Skeena Cat Skiing & KitsumKalum – Where to go in search of snow in Northern BC
Based close to New Hazelton in the snow belt of Northern BC Skeena Cat Skiing is a wonderfully laid back cat skiing operation combining Northern hospitality with world class pow.
Now in its seventh year, Skeena Cat is quarterbacked by the mother son team of Lynn Schwartz and Jevon Zyp. Jevon already had a ton of experience working in cat ops being one of the original hands involved in Chatter Creek Catskiing – now one of the Canadian Rockies’ premier catski operators while Lynn had lots of experience running base camp for cat operations
Note the tenure sits on the Eastern Edge of the Coastal Mountains where the storms hit the drier interior. 45min from Smithers, 1:20 from Terrace.
When conditions in the South Coast of British Columbia become variable (ie warmer and moister), the colder drier Northern part of the province is a good option for your pow fix. We escaped the warming trend of Whistler to tour for a couple of days in Terrace and take advantage of the Snow Cat access of Skeena Cat Skiing. We joined a group of Spaniards for their first time in Canada! Also in the group were Bill and Kristy from Vernon who are long time powder skiing veterans..
It’s quicker to go door-to-door from Vancouver to this operation than to get to the Monashee cat ops. Prices here are more reasonable and snow is of tremendous quality but no-one seems to have heard of the place. This is part of both the good and bad of a location in North Central BC I suppose; a boon for guests who will find uncrowded pow. Choose your package from 1 to 5 days staying in their valley Suskwa lodge or the Backcountry Base Camp and skip the drive each day to the slopes.
Logan was our driver at Skeena Cat Skiing
The snow donkey!
Jevon works hard to put the cat roads in and maintain them.
Lots of options in this tenure
Kristy getting some pow as we watch
Christian, one of the Spaniards wanting more
Most of the runs ended in the trees to complete 500m shots.
Luis Miguel also not disappointed with the pow potential
POWco getting some!
Head back up to take advantage of the blue skies for another alpine run
Jevon points to more goods across the valley
Then sails it and nails it!
Luis Miguel taking a break from the Eagle vs Shimano debate to focus on the POW
Christian would like to go deeper, but is ok with the conditions!
Paco going deep!
Ok, Karla the snowboarder shows us how its done!
The group seems to be having a good time!
Oh, we have to go up AGAIN!
Thanks Jevon for showing us a great day in your backyard!
The group – Lee Lau, Kristy Charlton, Bill Charlton, Karla Charlton, Jevon Zyp, Carlos Merten, Luis Miguel de Dios, Miguel Blanch, ChristianWeigand, Paco Perez, Sharon Bader
Our tracks from our trip in 2014 showing the tenure
Cozy Suskwa Lodge is a pretty nice place to hang out after banging out powder laps. It’s a gorgeous building with 5 double occupany bedrooms all with ensuites. A large living room and guest area adjoins a kitchen downstairs.
The lodge itself is at low elevations so guests are driven to the area where the cats are parked approx 40km away (about a 45 minutes drive). Some guests want the option to be closer to the goods so that is where the yurts at the Backcountry Base Camp would be a worthwhile option.
Chillin after a day of skiin’
To be fed so well
Appies, dessert, breakfast
And to sleep in your own room in a comfy bed with your own bathroom at Suskwa Lodge if you don’t opt for the Backcountry Base Camp experience.
If you’re looking to ski pow, be pampered, have massive terrain choices and see and hear literally nobody else but your group you might want to consider Skeena Cat Skiing!
North of Terrace is KitsumKalum Provincial Park around which and north of which many touring opportunities abound. We chose a classic Northern BC peak that’s skied only when conditions are stable due to the binary outcome nature of its massive terrain. When you drive along Kalum Lake Road north of Terrace you will cross countless E-W ridgelines on both sides of the highway. There is more unskied terrain in the KitsumKalum – Kalum Lake drainage then there skiers or sledders.
The destination for Tyler and I was 1.5 hours door-to-door from Terrace. Let’s call it OP; if you need better directions or some more information again consult the friendly folks over at the Backtalk group and see if you can tag onto a group..
The stats for the day were; total distance covered was 17km and 2240m of vert. From a time perspective, we left Ty’s place in Terrace at 7am. Even after 15 mins to get gas and breakfast we were at parking at OP at 8.30am from parking at 290m. We were back to parking at 4.20pm which was an acceptably convenient way to spend time in a day. Having said that we had insanely good snow conditions with cold clear temps and commensurate legitimate pow conditions from peak to (near valley) at about 360m with very little in the way of poor snow for the ski out.
Pictures tell the rest of the tale:
Brought the sled but didn’t need it so it ended up parked. View at Kalum Lake towards other insignificant peaks
Our goal – OP
Through the trees at about 800m
First view of the massive OP glacier. We’re at about 1000m
Breaking northern BC glacier pow track at about 1200m
Put in a track that hugged a moraine rib that ascended to about 1500m and then scribed the looker’s left side of the glacier with an ascending track so we would have a handrail for the ski down
Off the middle part of the OP Glacier and onto the flatter summit approach at about 1800m
Winds were howling from the SW but still cold and clear so we decided to press on to a col to get a view
View to OP proper. Would probably need some climbing gear for a summit attempt and we didn’t have that in the cards for today
Hunkering down on the col at about 2145m
Time to book out of here Ty. Winds were still howling but snow quality still acceptable for needs even on the wind-exposed upper glacier
Glacier skipping. We look like ants. We felt like ants
To say that the middle glacier was incredible snow quality is an understatement. We took a path right next to the massive bergschrunds and crevasses close to our ascending track where we had already probed for snow depth and bridging coverage.
We howled like joy
Ripped a 1000m vert on the middle glacier howling with pure unbridled joy in perfect pow.
Traversing under Pillowpalooza towards the exit waterfall
Snow depth in the exit waterfall was remarkable – probing up to 5m + in spots with massive coverage and good powder almost the entire way dropping pillow after pillow
Pow spray at 400m