family snowcat skiing

Why Cat Skiing is the Perfect 2021 Family Winter Staycation

family snowcat skiing

2020 has felt like a long year, which is why you should kick off 2021 with a well-deserved family staycation in the Canadian mountains. Avoid the crowds of popular ski resorts and escape this winter season for a secluded mountain retreat at Northern Escape Heli-Skiing (NEH), located in the picturesque Skeena Mountains in northwest British Columbia. Northern Escape offers a wide-variety of adventure skiing and snowboarding activities, all-inclusive stays in its newly-renovated lodge and unlimited ski terrain that will help you create memories you will cherish for a lifetime.

The remote BC ski outfitter has launched a new cat skiing product specifically designed for families and small groups. The family package includes winter-vacation perks, such as starry nights in a hot tub, sommelier curated wine list, Red Seal chefs and of course the safety equipment to ensure you have a worry-free stay. Enjoy the crisp mountain breeze on your face and your own private runs with fluffy pillows of powder while feeling safe in your family circle. If you are a confident intermediate resort skier or boarder, catskiing is a perfect family-bonding activity for you!

So What is Cat Skiing?

Facilitated by the immense power and flexibility of snowcats, cat skiing allows you to make fresh tracks and take in breathtaking views while exploring the backcountry. Snowcats, short for snow caterpillar, are enclosed-cab, truck-sized, fully tracked vehicles, that have been used to shuttle skiers up remote backcountry slopes for years. Northern Escape’s custom-outfitted and heated snowcats will climb up even the most unapproachable terrain with enough space for your ski equipment and everything you’ll need for a day on the slopes.

snowcats

For cat skiing or boarding, you will need all of your typical ski gear in addition to some safety equipment that will be provided to you. Since you will most likely be riding on the deepest powder of your life, powder skis and boards are strongly recommended and are available for rent.

Cat skiing first appeared as a sport in 1975 when a couple, Allan and Brenda Drury, opened their first cat skiing facility near Meadow Creek, BC. Allan fell in love with the idea of using snowcats to access the unexplored peaks of ski hills and giving people the chance to enjoy new terrain from a different perspective. Soon enough cat skiing spread throughout the mountains of British Columbia, which are so ideal for this adventurous winter activity.

Northern Escape resort is located near Terrace, BC, nested deep in the Skeena Mountains. With the deep snow, unlimited wilderness and amazing views, NEH is easily BC’s best cat skiing spot. Over 100 ft of snow falls in the Terrace area each year covering NEH’s more than 29 square km’s (7,000 acres) of cat skiing trails. From gentle tree skiing, to steep chutes and alpine bowls, the terrain here offers something for strong intermediate resort skiers who have never tried cat skiing before, all the way to expert backcountry riders.

powder skier in Skeen Mountains, Terrace, BC

Cat Skiing and Safety

NEH takes safety very seriously, as nothing will ruin a trip faster than an accident. Cat skiing guides are ACMG and CSGA certified, which means they are trained to provide you with a safe and enjoyable experience. They are also specifically trained for the mechanized skiing industry and can respond to any issues that may arise. They will provide you with a thorough education on how to interact with the mountain environment, and how to use the provided safety equipment.The safety gear includes transceivers, shovels, probes, and airbag backpacks. Transceivers emit radio signals that are vital for locating a person buried in the snow.

Shovels are obviously used for digging, but they’re also useful for testing the conditions of a snowpack or building a snow shelter. A probe is a collapsible metal pole that looks like a tent pole and is used to probe for people buried in the snow. Finally, airbag backpacks are like a parachute for avalanches; once you pull the cord, the airbag quickly inflates and helps you to stay near the top of the massive amount of debris an avalanche may carry. Fear not however, the resort’s knowledgeable guides will choose slopes that are safe and provide you with avalanche gear, as well as a thorough education on how to respond in the unlikely event of one.

In addition, COVID-19 has brought its own safety concerns to the ski hills. You can rest assured that NEH is Safe Travels certified and as such, has implemented a very detailed COVID-19 Safety Plan. Lodge guests will be contained to their family or travel bubbles for the entire trip, including in the lodge, dining, and in the snowcat. The guests and staff are required to fill out pre-trip and daily health questionnaires. The resort has installed physical barriers between guests and staff where possible, hand sanitizer is widely available and masking is required of guests and staff in common areas.

Cat Skiing for Families

There are a few aspects to consider when you are planning your cat skiing family staycation. Firstly, you should select at least three to four days for your trip. The travel time to the resort is minimal so it will maximize your time on the ski hill. Secondly, you should be confident in your skiing and boarding abilities before you embark on this new adventure. Usually, there are various skill levels of skiers and boarders in each family. It is strongly recommended that each of you is at an intermediate level or above. Cat skiing is a type of experience that will challenge you but also bring you closer together. You will learn how to dominate nature, as well as the basics of backcountry safety. It’s an exciting trip, during which you have to look after each other and occasionally might even have to work as a team. If you want to avoid waiting in the lift line this year, cat skiing is a unique family experience, where you get to be the first one to slide down the untouched terrain while staying safe in your family bubble.

“Family vacations are amazing. I very much enjoy deep-powder skiing with my family!” says John Forrest, General Manager of NEH. “Plus it’s a great opportunity to introduce your kids to backcountry skiing and riding with a professional guide.”

kids skiing

Why is Winter 2021 the Time to Go Cat Skiing?

By early 2021, we will all be approaching the first anniversary of our ban from visiting hot beaches and all-inclusives. We could all use a creative way to use up some vacation time and take advantage of the natural beauty and adventure Canada has to offer. It’s never been a better time to try out cat skiing. COVID-19 severely limited most mountain resorts in 2019/20, and it may do so again this winter. You will need to get your dose of powder while minimizing your family’s exposure to others. At Northern Escape, you can enjoy the spectacular mountain terrain, learn new mountain safety skills with your family, and then retreat to the lodge for a hot tub and a Red Seal chef-cooked meal. This year will also bring a La Niña winter, and all you need to know about that is that it’ll be a white and wild winter in the west!

 

Northern Escape Mountain Lodge

Why go to Northern Escape?

 

Easy access is one of NEH’s biggest advantages. From Vancouver airport, it is a seamless 90-minute flight to Terrace and a short helicopter flight to the mountain lodge. After that the private guides will take you up the ski hill where you can plow through the pristine powder. When people think of cat skiing they often imagine spending an arm and a leg for very little in return. This year with borders closed and prices slashed, the cost of a cat skiing trip at Northern Escape is actually comparable to a weekend in Whistler including the hotel, lift tickets and restaurant meals. NEH has just opened its new $4.2M, mountain lodge with a contemporary boutique hotel ambience and offers an all-inclusive five-star experience. Start the new year at BC’s best cat skiing resort at one of the most sought-after ski destinations in the world.

 

Northern Escape Mountain Lodge

Resources:
Heli Cat Canada
Cat skiing at Northern Escape
Avalanche Canada