January has been amazing at Island Lake Catskiing

Photos by Mike McPhee of Island Lake Lodge

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Island Lake Catskiing is off to the races this season.  The Fernie area experienced above average snowfall early season and at one point was reporting more snow then most other areas in North America.  At Island Lake they have had about 5 metres of snowfall as of mid-January and there is a compressed base of 265 cms at tree line.  Although they are mostly booked up for the season, there is a bit of room at the end of March.  Have a look at their new website at www.islandlakecatskiing.com

Check out these recent photos from Mike McPhee.

A New Era for Selkirk Wilderness Skiing

Brenda Drury hands over the reigns of a legendary operation.

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In 1975 Brenda and Allan Drury set out on a exploration to find the perfect spot to start their dream. The dream of snow cat assisted backcountry skiing. 39 years later they are hailed as the pioneers of catskiing as we know it today. We have had the pleasure of skiing at SWS on a few occasions and really feel like part of their extended family and the story of catskiing. One one trip we were able to sit down to dinner with Brenda and got to hear the story from the beginning until present day. It was a real treat to be able to understand her and Allan's passion for powder and also for coming up with a vision and following through on it. Below is a video that was done a couple of years ago that sums it up nicely:

SWS has new owners now and they are just as family oriented as the Drury's. Megan and Paul Osak from Nelson BC and Janie and Scott Munro from Aspen CO are now the new visionaries of SWS. Their plans for the near future are to keep things pretty much the same as before. Hey, if it ain't broke right. A few changes that they are planning are an extended ski week with a few more spots available and some possible renovations to the lodge.

We are excited to see the transition of SWS to the new owners and are grateful to have skied the legend while under the vision of the founders. Here is the official news release from SWS:

Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, the original cat skiing operation in the world has been sold by founder Brenda Drury after 39 years in operation. Snowcat skiing was pioneered in 1975 by Allan and Brenda Drury in the small community of Meadow Creek, BC. Situated in the south east corner of British Columbia, 90 mins north of Nelson. Over the past 39 years, the Drurys and their staff at Selkirk Wilderness Skiing have developed a loyal following amongst deep powder skiers and snowboarders looking for an alternative to both lift-serviced and helicopter skiing and riding.

Selkirk Wilderness Skiing has been purchased by 2 families: Megan and Paul Osak of Nelson, BC.  and Janie and Scott Munro of Aspen CO. The deal has been in the works for the better part of the past six months.  There will be no big changes in the short term and it is business as usual for SWS this winter, which is reporting an almost fully booked ski season starting in mid-December and running until early April 2014. There are plans in the works for a lodge renovation in the future as well continued improvements to the guest experience.

Meet the new owners:

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Icebreaker keeps it warm with the Quantum hood

You’re not a sheep, but you can dress like one

 Icebreaker keeps it warm with the Quantum hood

So here it is, January 2014. You have gotten over the Christmas frenzy and drank the rest of the eggnog (and most of the rum. Ok, all the rum). Now that all the relatives have left your house, you can get back to the outdoor winter pursuits you love. And, if you have some extra Christmas gift money in your pocket, I’ve got the thing to use it on. Whether you find yourself skiing through a powder field down to a snowcat, or hiking up a ridgetop to a new line, a warm Icebreaker mid layer is always a welcome companion.

The newly redesigned Quantum Hood is a great piece to have in your layering arsenal. It comes with great features like mesh underarm gussets for extra ventalition during periods of high exertion and a drop tail for good coverage under your shell or when worn on its own. One other feature that I find vital in my base and mid layers, is the thumb hole for holding the sleeve down. Nothing is more annoying than a pile of snow up the arm when you make that unexpected turn into a snowbank.

The Quantum Plus (shown in Red) is made from a water resistant terry merino wool that repels water, so it can be a great piece worn on it’s own around town as well as warming you on the slopes.  I find it also seems to repel stains... which comes in handy.  Check it out online, or find a retail location near you where you can try on this wonderful piece.

Dashing through the snow at White Grizzly Catskiing

Christmas came early this season with plenty of powder!

White Grizzly Catskiing - Todd Avison

We have officially started catskiing season here in BC and we did it up right. This year we kicked off the powder season at White Grizzly Cat Skiing in Meadow Creek BC. Some areas of the province have been blessed with early season snow while others are still doing the snow dance. White Grizzly is one of the places that has been consistently hammered early on.

Our trip started on December 18th with skiing on the 19th and 20th. Down low in the valley there wasn't much snow to speak of so we had to rely on the reports from skiers that were out the day before. It is sometimes hard to tell if they say it was awesome to make themselves feel better of if it truly was awesome. The looks on these peoples' faces were hard to fake. It looked like we were in for a treat.

After a night in the cozy White Grizzly lodge and some excellent food in our bellies we were off to discover what they White Grizzly terrain had to offer. We found steep tree runs, drops and features everywhere and an abundance of early season powder. The next two days were a blur of pow, trees, steeps, rocks, laughs, beers, hot tubs, food, stories and good times. Thank you to Brad, Carole and all of the staff at White Grizzly for making us feel at home and showing us the goods on the mountain. 

Here are a few shots of the trip so far. We are still editing and going through the footage. Enjoy and stay tuned for a full review of White Grizzly Cat Skiing.

Big Red Cats is getting ready to go

Rossland and Big Red Cats in the snow zone

Big Red Cats is getting ready to go

A town that is a must see on a ski tour of the Kootenays is Rossland, BC. Rossland is a turn of the century mining town, and is a great draw to skiers and tourists all year round. Rossland and Nelson, winners of the 2012 POWDER Magazine ski town throw down, are a hub for numerous catskiing, heli skiing, and ski resort operations.

One of these that is benefiting from the early cold temperatures and storm systems is Big Red Cats. Check out these pictures, taken from some "work" the crew was doing on November 20. I think I need to get in on this job of checking the snowpack.

Big Red Cats will open early if snow conditions allow, so keep an eye here for any updates, or check out their website for availability.

Check out our Catskiing Map for other operations in that area and around the world, and start planning a trip today!

Early Season Teaser from Mustang Powder

Snow in BC's interior is making for a promising early season

Early Season Teaser from Mustang Powder

There may still be grass showing through where you live, but in BC's snow belt, it's starting to pile up. The area around Revelstoke, British Columbia is well known for it's deep, blower pow, and 2013-14 is shaping up just that way for Mustang Powder. Check out these pictures taken around the lodge over the past couple days. The snowpack is already at 125 cm, and they have started on the arduous task of building the cat roads for the season.

Mustang Powder is a Beautiful destination, with a large timber frame backcountry lodge, and world class catskiing. Nick and the crew are all about skiing, and they will have you out on the Mountain from first light to sundown. Space fills up quick, so take advantage of the spots they have left before they're gone. If you are looking for something a little more challenging and less people, they have a small groups/steep chutes program. 6 people getting to more remote lines in sick terrain, check it out here.

Just one Tenure over and benefiting from the same great snow, is K3 Catskiing. They run day trips out of Sicamous or Revelstoke, and provide a great way to squeeze in a day or two of catskiing if you are going to be in the area.

The shortest ski review ever - Skevik Anton 185

I don't always review skis, but when I do, I don't use words.

The Skevik Anton (A tribute to the namesake itself, Mr. Anton Skevik) is a great, big mountain ski with versatility for all mountain use. On first glance, I liked it for it's wood topsheet appearance and the Anderson graphic displaying Moose and maple leafs. It kind of bears resemblance to an old Christmas sweater, and it draws a lot of attention from onlookers.

On the snow, it continued to impress me. I skied the Anton 185 for a few days late last season out at Selkirk Wilderness in the West Kootenays of British Columbia. I had a hard time giving them up for anyone else to try because I was having such a good time on them. The 185 was a good balance of a big mountain, beefy ski to handle all the variable conditions and high speed. The 122 mm underfoot and rocker give it great float in the pow, and still light enough and easy to crank around in tight chutes and trees. It's a bit wider than what most people would call the "one ski quiver", but it is one of my favorites to take out in the backcountry or on the ski hill.

The Anton remains unchanged for 2013/14, and you should check it out if you get the chance. As you can see from the video, I have trouble coming up with more words to say about the ski. You just need to try them for yourself. Skevik Skis are available online or at Attrigde in Vernon, BC, just down the street from where the skis are made.

Powder Alert for BC and the Pacific Northwest

Here it comes! Heavy Snow Fall for the Cascades and Rockies.

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Brace yourself BC because here comes the first of many epic snowfall warnings. We have had a great start to the season up high with some solid storm systems rolling through in October. Now it is mid-November and things are getting serious.

For a few operators planning to open in early December this Heavy Powder Alert is welcoming news. Temps are expected to drop to zero all the way down to sea level with much colder temperatures up high. Combine that with a wallop of moisture and BC is in for some powder!

Here is the report from PowderChasers.com:

Coldest storm of the season will move into BC and the Cascades on Friday.  Snow levels will drop  near sea level by Saturday morning under NW flow allowing significant blower powder to Accumulate.  Mount Baker is favored with NW flow.  A convergence zone of cold orographics through Saturday night will extend snowfall over Stevens Pass and Alpental.     Areas like Crystal will see moderate amounts extending into Oregon through Sunday.

Snowfall will extend into most of Idaho, Western Montana, Wasatch of Utah and Southern Colorado by Friday.  My thoughts are for a very deep dump for the Wasatch Saturday/Sunday, Light snow from Aspen and the 4 corners Friday, and heavier snowfall for most of Colorado Saturday night and Sunday.  My picks will be Aspen, Telluride, Vail, Steamboat, and most of Summit County by Sunday afternoon. The Front Range near Denver will see light snow on Sunday.

Bottom Line:  Deep cold dump, lots of Powderf Buzz, but for many areas dry powder might not be the best for base building.  With that said, many areas in the West including Aspen, Vail, Snowbird, Grand Targhee,Whistler, Steamboat, Jackson Hole already have seen 50-65 inches of snowfall this season at the peaks.  The Northwest saw great snowfall in early October but inconsistent amounts.  Most of the Cascades will reap rewards this weekend.  My vote will be Baker and Stevens Friday/Saturday and perhaps Crystal Sunday.   The Sierra may see a few flakes on the Eastern side near I-80 by Saturday (Some glimmer of hope).  The Wasatch will be deep as well as some areas of Colorado.  The Tetons are my wildcard.

Enjoy the Powder!

www.powderchasers.com

Lights, Camera, Satisfaction

New web gallery to make you want to throw yourself in a snowbank

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If you are anything like my friends and I, and you're reading this so I assume you are, then you are scrolling the web in eager anticipation of the ski season that is about to begin. The skis are waxed, the Icebreaker long johns have been pulled out of hiding, the backpack is sitting by the door ready to go, and you're sitting in a chair in your underwear looking at ski websites and weather reports. I may have lost a couple of you on the last one, but I know you are jonesing for some time in the mountains.

Here's a good fix to hold you over a couple more weeks. Our resident Photographer, Geoff Holman, has just launched a new portfolio website. It focuses on deep powder action from cat and heli operations like Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, Valhalla Powdercats, and Snowwater Heliskiing. If you've been to the West Kootenays, you know these are some of the best places to hit and the pictures prove it.

Check it out, and let the pictures do the talking. www.geoffholman.ca