Photos courtesy of Freeride Media
When asked along on a cat skiing trip in British Columbia, it’s tough to say no. A chance to travel along the Powder Highway should never be turned down, if at all possible. To sweeten the pot, it was with a group of old friends, and a media production company called Freeride Media, owned by one of those friends.
The drive over the border from Sandpoint, ID into the interior of BC was the perfect prelude to three amazing days of powder skiing at Monashee Powder Snowcats; it even snowed the whole way. By the time we got to Cherryville, BC it was dark, and it was still snowing. We met our snowcat driver/owner Tom Morgan and had another hour of travel in the snowcats to the lodge which sits at 5300 feet. That’s the beauty of cat skiing-you stay in the terrain where you ski, pure wilderness.
Nestled in the Monashee Mountains of British Columbia, MPS has over 4800 vertical feet and 17,000 acres of beautiful terrain and this was to be our playground for the next three days. Something called the “Monashee Effect” is well known in this area, and is what produces the monstrous annual snowfall-averaging 60 feet. Known for the quality and quantity of snow that falls, you are guaranteed fresh tracks every run with the ability to ski 15-18,000 vertical each day. With five alpine ridges to choose from, you are guaranteed to get the goods.
Every morning begins with hot coffee and a hearty breakfast. Our guides are up early each day checking snowfall totals, snow stability, weather, safety in the backcountry, and the best places for the 24 guests to go skiing. Yes, you read that right. 24 guests. This guarantees a personalized visit every time. Only 24 people and 17,000 acres of skiable terrain, there was no doubt in my mind that this was going to be epic.
The first day of any trip like this will start with safety clinics, which includes everyone getting outfitted with transceivers and learning how to use them, safety backpacks, protocol in regards to the cat and overall expectations while skiing in the backcountry. The storm cycle dropped over three feet of new snow for us, and the guides want everyone to be safe.
Yes, three feet. We loaded up into our cat and away we went. The snow was still falling, so we headed into the trees for some low angle terrain and the hopes for visibility. No disappointment at all. The snow was deep, the gladed skiing was perfectly spaced, and our tidy crew got down to business. We were there to film and it was go time. Open lines through the trees, pillows, cliffs and some remarkable terrain, whatever we found was perfect. Pairing up in two’s, three’s, groups, as well as solo shots- we got it all. Our cinematographer couldn’t believe we had so much beautiful terrain all to ourselves. This is what it is all about. I remember standing at the top, waiting for the go ahead on the radio, looking at my old friends and thinking “it just doesn’t get any better”, with a click of my poles away I went, floating, dreaming, in my happy place where nothing else matters. Freedom.
After the kind of day that skiers dream about, it was back to the lodge for a soak in one of two “highest elevation” hot tubs with an amazing view, a crackling fire, appetizers, drinks and sharing the adventures of the day. What adventures we had, and the best part? We had two more days of fun to look forward to.
Owners Tom and Carolyn Morgan put it like this, “We are located on the western edge of the Monashee Mountains, south of the Trans Canada Highway; we are located in what is probably the best snow belt of British Columbia.” He goes on to say that the snowfall is dependable, and this is why the guests come back year after year.
Tom explains that after the storm systems have crossed the coastal mountains, they continue over the interior plateau and then rise to clear the Monashee and the Purcell Mountains. It’s called the Monashee Effect. “We can usually wring more centimeters out of any given system than almost any operation around. We have more area than all ski areas in BC combined and only 24 guests at a time. Two cats carry 12 guests each, with a lead guide and two tail guides.” No wonder MPS has the reputation it has.
Our next two days brought us more snow, sunshine, blue skies and incredible skiing. The laughter, jokes and stories continued. I was skiing with World Cup Mogul skiers, World Cup Aerialists and inductees into the Ski Hall of Fame. I hit the jackpot. MPS does it right. The food is world class, the accommodations are perfect and the skiing speaks for itself. I thought it was like coming home for Thanksgiving. The staff is so friendly and welcoming, and it’s obvious how much Tom and Carolyn Morgan love what they do. Bring your best jokes for Tom, and you’ll probably come away with some new material, I can’t wait to go back. This would be my number one choice for a Cat Skiing Adventure. Ski ya later!