Adventures on Cat-Accessed Terrain
Story and Photos by Amy Whitley
Photo at right: Cat Ski Mt. Bailey in Southern Oregon takes up to 12 skiers at a time on day excursions.
Resort in-boundary skiing kept my three boys happy enough…for a while. Now that two of my three sons are teens however, groomed runs just aren’t cutting it anymore.
I decided it was time to man up (or “mom up,” perhaps?) and tackle cat-accessed terrain. Kids keep you young, right?
Our first trip out-of-bounds, I focused too much worry toward my teens and not enough on myself. After making my first turn of my first run, I looked uphill to see how everyone else fared and fell flat on my face.
Several long, peaceful tracks later, I found my groove.
Pacific Northwest skiers don’t have to travel far to find excellent off-piste terrain, but before you head out to buy an avalanche transceiver and shovel, try one of the following controlled, guided backcountry cat-skiing offerings—you’ll learn the basics from Northwest skiing experts.
Cascade Powder Cats
Stevens Pass, Leavenworth, Washington
These guys are the real deal. Committed to leaving a light carbon footprint on the environment, Cascade Powder Cats takes limited runs on its own terrain in the Stevens Pass region.
Skiers can book a day excursion, take a backcountry ski course (recommended for anyone with teens aiming to explore backcountry as they get older) or even overnight in a backcountry yurt.
Cat Ski Mt. Bailey
Diamond Lake, Oregon
On Mt. Bailey, skiers skip resort amenities and go straight for the powder.Operating out of Diamond Lake Resort, Cat Ski Mt. Bailey takes up to 12 skiers and snowboarders at a time on day excursions on scenic Mt. Bailey in Southern Oregon.
Families can make a weekend out of it with a stay at the lake resort or daytrip to Crater Lake National Park.
Brundage Mountain, 100 miles north of Boise, gives families the best of both worlds: in-bounds expert terrain that challenges, paired with resort-operated cat ski tours departing into the Payette National Forest with licensed guides.
Backcountry skiers in the U.S. use the more trendy European term, off-piste, to describe their out of area skiing. Whatever the name you impart to skiing on unmarked or unpatrolled areas, either inside or outside of a snow resort’s boundaries, families with teens need to consider the following—whether they’re with a cat-skiing operation or via hike or gate-accessed routes:
• Always observe local ski-resort boundary regulations. If skiing out-of-bounds, register at a backcountry office or let someone know your location.
• Never ski off-piste solo, and never allow kids to do so.
• Learn how to use the backcountry equipment you carry, such as avalanche kits or beacons. Take a course at your local outdoors store or ski shop.
• Know your ski level and your teens’ level and ability. Skiers or riders booking cat-ski adventures should parallel ski (in-line) and be able to ski all, or almost all, in-bounds runs through the Black Diamond level.
• Remember to hydrate while skiing backcountry, and bring extra dry clothing. A good ski pack is a must.
Amy Whitley of Medford, Ore., writes about her family adventures in NW Kids every edition in OutdoorsNW.
Miss a column? Log onto www.OutdoorsNW.com and search NW Kids. You can follow more of Amy’s adventures at www.PitStopsforKids.com