in a different time zone, alarm bells have to be rung regularly, or people will forget the time shift. People need reminding that there is a day of travel before and after the dates of the tour. If tour members are married, it’s a good idea to ensure their wives know “the drill”.
Different organizers do different things with their discount. Merle McKnight, manager of Chatter Creek, in Golden recommends, “Put it in your pocket, you’ve earned it!” Some organizers do just that. Others share the discount with the group members, giving everyone a small discount. One organizer rents a bus to take his group from Calgary to Golden, where his cat skiing tour starts. That tour really starts and ends in Calgary and everything in between is a blur. The author tends to be a sharer, but after years of organizing groups, my enthusiasm for sharing is waning.
Whatever frustrations a group organizer may bear, they fall right away on that first run of the annual tour, as the organizer watches his mates go charging down the hill, with whoops and hollers and powder snow flying. The grins on your friends’ faces make it all worthwhile!
Suggested Snowcat Operations
Chatter Creek Snowcat Skiing – Golden, BC
Park City Powdercats – Park City, UT
Steamboat Powdercats – Steamboat, CO