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When skiing, guide keeps group together, while allowing everyone their own line in unbroken snow. There’s no pressure to “farm” snow.
The speed of group and number of stops depends on group. Faster groups of expert skiers may ski non-stop to bottom. Groups of intermediate skiers may stop along way, to regroup, rest, share experiences and take pictures. Cat skiing is laid back and relaxed. The guests “call shots” and determine pace. The guides concentrate on preferences and needs of group and provide a “tailor made” skiing experience.
A favorite with many skiers is tree skiing on great ridges. A group can ski for many days on any one ridge and not run out of fresh snow. Runs pass through old burns with widely spaced snags, living forest with open glades and cut blocks with deeply buried stumps that form “pillows” and undulations of endless variety.
Intermediate skiers who rarely ski “the trees” not only find they can do it, but that it’s fun. The snow in trees tends to be deeper and unaffected by sun and wind. Snow is soft and consistent and there are no moguls and lumps. The short, fat powder skis that can be rented from Chatter Creek make it all pretty easy. Novices learn very quickly. Cat skiing does not require prior experience or special equipment, just boots and clothing and enthusiasm.
Cat skiing at Chatter Creek is well suited for skiers and snowboarders having a wide range of ability. My group of expert skiers has enjoyed every trip and is always challenged and experiencing new terrain. Chatter Creek recommends that guests be at least strong intermediate skiers. However, I have organized “friends and family” groups that have included skiers of lesser ability and everyone got on fine. Good physical condition makes up for a lack of experience. Ages have ranged from 20’s to 70, with most group members in 50 to 65 year range.
As ski-day wears on and people may begin to tire, guests are welcome to sit-out a run and ride back down hill with snowcat driver. If someone wants to “call it a day”, a staff member will drive guest back to lodge on a snowmobile.
Runs can vary from about 800 vertical feet to over 2000 ft. Typical runs drop 1200 to 1500 ft. The amount of skiing done in a day depends entirely on strength of group. Daily “vertical” usually varies from 9,000 to 14,000 feet. Very fast groups may do 16,000 ft, or even more. Our group has always worn itself out, day after day.
A nice feature at Chatter Creek is that almost always, cat picks up group where they finish their run. Unlike some operations, there is very little skiing on hard-packed roads to get to cat.
The perfect end to a day at Chatter Creek is a run on Lodge Ridge, ending at door of Vertebrae Lodge (http://www.lodge-life-at-chatter-creek.blogspot.com). We step out of our skis and boards and into bar, dropping into soft couches, with cold beers in hand. After some laughs with our mates and browsing on afternoon snacks, we stumble off to outdoor hot tub to enjoy another beer or a Caesar and to watch sunlight disappear from peaks.
In 2004, Chatter Creek built a second 9000 sq. ft lodge and expanded to 36 clients. All guests enjoy double occupancy bedrooms, each with a private bathroom. Our group has expanded to fill lodge and we have 36 enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders all signed up and waiting patiently for next year. Some of old-boys are now taking along their grown offspring, and one cat is set aside for two entire families. It’s going to be a great party, with great skiing!
Lockie Brown lives near Vancouver, Canada. He skis regularly at Whistler and gets the odd trip to Chatter Creek. He recommends the Chatter News photo journal (http://www.powder-skiing.blogspot.com) for many photos of all aspects of snowcat skiing at Chatter Creek.