Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Perfect Season to Start a Snowcat Operation

As I sit here in my home office watching my neighbour dig a ramp up the snow cliff we call our snowbank and highmark his snowmobile to get it back into his yard, I realize how lucky we were to start our catskiing business this year of all years. (My neighbour flew high into the air, and lawn-darted into the middle of the yard... they have the shovels out again).
We have so much snow (245cm base today at the study plot, but some spots are deeper), the foot penetration is 75cm today, and the base is solid and relatively safe. We've had an average of about 10cm most days, and very few days without any at all. A bit of a crust on Christmas and on Bobby Burns Day, but mostly just good deep snow. Had we started last year, it could have been a disaster, with the 6-week drought we had last season... but we didn't, we started this year, and it's going really well.
Starting on 27 December, we ran one cat most days, and Richard's been keeping the cats purring along exceptionally well. With the luxury of the second cat to cannibalize from time to time, we managed to get every customer who booked out for their ski day (except for Christmas and Boxing Day, which we refunded due to a dangerous rain crust). During that process, we've learned, for example to always have a selection of extra hydraulic hoses and fluid on hand. Now that we're running two cats for most of February, being prepared for the inevitable hose ruptures is paramount. The big 2-cat mechanic shed is coming in really handy, I can't imagine going without, or without Richard, who is a miracle worker with those machines.
We've also been lucky to start this season, as we've been a marketing partner with Red Resort, and they're on a huge marketing push at the moment. With journalists from Powder, Ski Canada, Skiing, Ski Press, and SKI Germany coming through, as long as we are running a good operation, it has to be helpful. Feedback so far is that it is a good operation. From Red it's easy to get to, inexpensive for day trips, organized, lots of runs, and great snow and nice gladed skiing. No glaciers or super-steep open chutes, but a well-run and fun day, and people say they'll be back. So far we've sold about 950 seats for the season, which is far more than we'd expected, and the best thing is that most of those people seem to be having a great time.
The photo above was taken by Zargon Studios on 17 January, for more photos check out the gallery at