I have skied with big Red Cats for the last 4 years. Going anywhere from 2-6 days at a time.I have not skied with any other cat or helicopter backcountry skiing operators.
After each year our group of skiers has looked at other cat ski operations in order to find something new and/or better, without success. Value is important to our group as cat skiing is an expensive holiday proposition. Taking into account that accommodation isn't included in Big Red Cats pricing, Its still a lot cheaper than the second cheapest operation.
Cheap however doesn't mean unsafe or second class. If there is one drawback to the operation compared to one where the accommodation is at the ski area. Is that there is a 20 minute ride via vans from Red Mountain to the ski area where the cats are parked. Then the cat ride is 15-20 minutes to the ski area. If you set that aside.
There is a huge amount of terrain available of what is mostly treed terrain and mixed treed-open terrain. There is probably 7-9 separate mountains available which allows the guides to select runs with the best conditions given past sun and temperature exposures. i.e find the best powder! You will see tracks from previous skiers but that's usually ones made a week or more prior to yours. Soft snow that is protected from sun and wind-temperature crusting is easy to find.
The guides are experienced and generally very good at getting the experience level of the skier(or snowboarder) to terrain difficulty matched. The experience level that can be accommodated is from intermediate up and the ages of skiers ranged from 12 to 70 years old. Equipment is well maintained, spare cats are available for emergencies. The mix of skiers to snowboarders is 70/30, transceivers are supplied , rental equipment available and lunch (inc.snacks, drinks) provided.
The Red shutter inn is basic with shared bathrooms, common T.V. -fireplace lounge. the decor is 1970's ski bum. Having said that, its clean, warm, quiet, has the use of a hot tub and is right at Red Mountain. Paula can make arrangements for any level of luxury accommodation you desire.
The advantage of cat skiing vrs helicopter is that there are no missed days due to overcast-non flying conditions. With a cat you go every day. Other guests who have skied with our group have pointed out that you will get more skiing(1-2 runs/day) with a helicopter operator. But those holidays are 3-5 times the price(per day) so not really comparable.
I'd summarize the reasons why our group keeps coming back as: Paula is fair in dealing with refunds for any missed days due to poor conditions or other unexpected contingencies. Value is superb. You can spend an entire month at a conventional lift-served resort to get 2-3 runs of deep powder. Especially so with the snow droughts of the last couple years in the west. Here 98% of every run is deep powder. If you haven't done this type of skiing before and love the "DEEP" . Go to Red mountain and try to get a standby seat for a couple days. It could be one of the smartest ski decisions that you've ever made.
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