We have several family groups, and groups consisting of 2 or 3 families, who return year after year. If you rent a whole cat, you will pay the lower of the full-cat rate, or the individual rates (with kids up to 19 only paying $199, it can be less than the full-cat rate). If you rent a full cat, you can bring children of any age, as long as they are capable of skiing deep snow in the backcountry, and you ski with them at all times. Children under 12 are discouraged unless you have your own private cat, for social reasons.
Yes. While we don't have a remote lodge, we do have a 6-bedroom "Big Red Lodge" if you have a group of 12, and most of the guests at the Red Shutter Inn and many at the Ram's Head Inn are catskiers, so there is plenty of opportunity to socialize. Dinners may also be catered in for your group by pre-arrangement, if you don't want to eat out at restaurants every night.
As we are resort-based, Big Red Cats is an ideal choice for those who would like to travel with their wife and/or family, but get in some powder skiing as well. Staying at the base of Red Mountain, you can have breakfast together, and they can do other activities while you are cat skiing for the day, before meeting up again for dinner and apres-ski time together. Lift passes at Red Mountain, the spa or shopping in Rossland (only 5 minutes away), nordic skiing at Black Jack (2 minute drive away) or hiking along the Centennial Trail are all popular things to do. Mobile massage therapists can also be arranged to come right to where you're staying - though this is best arranged in advance. There are several excellent restaurants at Red Mountain and in Rossland as well.
Some people are worried that they won't have the leg strength to cat ski 3 days in a row, but would still like the multi-day rate. To them, I say: YES! Because we offer day trips, and are resort-based, we are able to package a holiday which includes lodging for a week, for example, with lift passes at Red or Whitewater, or rest days for the spa, interspersed with your cat skiing days. This is often ideal for people whose fitness isn't what they'd like it to be, or for couples where one person wants non-stop powder skiing, but the other would prefer to do a day, and then spend the next day reading a book, relaxing in the hot tub, and getting a massage or spa treatment before tackling the next day in the backcountry.
Big Red Cats has very quick and easy access to its ski terrain, which makes a multi-day experience simple and painless, even while staying at the resort. It is about a 25-30 minute highway drive from our meeting point at Red Mountain Resort to our snowcat shed. Because the highway takes us all the way up to 1500m, it is a simple and quick process. You can take our shuttle bus, or there is parking for your own vehicle if you prefer. The daily avalanche training is performed there, and from the cat shed, it is only 40 minutes to the top of the first run.
Note: If you are a part of a multi-day full-cat group booking, you only need to do the safety briefing on the first day, and can arrange for the quick program on subsequent days. In that case, it is just a 12-15 minute drive to the close highway drop, and only 20 minutes in the snowcat before your first run - not significantly different than the first-run travel time if staying at a remote lodge! Only one of the 3 cats can do the quick drop, and the group heads out to the more remote terrain at Mt Mackie, Venus, and Claw - skiing on the way out and in on Mt Crowe and Neptune.
We provide transceivers (Mammut Pulse), and we prefer that all guests use the transceivers provided, so that the safety briefing is the same for all. It is highly unlikely that transceivers wouldn't "speak" to each other, but we still prefer to use all the same beacon, as we have checked and double-checked our transceivers and it minimizes risk. We have a guest pack available for every guest, with probes and shovels. If you prefer to bring your own pack with probe and shovel, you are quite welcome to as long as your equipment is high quality.
We have a few avalanche airbag packs for rent. You need to book these in advance. You are welcome to bring your own if you have them, but if you are flying make sure to arrange an air canister in advance, as you can't fly with compressed gas.
No, of course not! It is not permitted to drink alcohol or use any non-prescription drugs during your cat skiing day. It is permitted to bring a can (cans only please) of beer to enjoy after you have completed your final run of the day, and what you do in the evenings is your own business, but there can be no drinking during the day, as your inability to focus on instructions may impact the safety of yourself and others in the group. If you are found to be doing either of the above, you will be "benched" - told to sit in the snowcat for the rest of the day and discontinue skiing. If you request to be removed from the area, there is a $50 charge. If you must smoke cigarettes, please consider others and position yourself downwind, so that they can enjoy the fresh air in the great outdoors.
Lunch is provided and is eaten during ascents in the snowcat, which allows us more time for skiing each day. We focus on whole and organic foods as much as possible, with two sandwiches, two cookies, and an apple per person, as well as water. If you don't like ham sandwiches, please tell us in advance and we'll make you something else.
Big Red Cats is very close to Red Mountain BC which is in BC’s famous Powder Triangle. It snows and snows hard - sometimes it will snow for weeks without stopping. We receive about 40ft of it per year. In general, temperatures range between -1 and -10. However, prior to mid February we potentially can get brief periods of very cold arctic air with temperatures in the range of -20 to -30 Celsius. Please be prepared for all mountain weather conditions. We recommend that you bring a face mask or a snorkel for those days when the powder is so deep the every few turns you have a mouthful of snow.
If you are a strong intermediate skier or boarder, able to ski with confidence on blue (red in Europe) runs at ski resorts in varying snow conditions (not necessarily powder), you are then ready for snowcat skiing with us. You should have been skiing actively for several consecutive years. Backcountry snowcat skiing is not for beginner skiers. As a local rule of thumb, you should be able to ski Red's Paradise "Mini-Bowls" before signing up for an Intermediate tour, you should be comfortable in the "Powderfields" before signing up for an Advanced tour, and you should be able to ski the killing fields of Red's "Cambodia" before considering an Expert tour. If you aren't sure, it is better to underestimate your ability than to over-estimate.
Yes! Our private cat pricing is based on "12th seat free." 12 seats is considered a full cat. Some of our cabins have space for 13 or 14 if you need to squeeze another one in - 13th in the private cat is $299
Yes, we have a large fleet of skis, but it's best to book the skis when you book your trip, to request the style and size that you prefer. That way, if a shortage is foreseen, we can make arrangements to get more skis. Ski rental is $39 for a day, or $29/day if booking multiple days. Poles are $5/day Click for more info
The vertical depends on which group you're in. The runs are generally between 1200-1800 feet each, and average around 1400ft. (The top elevation is about 2200m, and the bottom is about 1650, but most runs are less than that).
An expert group typically gets 10-13 runs in (15,000ft or more) , an advanced group typically 7-11 (10,000 or more), and an intermediate group 6-9 (8000 or more). So that's a pretty large range.
If you don't get at least 6 runs in, we'll give a partial credit to return.
We have had an expert group get in over 30,000ft one day, but that's the record.
They just keep going all day, it isn't capped at any particular number of runs.
If it has been a long time since the last snowfall, we will have to travel further between runs to find fresh tracks, and you may get fewer runs in. If you come in March, the days are longer than in December, which will also affect the number of runs.
Each run is about 1200 feet,on average.
We take your safety, and ours, seriously, and our safety record speaks for itself. BRC has never had a fatality - while it would be hubris to assume that it is all due to skill, we try to reduce the risks as much as possible by having good procedures and a highly qualified team. That said, there is always risk in the back-country because we are dealing with a natural and uncontrolled environment. We think that the level of risk is similar to driving your car on a snow covered road for the day. Over a 40 year period of cat skiing in BC there have been 2 avalanche fatalities this is out of an estimated 1.2 million skier days. This graph below from the Utah avalanche centre provides some perspective. We think this is about right - that if you come cat skiing that it is about half the risk of going parachuting, and about half the risk of running a marathon.
In addition to the lead and tail guide, we believe that we are the only cat skiing operation of have a mobile safety team on the mountain almost every day. During our ski guide training course, we will often have a 3rd tail guide with the group.
Some of the many steps that we take to help manage this risk are:
- We use only qualifed guides:
Supervising Guides must be ACMG Ski Guides or Canada Ski Guide Level 3 qualified
Lead Guides must be Canada Ski Guide Level 2 qualified or ACMG assistant guides.
Tail Guides - must have at a minimum their CAA 1 and a 40 Hour wilderness first aid, but often have CSGA1 and additional avalanche and first aid qualifications.
- We have a safety and support team out on the mountains almost every day - they are mobile on snowmobiles, doing stability testing and providing rapid extra assistance if required.
- We use our own radio repeater - that gives us constant communications in the whole area. We also have a satellite phone, and cell phone coverage in half of the area.
- We do snow testing and take weather observations every day.
- We are part of Infoex for the CAA - this means that share information with about 100 other operations in Canada every day in relation to avalanche and weather observations
- We have rescue caches in the snowcats and at our base.
- We use what we think are the best transceivers - the Mammut "Pulse"
- Our terrain and cat roads allow us to get to the top of all the mountains that we ski - this is helpful as it means that we do not have large uncontrollable avalanche slopes hanging above us
You'll need to be at the BRC office at the base of Red Mountain ski resort at 0800. It is at 2-4430 Red Mountain Road, in the Red Robs condo building. If you are renting skis, you'll need to arrive ten to fifteen minutes earlier. Even if you have pre-arranged ski rental, you'll have to fill in and sign the ski rental form and waiver.
You'll sign your waivers and you can self-drive or we can take you by bus out to our snowcat staging area.
If you are traveling in from Nelson or points west for the day, you may arrange to meet us directly at the staging area. From the Nancy Greene Junction of highways 3 and 3B, travel 400m south on 3B towards Rossland. Then turn left (east) and go in about 500m to the parking area. If you want to meet here instead, it must be arranged in advance, and you must arrive by 0845.