Canada: British Columbia
With 15,000 acres including many alpine bowls Backcountry Snowcats only 1 hour north of Whistler at Hurley’s pass offer the ultimate powder skiing experience.
Our team members include
Reg & Kathy Milne, The Snowcats Founders.
Reg and Kathy Milne have lived in the mountains all their lives and love sharing this magical winter playground with people from around the world.
Chris Atkinson – Head Guide
Chris is the consummate ski professional. An Internationally Certified Mountain Guide (ACMG/IFMGA), Chris has been ski-guiding for twenty years. His experiences are broad and diverse from Backcountry Snowcats near home (Squamish, BC) to Heliskiing in Canada and New Zealand, from Ski-touring in the Alps, to filming in Norway and ski-mountaineering in South America, Asia and Alaska.
Over the years Chris has guided at many great ski locations in British Columbia and knows where and when to find the best snow. (He's smart like fox!). Whatever level of skiing you're at Chris will maximize your time and guarantee you'll have an outstanding alpine experience.
Chris’s main ski passion is exploring new territory on long ski traverses. Hut to hut on the Haute Route in Europe, a long traverse in the deep powder of Western Canada or somewhere yet to be explored in Tibet, Chris is always planning some great new ski adventure.
Conny Amelunxen – Lead Guide
In 1996 Conny began his training with the CAA (Canadian Avalanche Association) and 1997 with the ACMG or Association of Canadian Mountain Guides certification program. He currently holds an Alpine Guide and Ski Guide Certificate, and is recognized internationally as an IFMGA/UIAGM Mountain Guide.
He guides and instructs on the rock and the mountains in the summer. In the winter he guides at Backcountry Snowcats and ice climbing trips as well as instructs avalanche courses, consults and manages avalanche control programs throughout the world. A certified Occupational First Aid Technician, Rescue Diver, Amelunxen also instructs Improvised High Angle Rescue and Orienteering.
Jay Reynolds - Operations Manager and Tail Guide
Jay, aka Jason Reynolds, is our regular tail guide and Operations Manager who has been with Backcountry Snowcats since Day 1. Jay knows our terrain like the back of his hand and he is the best guy to ask if you are looking for the deepest and most adventurous lines.
Jay is currently working on an ACMG certificate and CAA level 2.
An ex-ski racer, when Jay isn't working with us he's shredding Whistler's lift-accessed lines, snowmobiling, or just causing a ruckus and having a good time. Jay, his wife Meg and little guy Rhys live in Squamish.
Andrew Walsh – Cat Driver
Andrew is a long-time Whistler local—of 30+ years—and has an extensive list of backcountry experience as a Whistler pro patroller, groomer, avid mountain biker and snowmobiler.
He brings to the team a great humor and a big passion for the backcountry.
Do you have any useful tips to make our day of catskiing go off without a hitch?
To get the most out of your day there are a few things you can do to make it even more fun.
- A good hot wax job the day before makes skiing and riding in powder so much better. You don't get as tired when your skis or board aren't sticky.
- Stretching before you go and when you come home will make your body happy. You'll also ride better.
- We have bottles of water in the cat so you can drink whenever you feel the urge, or bring your own Camelbak. Dehydration takes away your energy.
- Dress for the weather, like you would for a regular day at a ski resort. We ski runs in the high alpine and tree runs in the sub alpine. Layering is always the best way. One of the great things about catskiing compared to heliskiing is you can leave your pack in the snowcat. Having the correct clothes will help you have a great day.
- Bring an extra sweater/goggles/gloves if you feel like it. It's better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
- Snack throughout the day. We have healthy hearty sandwiches on board as well as baked snacks for you to nibble on. Keeping your energy up with great food is a big part of staying warm and having energy to ski and ride our great snow.
- Bring a camera. You'll want to get pictures of your tracks, your friends, the guides, mountains, everything. You can pass the camera off to someone else in the group to snap your photo.
- Bring a friend, so when you get home you have someone to relive the epic day with. Your friend can also back you up on your stories when no one believes much fun you had.
- Don't feel as if you have to rush or keep up with the group. Relaxing and enjoying the day is the key. The cat will be there to pick you up because it's your private cat. Slow the pace down, get some pictures, admire the view and make some great runs with your friends.
- The lead guide sets the line down the mountain to the pick up or meeting point. The second guide makes sure that everyone in the group knows what's going on, and points out the sweetest lines. This is really nice if you are learning to ride powder as they can give you tips that will make the learning curve that much quicker.
Where is Backcountry Snowcats Ltd. located?
We are located 1 hour north of Whistler, BC, above Pemberton in a remote property above the Hurley Pass. The Backcountry Snowcats Lodge is ideally located in the sub-alpine of our expansive tenure area, accessible only by snowmobile or snowcat in the winter months.
How do I get to the lodge from Pemberton?
Once the group has met at a coffee shop or hotel in Pemberton we travel as a group to the end of the Meadows Road where we transfer to snowmobiles for the rest of the journey. Getting to the Lodge is a definite perk of the overall experience.
I have never ridden a snowmobile before. What is it like?
Snowmobiles are simple to ride and quite comfortable. You will be taught how to ride in a safety briefing. To access the Lodge for catskiing you will be riding double and will have frequent stops to rest or switch up driving. It is approximately a 45 min ride covering 40 km. It is a scenic and exciting experience even in the dark.
What is the accommodation like?
The Hurley Mountain Lodge is a modular building designed to accommodate up to 14 guests and our staff. Amenities include double occupancy rooms, men's and women’s washrooms and showers, full kitchen, dining and lounge areas, and even an outdoor hot tub. The Hurley Mountain Lodge is a comfortable mountain retreat with skiing and riding as the main activity. Located in the Hope Creek Valley at the 5000 ft. (1430m) level at the base of our terrain. A 35-minute cat ride from the lodge takes you to the top of our terrain. Please read more about our lodge here or view our Photo Gallery for more information.
What kind of ski terrain will I ski?
Backcountry Snowcats Ltd. has a 15,000 acre tenure centered on the Hurley Pass. The summit of Grouty Ridge is 2340m with 5 alpine bowls running into some great sub-alpine tree runs. Depending on weather we will favour either trees or alpine areas. Watch for our new Interactive Maps area for more info, and let the daydreaming begin.
Do you have skis or boards for rent?
Powder skis and boards are available for rent in Pemberton. Please let us know in advance what you need and we can arrange it.
How good a skier do I need to be?
You should be a intermediate or better. The guide will choose the appropriate runs for the combined ability of the group. We always make sure everyone gets the type of runs they can handle.
Do we stop for lunch?
Lunch is available in the cat any time you are hungry. Most groups choose to eat lunch in the cat to maximize their ski day but a short break is possible if the group desires.
What is the temperature range on an average day?
Mornings are cool around -25 C (-13 F) and warming up to mid day temps around -12C (10 F). Dress in layers and bring a small pack with dry goggles and gloves which can be left in the cat during the ski day.
How much snow do you get?
Lots, and the good kind too. Our average alpine base is 2.5m+ (8+ft) with an approximate peak at 3.5m+(11.5ft) in March. Expect similar annual snowfall to the Whistler/Pemberton area but with drier snow to play with.
How much vertical per day?
It really depends on the group but the snowcat is ready to leave the Lodge each morning early and will be returning in the afternoon just before dark, so your day is as long as possible, with the average group getting 12,000 ft vertical or more on the longer late winter days.
Do you have beer or wine for sale?
No, guests are allowed to bring some, but we suggest moderation. No alcohol or drugs are permitted in the snowcat or on the slopes.
The safety of our guests and staff is the highest priority of Backcountry Snowcats Ltd (BSL).
Accomplishing the Safety of Our Guests
We monitor and record the weather and snow-pack throughout the season. Our guides make observations, then decisions, to minimize the risk to all. These decisions are made based on extensive training and experience, and are constantly checked and reassessed. Our lead guides are professional mountain guides and are members of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and have Level 2 Avalanche certification. Although their first priority is safety, they believe in deep powder and fun times too. Assisting our lead guides are the tail guides. All tail guides are trained in first aid and hold a minimum of Level 1 Avalanche certification through the Canadian Avalanche Centre. Most are professional ski patrollers, past and present, so it’s a given that they love the mountains and skiing. Tail guides working at BSL require a good sense of humour.
Continual Staff & Guest Training
Each staff member is trained in avalanche rescue and emergency procedures. Every season these procedures are practiced and reviewed so that all staff are familiar with their roles in the event of an emergency. You receive training as well! You will be instructed in transceiver use, basic avalanche rescue, safety procedures in snowcat and snowmobile operation, and general backcountry/lodge safety for in and around the Hurley Mountain Lodge. We attempt to entertain as we educate because learning is FUN.
Daily Guide Meetings
You may wonder where the staff disappear to each morning and evening...they’re NOT hiding! The fact is that, twice daily, a "guides’ meeting" is held in which all staff participate...very important, and certainly no secret. Based on our observations from the previous day and information from other operations in the area, a specific skiing/travel plan for the day is determined and discussed. All weather and avalanche information is recorded and shared with the Information Exchange System (INFOEX), run by the Canadian Avalanche Centre. This sharing of information between other commercial backcountry operators provides us with detailed information on weather, snow and avalanche conditions from many regions and helps us forecast conditions in our area. Backcountry Snowcats Ltd. is proud to be a member of good standing in Helicat Canada. This association has strict operational guidelines, and operations are reviewed regularly to ensure these standards are met.
Communications to the outside world are very important. BSL has radio, satellite phone, radio phone and satellite internet communications to the "outside resources" in case of an emergency. You can stay in touch with the outside world if you wish, or you can choose to truly escape in a backcountry experience. Our #1 mission is to provide a safe Backcountry Skiing experience. Although our staff strive to minimize the risks, it is impossible to completely eliminate all risk. Guests must read and properly complete a waiver of liability prior to the start of your adventure. This is a very important legal document that requires you to assume responsibility, in writing, for risks associated with the backcountry activities we provide.
Great weather, great skiing and great company. Thanks for the amazing trip.
~ from Boyd M - Whistler BC
Honored to be part of a 16 year dream come true!!
~ from Tomas A. - Sweden
What an awesome lodge and ski experience
You are off and running, congratulations… What an awesome lodge and ski experience, looking forward to many more adventures in the future. All the best.
~ from Eric S. - Pemberton BC
Tons of lines, pillow and drops. This place is the best! The terrain is sick, tons of lines, pillow, drops, every thing to have fun in powder! The best guides and cat driver ever!
~ from Roberta
The terrain is endless and sick. Wow! The terrain is endless and sick, the guides are easy and fun to work with. Tony is the best Cat ever, hands down! And to Reg, Thank you, the future is bright and with an awesome place like this it will be shinning. Hope we can come back soon.
~ from Shawn - Whistler BC
Jen, Bryce, Tony & Reg: Thank you so much for such an unreal experience. You all made this time memorable. Thanks for helping set up the QP & helping us scout out the super sick terrain… & coming to the rescue whenever we fell hard. I can’t wait to come visit again - Thank you.
~ from Helen S.
Thank you for the great time and tons of snow and having all us girls up here, we loved it, we’ll be back!
~ from Jib - Whistler BC
WOW… great snow, dead trees are the best in the west… Thanks for the good times.
~ from J Smith - Whistler, BC
Had to come up and see how the operation was going. Very comfortable accommodation, great location & terrain and perfect cold fluff made for a great time had by all. Thanks for the hospitality - hope to be back soon…
PS: “The Burn”- some of the best tree skiing ever!
~ from Glen K. - ACMG-S.G.
DEEP DEEP DEEP!!! Crazy terrain, wicked guides. DEEP!
~ from Rob S.
We’ve done many of the best heliskiing and catskiing outfits – This place Rocks - Best snow and best terrain we’ve seen and 15,000 ft vertical in one day! Great people & we’ll be back.
~ from Stephen A
Arrived from Smithers Friday at dinner, Great skiing and hospitality throughout the two days, Will certainly tell all my skiing friends of this hidden place.
~ from John M. - Smithers B.C.
Fabulous skiing amazing scenery and perfect hospitality, I’ll be back soon.
~ from Michael G, Vancouver B.C.
It's ridiculous. Reg and Kathy must have sold their souls because year after year (well, the last 3 years) I have experienced deep, deep powder; Consistently. Their location seems to be a magnet for the white stuff. We've had some blue-bird powder days, and some typical Coast Mountain storm weekends. The great thing is that regardless of the weather, you can ride. If it's stormy, you'll be riding some of the most amazing tree runs of your life, and if It's blue bird, you'll be riding feature rich High Alpine. If you're lucky, you'll get some full top to bottom runs that will push you to your limits, but also give you a sample of their awesome terrain in one, huge vertical run.
~ from Oliver Walker