Frequently Asked Questions
Lunch is included for you and we will accommodate all dietary needs/requests as long as it's noted on your waiver form.
It's usually a mix of wraps/sandwiches and home-baked goods. Water and tea are available, but we recommend bringing a personal water bottle. Coffee is not provided, so you may like to bring your own.
Yes! 12 is the minimum age, and minors aged 12-17 must ski with a parent. Parents of children aged 12-18 must cosign the liability waiver and accept responsibility.
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), then you are then ready for snowcat skiing with us in an Intermediate group. 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 enjoying to ski in the trees at Captain Jack's or Cambodia before considering an Expert tour. If you aren't sure, it is better to underestimate your ability than to overestimate.
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. Most of the guests at the Red Shutter Inn and many at the Ram's Head Inn are cat-skiers, so there are plenty of opportunities to socialize. If you don't want to eat out at restaurants every night, dinners can be pre-arranged and catered for your group. The Big Red Lodge books out months in advance, so if you have a large group it is worth securing your dates in April for the following season. Otherwise, there are other rental homes and condos available nearby.
As we are resort-based, Big Red Cats is an ideal choice for those who would like to travel with their partner and/or family, but get in some powder skiing as well. While staying at the base of RED Mountain, you can enjoy 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. Enjoy a day lift pass at RED Mountain, relax at the spa, or take a drive into Rossland (only 5 min. away) to browse the local shops. Nordic skiing at Black Jack (2 min. drive away), hiking to the cabins at Strawberry Pass, and walking the Centennial Trail are also popular things to do. Mobile massage therapists can also be arranged to come right to where you're staying, although this is best arranged in advance. There are several excellent restaurants at RED Mountain and in Rossland as well.
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.
Layers are best! In general, temperatures range between -1°C and -10°C. However, prior to mid-February, we may potentially receive brief periods of very cold arctic air with temperatures in the range of -20°C to -30°C. 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 that every few turns you have a mouthful of snow.
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 min. highway drive from our meeting point at the Big Red Cats office to our snowcat shed. Because the highway takes us all the way up to 1500 meters, 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 min. drive to the close highway drop, and only 20 min. 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 take your safety, and ours, seriously. BRC has never had a fatality but there is always the risk of injury and possible death in the backcountry because we are dealing with a natural and uncontrolled environment.
Over our 15-year history, there have been two avalanches involving a full avalanche burial, with one person sustaining long-term injury. Injuries, especially to knees, resulting from falls and impacts with trees and rocks, are more common.
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 out of an estimated 1.2 million ski 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 that has a mobile safety team on the mountain almost every day. During our ski guide training course, we will often have a third tail guide with the group.
Some of the many steps that we take to help manage this risk are:
- We use only qualified 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, which gives us constant communication 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.