Monday, 5 March 2018

A day with Valhalla Powder Cats reminded us what powder skiing is all about

by Keith and Heather Nicol
Michael (left) and Keith in front of the cat
     On February 25, 2018 son Michael and I had booked a day with Valhalla Powdercats located at South Slocan near Castlegar in B.C.’s  West Kootenays.  We arrived at 7:30 am at their base station where we picked up our avi gear, signed waivers and met our guides for the day. By 8:00 am 24 skiers plus guides were heading out in the Valhalla “Superbus” for the 45 minute drive to the staging area where we boarded 2 snowcats for our day in the rugged Selkirk Mountains.  Thirty minutes later we were outside doing avalanche drills so that we could do a self rescue if necessary. Our head guide for the day was Josh Slootweg who did a fine job of telling what to do at the top of each run and mentioned that any us that wanted a “sportier line” could veer left or right of his tracks to get some air or drop down a steeper slope . Since most of our group were dentists from Bellingham, Washington in their 60’s those “sportier lines” remanded intact!  Our tail guide was Keegan Murphy and he stayed back to help anyone who had lost a ski or accidently made it in to a tree well. “Tree wells are places to avoid and rarely a day goes by that we don’t get someone out so stay with your buddy and don’t lose sight of them when we ski the trees”.  Good advice.
Michel sends up a cloud of powder
     Over all we did 9 runs with typical vertical drops of around 1000-1200 feet. Most of our runs were on north facing runs where the snow was amazingly deep and the terrain steep. This combination meant that we often had to pull to one side to let the loose snow avalanches carry on past us.  The snow on these north slopes was typically knee to waist deep which keep our speed down on the steep slopes. Both Michael and I couldn’t remember when we last skied snow this light and deep. Amazing! 
Da Bench gave us the longest run of the day
 At one point we ventured on to a south facing slope and were immediately into a just buried sun crust which challenged our skiing. “Stick to the trees” Josh told us “although the open slopes are inviting they tend to have the worst crust”. More good advice!  Our longest run of the day was while we had lunch in the cat and it proved to be a real winner in terms of snow. Da Bench offered up 2600 feet of vertical and a great variety of terrain.  One of our favourite runs was Rapture to Barracuda slide path where we had close to 1800 feet of great snow.  Here is a video of some our day-   Thanks to Josh and Keegan for a great day and for more information check out:   
Keith enjoying the deepest snow he has skied in years.


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