Looking for the equivalent of a casino buffet of fresh powder this winter? In the greater Nelson Kootenay Lake area three hours north of Spokane, cat skiing has become kind of a big deal. There are now five cat skiing operators working the region, which adds up to more cat-ski companies, terrain and snow than anywhere else in the world. Hence this wild corner of B.C. being crowned the “Cat Ski Capital of the World,” according to area tourism promoters who did their research.

Cat skiing is a powder addict’s dream. On a Kootenay cat skiing trip, you can ski run after run of untracked powder, often from December to April, enjoying each ride back to the top in the relative comfort of a snowcat. Pricing depends on the type of trip you’re looking for, ranging from lower budget group trips with other skiers and riders you might not know and DIY accommodations to private trips with prime lodging and dining options right there in the mountains at the operators’ private lodges.

Terrain also varies from open bowls to perfectly spaced trees, steep powdery chutes, pillow lines, uninterrupted fall lines and high peaks with glorious views. Most skiers log 12,000 to 20,000 vertical feet per day.

Accommodations are provided at four of the five (all but Valhalla Powder Cats), and in-town accommodations are available in Nelson, Ainsworth Hot Springs, Kaslo and Meadow Creek. Start planning your Kootenay cat skiing trip by researching these options:

Baldface Lodge

With over 32,000 acres of skiable terrain, open bowls, peaks, perfectly spaced trees and 500+ inches of snow only a 10 minute heli ride from Nelson, you never have to worry about competing for fresh tracks. Baldface.net.

Selkirk Wilderness Skiing

Over the past 39 years, Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, 1.5 hours north of Nelson in Meadow Creek, has developed a loyal following amongst deep powder skiers and snowboarders with its 30 square acres of terrain and runs with up to 4,000 feet of vertical. Selkirkwilderness.com.

White Grizzly Cat Skiing

White Grizzly’s focus is on steep terrain (11,000 skiable acres total). Think 3,200 foot runs of 40 degrees! With over 150 runs and 13 meters average annual snowfall, this cat skiing hideout in the Goat Range, 1.5 hours north of Nelson in Meadow Creek, won’t disappoint. Whitegrizzly.com.

Valhalla Powder Cats

Located deep in the heart of the legendary Valhalla Mountain range northwest of Nelson, expect a diverse and engaging mix of big mountain terrain covering a tenure that’s six times the size of Whistler and Blackcomb combined: high alpine bowls; steep, old-growth forests; and endless, untracked powder. Valhallapow.com.

Retallack

Overall the terrain at Retallack is steep with numerous features that are only suitable for advanced to expert skiers and riders. Retallack is particularly known for its consistent powder, steep tree skiing, which includes 800 year old cedars, and pillow lines (and of course mountain biking in the summer). Retallack.com.

When planning a trip, consider that each cat ski company has its own character and specialization. Do your research at www.nelsonkootenaylake.com/cat-ski-capital or by checking out the operators’ different web sites along with online trip reviews. //