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Park City Powder Cats/Other Cat Skiing Outfits

jaywbigred

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Hi All!

So, after years of thinking about booking a helicopter or cat skiing trip, and with Warren Miller's famous tagline echoing in my head, I finally decided to spearhead a trip for my 40th birthday in February with a few of my skiing friends.

We settled on cat skiing over heli skiing. We almost all work desk jobs; some folks I spoke with essentially said the benefit of a helicopter over a cat is that you get more vert with the bird. But the advantage of a cat over a bird is that a cat doesn't get grounded during a dump. So we went with the cat, figuring that whatever the max vert is that a cat can get you to in a day will be plenty for our white collar legs.

We researched a bunch of outfits and locations with the help of a travel agent I know who happens to be a skiing fanatic (Swiss by birth I believe) and eventually settled on Park City Powder Cats.

I was wondering if anyone had ever used them (or a similar outfit) before, and, if so, if you had any advice for our group. A few of us have taken cat rides to slack country terrain at Powder Mountain before, but otherwise, no relevant experience for something like this. Everyone is trying to focus hard at the gym to get in shape, and east coast season will start for most of us soon, during which we all have pledged to try to get the legs in a decent spot by February.

We are staying in Park City and skiing 2 days with the cats and 2 days at PCMR (or whatever it is now called) on the off days. It's about a 40 minute drive from our rental to the cat outfit.

Mods, if this is posted in the wrong spot, I apologize. I looked around and didn't see a better spot for it. I also ran searches on the subject and didn't find any on-point threads.

Thanks all!
 

AdironRider

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Hi All!

So, after years of thinking about booking a helicopter or cat skiing trip, and with Warren Miller's famous tagline echoing in my head, I finally decided to spearhead a trip for my 40th birthday in February with a few of my skiing friends.

We settled on cat skiing over heli skiing. We almost all work desk jobs; some folks I spoke with essentially said the benefit of a helicopter over a cat is that you get more vert with the bird. But the advantage of a cat over a bird is that a cat doesn't get grounded during a dump. So we went with the cat, figuring that whatever the max vert is that a cat can get you to in a day will be plenty for our white collar legs.

We researched a bunch of outfits and locations with the help of a travel agent I know who happens to be a skiing fanatic (Swiss by birth I believe) and eventually settled on Park City Powder Cats.

I was wondering if anyone had ever used them (or a similar outfit) before, and, if so, if you had any advice for our group. A few of us have taken cat rides to slack country terrain at Powder Mountain before, but otherwise, no relevant experience for something like this. Everyone is trying to focus hard at the gym to get in shape, and east coast season will start for most of us soon, during which we all have pledged to try to get the legs in a decent spot by February.

We are staying in Park City and skiing 2 days with the cats and 2 days at PCMR (or whatever it is now called) on the off days. It's about a 40 minute drive from our rental to the cat outfit.

Mods, if this is posted in the wrong spot, I apologize. I looked around and didn't see a better spot for it. I also ran searches on the subject and didn't find any on-point threads.

Thanks all!

1) Why did you choose this outfit? I assume you want some of the amenities of Park City because of all the cat outfits in the land, this isn't the first I would choose in terms of snow quality or terrain available, nor would I choose Park City as a base if this was the driver. Your travel agent is not the resource I would rely on for this information ultimately.

2) I would focus more on cardio and prepping for elevation, vs strengthening the legs. You can ski much more in bounds by lunch compared to any cat ski day. Obviously you don't want to roll right off the couch but your lungs are going to hurt long before the quads coming from the EC.

3) To an extent, helis and cats go down for similar reasons. You aren't going to magically get into steeper, deeper terrain when it snows just because you are riding a cat vs. heli. Avalanches don't give a rip how you got yourself there. Keep this in mind as you set expectations.

4) You will only ski terrain suitable for the worst skier in your group. If you have one or two guys that are much worse than the rest, it can cause strife. I would try and ensure you are all of similar ability.
 

KustyTheKlown

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good advice.

i haven't done cat skiing, but i have done silverton with a heli drop. fully agreed that cardio and elevation prep is everything. hiking at 12k feet will fuck you right up. it got me good, a 9-5 desker who lives 50 feet above sea level. i did a lot of jogging at max incline on the treadmill leading up to it.

also agreed re: the skill level of the group being super important. i was the slowest hiker but strongest skier in our silverton group - last up, first down.

and finally, also agreed re: why park city? i'd be shooting for interior BC probably.

what are your thoughts on the cat skiing at powmow? will be there for a day in feb and i hear mixed reviews as to whether its worth the $20
 

1dog

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Pow Mow - $20 for each run - well - all depends - 1st time I did them we bought 3 - $21 at $7 each.

Long run outs - If it's at least a foot of new. . . then maybe.

It's all inside jammed in cat cabin - for $7 they had 3 long ropes with knots - towed maybe 15-24 skiers -


then the regs (and the lawyers).

Both tend to ruin it all for a few - ( and coincidently, the latter generally writes the former) -

If you go and its dumping ( or dumped night before) get there early.

was there 2 years ago. . . .5 days. . . 70" over 4 of those 5 days. Deep and empty chairs everywhere.

My apologies to skier/rider attorneys. . . .
 

HowieT2

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I'd seriously consider one of the outfits in interior BC. Its more of a hassle to get to, but well worth it imho. There's a reason BC is the cat/heli ski capital of the world and it aint because of all the pretty people and shopping like in Park City.
 

jaywbigred

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1) Why did you choose this outfit? I assume you want some of the amenities of Park City because of all the cat outfits in the land, this isn't the first I would choose in terms of snow quality or terrain available, nor would I choose Park City as a base if this was the driver. Your travel agent is not the resource I would rely on for this information ultimately.
Correct, we have some folks bringing their kids, and we wanted to all stay under the same roof, so having the daycare/ski school options of the PC resorts was attractive, as was the housing supply. Also, we have people coming from all over, NYC, Chicago, Florida, etc.. so easy travel access was important. Obviously BC has better terrain, snow, and outfitters, but the access issues just seemed too great. PC Powder Cats has 43,000 acres, which seemed ample, even compared to some BC outfits. I trust the travel agent implicitly, he is a Swiss ski fanatic, skies 70+ days a year, has been a travel agent for 30 years, and has been on "probably 100 heli ski trips and at least 30-40 cat ski trips." He said about PCPC, "Hey, it's not BC, but it is really really fun, especially for your first time." He had us review about 8 outfits, I think 6 were in BC. PCPC has been around a long time and the reviews across the board looked very solid, especially for a cat skiing newb. A good entry level experience into something like this.
2) I would focus more on cardio and prepping for elevation, vs strengthening the legs. You can ski much more in bounds by lunch compared to any cat ski day. Obviously you don't want to roll right off the couch but your lungs are going to hurt long before the quads coming from the EC.
Interesting. You feel this is true even at Utah elevations? I personally have never had an issue at any elevations including at 14,000 feet at Breck, in the Alps, and of course in Utah and Wyoming (being lower). I am getting old (turning 40, ha!), and not sure about all the other skiers in the group, so I will take this to heart (ha). But I don't believe there will be any/much hiking, so I figured the only real difference from skiing a day at PCMR or whatever would be the depth of snow, i.e. quad burning.
3) To an extent, helis and cats go down for similar reasons. You aren't going to magically get into steeper, deeper terrain when it snows just because you are riding a cat vs. heli. Avalanches don't give a rip how you got yourself there. Keep this in mind as you set expectations.
Got it, I am pretty aware re avalanche danger, I think that is kind of self evident. I have heard horror stories from people on heli skiing trips who were grounded because of storm visibility issues and I know cat outfits like to advertise not having this issue, which combined with the lower cost and more manageable-on-my-fitness amount of vert made cat skiing seem like the right choice.
4) You will only ski terrain suitable for the worst skier in your group. If you have one or two guys that are much worse than the rest, it can cause strife. I would try and ensure you are all of similar ability.
Yup, understand that, we had the conversation with a couple folks, but we are only 6-7 skiers in a cat that holds 10, so we are rolling the dice with the 3-4 strangers who will be with us anyway (and they with us, too).

Thanks for the input everyone!!

If anyone else has actual experience with PCPC, please chime in!
 

jaywbigred

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Hmm, I didn't foresee there being any real hiking with a cat, haven't read anything about that in any review...plus I believe everything is below 11,000 feet here.

As far as PowMow cat runs, I'd say do one and see if you like it, it's only $10. I didn't love it, I think we did two runs and then went back to the lifts. It was dumping that day and everyone wanted to ride the cats, so it was pretty tracked out quickly. Plus, you have no guide, so you are kind of like..."can we go over there? Is this a good idea? Is there going to be a mandatory air in a minute that I don't see coming?"
 

crazy

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Park City Powder Cats looks sick. You're going to have a blast. If you fall in love with cat skiing, the outfits in BC will be waiting for you in the future. I wouldn't be surprised if the snow is actually better in the Uintas than at most of the cat/heli outfits in the Canadian Rockies. Even at the highest elevations, places like Kicking Horse and Revelstoke get considerably less snow than the Wasatch, and I'm pretty sure that the Uintas where PCPC operates gets similar snowfall to Alta/Snowbird.

Make sure to report back about your experience.
 

SIKSKIER

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Have done catskiing 7 different trips in BC.Monashee Powder Adventures first 3 times and Mustang Powder the last 4.In roughly the same area about 50 or so miles west of Revelstoke,this area has the best snowfall in North America.Even in low snow years the lodge had at least 6-7 foot base.Mind you these are both destination lodges like Chatter Creek and they take an hour to get to the lodge by snowcat the night before you ski.3,4,and 5 day trips are what is offered and they are not cheap but the experience is incredible.I highly recommend.One advantage of interior BC is deep snow at relatively low altitudes,7-8000 ft peaks.The amount of terrain they serve is huge so they can almost always find good snow on different aspects.When I first started it was about $275 a day but Its more like $800-1000 high season.
 

jaytrem

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Mods, if this is posted in the wrong spot, I apologize.

Mods??? No sure anything has been moderated in years. It's pretty civil around here. Not Snowjournal civil, but civil enough. Anyway, welcome to AZ, I too miss the MS forum.

No thoughts on Cat Skiing. But at PowMow I did enjoy the couple "powder country" runs I took. It's been ages since I've been there. But basically you ski down to the road and a shuttle bus picks you up. That was the best skiing available while the power was out one day. They still had the one chair running (Sunrise I think it was called), so it was up that and over the back. For the "cat skiing" on a different day we were just towed up behind a snowmobile. I'm pretty sure that was much quicker than a cat. Fun place, just not the steepest for sure, but that's fine with me, I enjoy it all.
 

FBGM

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Been with them and skied in Unitas in my own a ton. Arguably better terrain then any of the cottonwoods. Bigger terrain too. All depends on snow. If it’s a skinny year or early season shit will not be cool. If it’s deep and in a cycle, game on. They also get complete different snow then Wasatch. So don’t necessarily go off of wasatch readings. They also don’t fly birds anymore. All cats.
 

crank

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Sounds like OP has a sound plan.

Just some info/corrections re Pow Mow. The cat skiing that cost $25 per ride is called Lightning Ridge. This access a canyon full of lines but is not free ranging, go where the untouched snow is, guided cat skiing. Can be fun though You ski to the cat stop and there is a lne to wait for your ride adn then it's maybe a 5 or so minute ride to top of ridge.

They do have wider ranging cat skiing available, but, no pricing could I find on their site I believe it would be reasonable and if you aren't looking for steep, Pow Mow is an awesome place for snow.

Powder country is described accurately and you can access it from lifts on both sides of the canyon. My first time there I was shot after a day of skiing and, while drinking beers in the lodge, we hatched a plan for my buddies to take a run and I would drive the car down and pick them up. So they got an extra run after 5PM.

Also, yes the snow totals and conditions vary greatly from region to region in the Wasatch. We check the websites early in the morning. Though IMO it can be a good strategy to avoid LCC and drive to Pow Mow or Snowbasin if all get snow. Even when LCC gets a lot more... It can be a real feeding frenzy there and I prefer taking my time and being able to ski fresh lines all day.

PCMR and Canyons both have some great skiing as well. I have heard they have been more crowded since going Epic. Head teh same about Solitude on Ikon.
 

jaywbigred

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Been with them and skied in Unitas in my own a ton. Arguably better terrain then any of the cottonwoods. Bigger terrain too. All depends on snow. If it’s a skinny year or early season shit will not be cool. If it’s deep and in a cycle, game on. They also get complete different snow then Wasatch. So don’t necessarily go off of wasatch readings. They also don’t fly birds anymore. All cats.

This is really interesting FBGM. We are going mid-Feb so it won't be early season. Hoping we hit it right. How long ago did you ski with them?

Thanks for the commentary everyone, appreciated!
 

jaywbigred

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So last night we arrived back from our trip. We flew out last Wednesday 2/19, skied with Park City Powder Cats on Thursday, skied PCMR/Canyons on Friday and Saturday, then did a second day with PCPC on Sunday. It snowed about 14 inches the Sunday before we arrived, 2/16, so that was good. Weather while we were there was mostly cold at night (-5 to 5 degrees) and warm and sunny during the days (32-38 degrees). It snowed 4 inches the day of our departure. Oh well.

On Thursday morning we departed our condo in Park City around 7:40 a.m. and drove on well maintained roads for about 35 minutes before arriving at the ranch. It got as low as -20 in the canyon valley, but they indicated it would get to the mid-30s on the peaks as a result of some temp inversion. Once inside the cabin, we filled out some forms and picked at the breakfast spread. They had 4 full cats going out that day, so it was fairly packed in the cabin. They did an avalanche beacon/safety meeting talk, and then assigned everyone to cats. Once we were in our cat, we met our 2 guides (lead and tail), as well as the other skiers. We had a bunch of guys from Arizona in our cat, one of whom happened to have gone to my HS in NJ--small world! We drove roughly 30 minutes to the top of our first run, which was about boot deep fresh snow through some trees. We then went on to take about 5 more runs before lunch, all of which were in very large, untracked bowls of fresh pow. As advertised, we skied entirely untracked snow the entire time. It was pretty outrageous. They also had a photographer come by and take action shots of the group so that you have the option to purchase them later ($20/head for 6-10 shots). After an awesome lunch, we did probably 4-5 more runs, a mix of bowls, aspen glades, and one crusty run on a different aspect slope that we could have skipped. Finally, we skied a short glade run onto a cat track that we then tucked most of the way back to the ranch before the cat picked us up for the last 15 minutes or so. Back at the ranch, they had a nice spread of apres ski snacks, we chatted with the photographer and signed up for same, and also tipped the guides via credit card, which was helpful.

As a first timer, I was quite nervous in the morning, both for myself but also for the other people in our group. I am probably the strongest skier of the bunch, so I was concerned that some might be in over their heads. The PCPC website says "For safety reasons, guests at PC Powder Cats must be advanced or expert skiers and riders. That means you can ride an ungroomed black diamond run in any conditions (powder, slush, ice, crust, etc.)." Certainly our group met that definition, but to be fair, we were certainly not a group of backcountry cliff huckers. The overall vibe is also quite daunting. None of us had ever skied with an avi beacon before. And the cat rides themselves, up the ridges and along the spines of these peaks (topping out at almost 11,000 ft), are quite daunting. Our guides set us at ease though, and after a run or two, it was readily apparent that everyone in the group (including the strangers we were paired with, who were weaker skiers/riders than us, mostly) could handle the terrain without an issue and in fact were totally stoked by the untracked snow. Overall it was a pretty awesome day.

We skied the two days at PCMR and they were relaxing, just touring around and mostly saving our legs for Sunday. I will say, the resort experience does feel a bit benign after cat skiing.

Sunday we went back to the ranch for round two. No new snow and the warm weather meant we would be skiing totally different lines than we had 3 days prior. They have 45,000 total acres to choose from, about 15,000 of which is prime skiable. They only had 3 cats going out on Sunday, and the staff, with 1 or 2 exceptions, seemed to be totally turned over. We had 2 different guides, both much younger than our prior guides. We had a much longer ride to the first run, probably 45+ minutes.

Sunday was a completely different experience. From the first run onwards, EVERY single run we took Sunday was much, much steeper and more difficult than anything we skied on Thursday. Most of the Sunday runs had headwalls. Although you could kind of scoot in without hucking (for the most part), just standing with your skis hanging out over the edge with the wind whipping at almost 11,000 feet and above the treeline is daunting. There was a huge asspucker factor not present on Thursday. It didn't help that our guides seemed to have a few disagreements about what lines were safe, resulting in some call-ins for opinions from other guides and from avalanche-prevention crew folks who were out on snowmobiles doing assessments. It also was frustrating that a few times, the lead guide would head down first but the radio/walkie connection didn't work right when he would try to communicate back up. The guides themselves didn't seem flustered at all, maybe that is just normal to them, but it definitely added to the asspucker factor for us newbs. There was also a lot more "mountaineering" type skills required on Sunday. We had to side slip a lot more and kind of traverse along ridgelines at the top of runs, along with a few stretches of herring boning. The runs themselves were actually pretty sick. Boot deep or better cold snow mostly, save one chute-style run in some leg-burning sun-melt slush ("make sure you stop before the waterfall!"). And these runs were much steeper than Thursday. In fact, I'd say every single run we took Sunday was steeper and more difficult than every single run we took Thursday. A lot of the Sunday runs were northern aspects, and followed the same recipe: windblown headwall quasi-drop-in to steep first section, slightly less steep, open middle section, then enter the treeline and suddenly a very steep third section, often narrow through some trues, followed by flat-but-not-too-flat short run out to the cat pick up. I think we did about 12 runs, and they def. cut our lunch short because of the longer morning drive time. We also got back to the cabin at least 30 minutes later than on Thursday. Not photographer was offered either.

Overall, for Sunday, we had a completely different experience. I think the terrain was MUCH more demanding, far beyond being able to "ride an ungroomed black diamond run in any condition." This was more like "must be able to ride double black diamond terrain comparable with the steeper stuff in bounds in the United States in untracked powder or slush." A number of people in the group fell, especially the father-daughter duo on snowboards from Hawaii. In fact, overall, I'd say the experience was pretty tough on the snowboarders both days, they had the bulk of the falls and also the toughest times with the high altitude mini-mountaineering and the runouts as well. Also, our guides on Sunday were not nearly as friendly. They were nice, but just a bit more bro-ish and def. less talkative. They didn't do anything to put us at ease, a few times they abandoned lines without explanation (one time was for a slide having occurred in the gully we were about to ski, the other for a downed log), and the one time they had a little bicker back-and-forth def. heightened our asspucker.

I will say that I, personally, enjoyed the steeper, more challenging terrain on Sunday--and there was one other guy (a Dad from Seattle) who did as well, but the two of us also spent a lot of the day worrying about my wife and the other 8 people in our cat, all of whom were def. at the edge of their ability for the ENTIRE day.

Perhaps ideally, the perfect day would have been a blend of the two. Maybe 3-4 enjoyable bowl runs followed by 4-5 asspucker runs and then 2-3 enjoyable aspen glade runs. However, we spent a lot of time debating whether the difference between the two days was a result of the guides or rather a result of the weather/snow conditions. If it is the latter, than that would explain a lot. If it was the former, than probably more on the operation to get that sorted out.

Overall, it was an awesome experience and I am glad we checked it off the bucketlist as part of my 40th birthday, but I think I will be sated for at least a couple years before I feel the need to do it again. I'll try to post some photos below.
 
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