When it comes to perfect riding conditions, it's hard to trump
powder. Sure, it's fun to lap a few cruisers or run through a
razor-sharp park, but the possibility of pow is what motivates us to
drag our ass out of dead sleep, throw a bunch of cold gear together in
the dark, and migrate-coffee in tow-towards the mountains.

But deep, dry pow is a rare thing indeed. You might be lucky to
strike a handful of times a season, and even then, you've really gotta
hustle to poach a few solitary deep turns before the secret's out of
the bag and lift lines are gridlocked like Toronto traffic. By noon,
every corner of the mountain is sliced and diced like a Tarantino death
scene, leaving you feeling like something's still to be desired.

Time to call in sick, round up your bros, and climb into a snowcat.
Or if you really want to go to the next level, book into a heli and
plot an airborne assault on some far-off mountain range chock-full of
faceshots.

Seem unrealistic and out of reach? Give your head a shake-this is as
good as it gets; the crème de la crème of ski and snowboard indulgence.
Imagine, no tracks, no crowds, and tits-deep for as far as you can see.
Think you aren't cut out for backcountry? You're probably more ready
than you know. As long as you're a strong intermediate rider and
reasonably fit, there's powder to be plundered. A blow to your wallet?
Like the finer things in life, it's not about the cost-it's about the
experience, and you can bet your ass it's gonna be nothing short of an
epic odyssey.

Now before you toss this magazine aside and burn out of town, there
are a few things to consider ahead of your trip. For useful advice, we
went straight to a few riders who are no strangers to cat and heli
missions. Here they share their backcountry wisdom with the first-timer.

Cat vs. Heli

Chris Rubens: "With cat skiing you will generally have a
larger group and a slower up time. You might get a little less vert,
but it makes for an easy-going, fun atmosphere in the back of the cat.
Heli-skiing is what most skiers dream of. It's the fastest way up the
mountain, and you can definitely burn your legs out before the end of
the day."

Kevin Sansalone: "If the weather is bad, the cat may be your
only choice, because the heli won't fly in bad weather. The excitement
of the shaky cat ride wears off after a few runs, whereas the heli ride
never gets old. If the weather is good, nothing beats the heli."

TJ Schneider: "With a heli you get to see what you are about
to ride. Just having a heli land next to you is an experience. But a
cat costs way, way less, and you'll have a great time riding up,
chatting with your friends about how epic that last ride was."

Great Expectations

Kevin Sansalone: "You can expect to have a great time either
way. Having that kind of effortless access to the backcountry makes you
feel like the king of the world. Thinking of all the people standing in
lineups on Whistler, while you're sipping hot chocolate and eating a
catered lunch in untouched backcountry powder."

Dave Treadway: "As my mama says, 'expect the worst, hope for
the best.' Cat and heli ops are always an awesome time, but those
bluebird days with 40 cms of fresh that you see on the company's
website are their best days of the winter. Hope for one during your
stay, and your trip will be totally worth it."

Chris Rubens: "With so many amazing operations in British
Colombia, you should expect the best of everything. Great
accommodation, amazing food, good company and amazing snow."

Get prepped

Dave Treadway: "If you've been working an office job all fall
and your only exercise is walking your shitzu around the block every
night, then stick to the cat and you'll still be able to ski on your
last day. Make sure you have some days at the hill under your belt, so
you can maximize the experience and not spend the first couple days
working out the kinks with your skills and gear."

Chris Rubens: "The most important thing someone can do before
going to one of these operations is to get into ski shape. Go skiing as
much as you can before your trip. If you can't do that, get in the gym
for some ski-related exercises. Deep powder will burn your legs like
nothing else, and the fitter you are the better time you will have."

Kevin Sansalone: "Get a few good days in on the hill so you
are conditioned for a full day of riding powder. It would be a shame to
have to call the day early just because you're out of shape. Make sure
your equipment is tuned and ready to go as well. Set your stance
back-this is a major factor to be aware of. You're not going to be
riding switch out there, so set your stance as far back as it goes, so
your tail is down and your nose is up and floating. It's a better ride
and helps conserve energy and save your legs. If your board is not
suitable for deep powder, definitely borrow or rent a powder-specific
board. You're paying too much to not get the ultimate ride and roost
out of every turn."

It's go time

Chris Rubens: "It depends what you are looking for. If you
are looking for deep powder, December and January are the best months.
Sometimes operations will have cheap spots right before Christmas on
short notice. When you are looking for some views and to ski some epic
turns in the alpine, check out March or April, when the winter is
slowing down and the snow is safer."

Kevin Sansalone: "It"s almost impossible to predict the
weather in the mountains more than a couple of days in advance, so if
you can be flexible that helps. But if not, then book for early spring
and hope for the best"the days are a little longer and the chance of
good weather is a little better."

Dave Treadway: "You get what you pay for. January through
March is the most expensive, but if it's your only real getaway from
the wife and kids for the winter, then make it count and throw down the
extra coin to increase your chances of getting that perfect day."

Pack this

TJ Schneider: "Make sure you bring a few of everything. It
sucks when you go out the next day and all your stuff is still soaking,
especially if you're going up in a cat"all that epic snow on you is now
water when you jump out."

Dave Treadway: "Your dirtbag little brother, who could never
afford it on his own and has been dreaming about it with you his whole
life. Share the experience with someone you love, so that for the other
360 days of the year, you have someone to talk with about how rad the
trip was."

Kevin Sansalone: "Layer well for the conditions and what the
forecast is calling. Bring extra goggles and gloves. You won't need
food, so use that space in your pack for extra gear, and most
definitely bring a camera. Bring your own"ÄØtransceiver, probe and
shovel, so you are more comfortable using them. But if you don't have
them, they will supply you with everything you need."

Insider tips

Kevin Sansalone: "Try to keep the skill level of the crew
equal. One less-skilled person will bring down the whole group. The
guide will read this quickly, and it may keep you off the good slopes.
Tip your guide."

Dave Treadway: "As soon as you get to the lodge, become best
friends with the cook and your guide. The guides are trained to
babysit; prove to them that you and your buddies are responsible, and
before the end of your stay they'll be stoked to take you to all the
cool stashes."

TJ Schneider: "Usually you'll run into some good rednecks"try and remember some of the messed up stories they tell you."

This one time…

Chris Rubens: "A couple of years back, Eric Hjorleifson, Joey
Vosburgh, Dan Hudson and I went on a four day trip to Mustang Powder.
After three days of shooting with Dan in difficult conditions (read:
copious amounts of snow is hard on cameras), we decided to jump in the
client cat and do some real skiing on the last day. We got put in with
a great group; we were all ecstatic with the opportunity to shred some
pow without the camera circus. The day was filled laughter and hooting
and hollering till out throats were raw."

Dave Treadway: "I"ve been extremely lucky with my trips. My
first cat skiing was in Nelson with 80 cm of fresh and blue skies, with
only five other friends in the cat and the other cat plowing roads for
us. My first heli trip was at Mica with a window shopping experience:
45 cm, bluebird, and me being able to just point at peaks. My first run
from a heli was a first descent, where at Mica they are a dime-a-dozen."

Jump to: Snowcat Operators

Heli Operators

Assiniboine Heli Tours Inc.

1225 Railway Avenue, Unit #1

Canmore, AB

T1W 1R4

1-800-824-9721

Location: Rockies, Interior BC, Northern BC

Bella Coola Heli Sports/Big Mountain Heliskiing/Pantheon Helisports

PO Box 616

Whistler, BC

V0N 1B0

(604) 932-3000

bellacoolahelisports.com, bigmountainheliskiing.com, pantheonheli.com

Location: North Coast Range Mountains

Canadian Mountain Holidays
PO Box 1660

Banff, AB

T1L 1J6

1-800-661-0252

canadianmountainholidays.com

Location: Selkirks, Purcells, Cariboos, Monashees

Coast Range Heliskiing

PO Box 16

Pemberton, BC

V0N 2L0

1-800-701-8744

coastrangeheliskiing.com

Location: Coast Range Mountains

Crescent Spur Heli-Skiing

General Delivery

Crescent Spur, BC

V0J 3E0

1-800-715-5532

crescentspur.com

Location: Rockies, Cariboos

Dream Catcher Heliskiing

PO Box 1483

Prince George, BC

V2L 4V5

1-888-799-5278

dreamcatcherheliskiing.com

Location: Coast Mountains

Eagle Pass Heliskiing

PO Box 2555

Revelstoke, BC

V0E 2S0

1-877-929-3337

eaglepassheliskiing.com

Location: Monashees

Great Canadian Heli-Skiing

PO Box 175

Golden, BC

V0A 1H0

1-866-424-4354

canadianheli-skiing.com

Location: Purcell, Selkirk

Helivision Sport Inc.

Box 549

Garibaldi Highlands, BC

V0N 1T0

1-866-435-4847

Location: Coast Mountains, Tantalus Range

Klondike Heliskiing

Box 377

Atlin, BC

V0W 1A0

(604) 932-5327

atlinheliski.com

Location: Northern BC

Knight Inlet Helisports

5333 Headquarters Road

Courtenay, BC

V9J 1M1

knightinletheliskiing.com

Location: Coast Mountains

Last Frontier Heliskiing

PO Box 1118

Vernon, BC

V1T 6N4

1-888-655-5566

lastfrontierheli.com

Location: Northern BC

Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing

PO Box 159

1 Harrwood Dr.

Blue River, BC

V0E 1J0

1-800-661-9170

wiegele.com

Location: Cariboos, Monashees

Mica Heliskiing

PO Box 1900

122 Mackenzie Ave.

Revelstoke, BC

V0E 2S0

1-877-837-6191

micaheli.com

Location: Rocky Mountains

Northern Escape Heli-Skiing

PO Box 59

Terrace, BC

V8G 4A2

1-866-619-3184

neheliski.com

Location: Skeena Mountains

Peace Reach Heli-Skiing

PO Box 569

Hudson's Hope, BC

V0C 1V0

1-866-575-4354

peacereachheliski.com

Location: BC Northern Rockies

Purcell Helicopter Skiing Ltd.

PO Box 1530

Golden, BC

V0A 1H0

1-877-435-4754

purcellhelicopterskiing.com

Location: Purcell, Selkirk

RK Heliski

PO Box 695

Invermere, BC

V0A 1K0

1-800-661-6060

rkheliski.com

Location: Purcell Mountains

Robson HeliMagic

PO Box 18

Valemount, BC

V0E 2Z0

1-877-454-4700

robsonhelimagic.com

Location: Rocky Mountains

Sea to Sky Holidays/Absinthe Motor Yacht

102-4369 Main Street, Suite 911

Whistler, BC

V0N 1B4

1-866-935-3228

motoryachtabsinthe.com

Location: Coast Mountains

Selkirk Tangiers Helicopter Skiing LLP

PO Box 130

2100 Oak Dr.

Revelstoke, BC

V0E 2S0

1-800-663-7080

selkirk-tangiers.com

Location: Selkirks, Monashees

Skeena Heliskiing

PO Box 1032

Smithers, BC

V0J 2N0

(250) 877-7811

skeenaheliskiing.com

Location: Skeena Mountains

Snowwater Heli Skiing

Box 1340

Rossland, BC

V0G 1Y0

1-866-722-7669

snowwater.com

Location: Bonnington, Nelson, Valhalla

Stellar Heli Skiing

284 Duncan Dam Haul Rd.

PO Box 131

Meadow Creek, BC

V0G 1N0

(250) 366-0067

stellarheliskiing.com

Location: Purcell, Selkirks, Kootenays

TLH Heliskiing

PO Box 1118

Vernon, BC

V1T 6N4

(250) 558-5379

tlhheliskiing.com

Location: South Chilcotin Mountains

Tulsequah Heliskiing

P.O. Box 2128

Haines Junction, YT

Y0B 1L0

1-867-634-2224

tqhheliskiing.com

Location: Coastal Mountains at Canada/Alaska border

Whistler Heli-Skiing Ltd.

Unit 102

4152 Village Green

Whistler, BC

V0N 1B4

1-888-435-4754

whistlerheliskiing.com

Location: Coastal Mountain

Snowcat Operators

Alpine Cat Experience

PO Box 906

Nelson, BC

V1L 6A5

(250) 352-0006

baldface.net

Location: Selkirks

Backcountry Snowcats Ltd.

9615 Emerald Pl.

Whistler, BC

V0N 1B9

1-888-246-1111

snowcats.ca

Location: South Chilcotin Mountains

Baldface Lodge

PO Box 906

Nelson, BC

V1L 6A5

(250) 352-0006

baldface.net

Location: Selkirks

Big Red Cat Skiing

PO Box 742

Rossland, BC

V0G 1Y0

(250) 362-2271

bigredcatskiing.com

Location: Monashees

Blomidon Cat Skiing

PO Box 941

Corner Brook, NF

A2H 6J2

(709) 783-2712

catskiing.net

Location: Appalachian Mountains

Chatter Creek Cat and Heli Skiing

PO Box 333

Golden, BC

V0A 1H0

1-877-311-7199

chattercreek.ca

Location: Rockies

Fernie Wilderness Adventures

Box 645

Fernie, BC

V0B 1M0

1-877-423-6704

fernieadventures.com

Location: Kootenays

Great Northern Snowcat

31096 Coyote Valley Rd.

Calgary, AB

T3L 2R1

1-800-889-0765

greatnorthernsnowcat.com

Location: Selkirks

Highland Powder Skiing

PO Box 200

Meadow Creek, BC

V0G 1N0

(250) 366-4260

highlandpowderskiing.com

Location: Bad Shot range in the Selkirks

Island Lake Lodge/Powder Cowboy Catskiing

PO Box 1229, 602a 2 Ave.

Fernie, BC

V0B 1M0

1-888-422-8754

islandlakeresorts.com, powdercowboy.com

Location: Lizard Range of the Rocky Mountains, Fernie

Monashee Powder Snowcats

13912 Ponderosa Way

Coldstream, BC

V1B 1A4

1-866-678-7669

monasheepowder.com

Location: Monashees

Mustang Powder

Site 23, Comp. 11, RR #2

Chase, BC

V0E 1M0

1-888-884-4666

mustangpowder.com

Location: Monashees

Powder Mountain Catskiing & Catboarding

8629 Drifter Way

Whistler, BC

V0N 1B8

1-877-793-7349

powdermountaincatskiing.com

Location: Tricouni

Retallack Resort & Alpine Adventures

466 Josephine St.

Suite 205

Nelson, BC

V1L 1W3

1-800-330-1433

retallack.com

Location: Selkirks

Revelstoke Cat Skiing

Revelstoke, BC

(250) 814-0087

discoverrevelstoke.com

Location: Interior BC

Valhalla Powdercats

PO Box 968

Nelson, BC

V1L 6A5

1-888-352-7656

valhallapow.com

Location: Valhalla Mountains

White Grizzly Adventures Ltd.

Box 129

Meadow Creek, BC

V0G 1N0

1-800-843-5557

whitegrizzly.com

Location: Selkirks

Wildhorse Cat Skiing & Powder Mining Co.

Suite 203, 622 Front Street

Nelson, BC

V1L 4B7

1-888-488-4327

kootenayexperience.com

Location: Kootenays

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