Powderhounds' Review

Powderhounds' Review

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The Powderhounds got their grizzly fur on to check out White Grizzly Adventures. There was absolutely nothing to grizzle about - this is one very slick cat skiing operation! It’s very easy to see why many folks rave about White Grizzly.

White Grizzly is an outstanding outfit, yet no cat skiing company is ideal for everyone. Our review covers different features of the operation so that you can establish if White Grizzly is the right cat skiing for you. As a guide to the ratings below, a 5/5 equates to truly phenomenal, 4/5 is excellent, and 3/5 is very good. You can check out our cat ski ratings to see how White Grizzly Adventures fares against other cat skiing operations.

White Grizzly has some similarities to Retallack cat skiing with regards to the terrain and the strength of rider that it attracts, but that’s about where the resemblence ends.

  • White Grizzly has great steep tree skiing.
  • White Grizzly has established a very strong niche in the cat skiing market for expert skiers and snowboarders. You don’t have to be an extreme skier as generally there aren’t mandatory cliff drops, but you definitely want to be an expert and be very adept at skiing in amongst steep tight trees. The required ability level is clearly communicated to all prospective guests so there are only good riders. You’re highly unlikely to get stuck with inexperienced riders who may hold you up, and you won’t get relegated to easy slopes.
  • This is an incredibly polished operation. Carole and Brad have done a lot of research to deterine what works best, and they’ve had 15 years to refine the operation to ensure it aligns with their strong vision.
  • The powder at White Grizzly is very tasty (as is the food)!
  • Many guests really appreciate the boutique nature of the operation (maximum 12 guests) and the personalised, intimate experience. Brad and Carole are phenomenal hosts and provide the perfect balance between professionlism and encouraging tom-foolery! Along with their staff, they are very passionate and go out of their way to make sure each guest is having a great time.
  • Safety is paramount and their number one priority, not just avalanche safety but management of all backcountry hazards.
  • White Grizzly offers great value for money cat skiing. 
  • White Grizzly is in a remote location, which is a really a pro and con. It’s great to get away from civilization, but it takes a while to drive there and guests will need to have a 4WD vehicle.
  • You can’t ski to and from the lodge. Guests have to drive to the snowcat staging area each day, which is about 25 minutes from the lodge.
Powder Snow
White Grizzly has a powder making machine, and it creates lots of featherlight powder. White Grizzly can’t guarantee chest deep powder or perfect snow quality, but the cards are certainly stacked in your favour! The area gets an average of 13 metres of snow. The temps are usually cold and the slopes are mostly north east facing, so the snow stays in great shape. Much of the terrain consists of reasonably dense trees, so the snow is well protected. Furthermore it’s a low wind environment so the likelihood of crusty snow is low and you won’t have to ski over tree bombs.
Overall Terrain
This is the perfect spot for expert riders who adore tree skiing and want to get a lot of skiing and boarding in each day. 

There was some variability in the terrain during each run, but there was often a sense of déjà vu between runs because we were stacking them up next to each other. The terrain is not huge (it’s about 2/3s of the average size of BC cat skiing operations) and the runs largely commence in a similar area, and they fan out so that they end up on different points on the cat track below. Most of the runs can be characterised with the following four vertical zones.
  1. The top 2/3s consists of steep woods. This part of the terrain is fabulously wicked. The trees are mostly tight, and sometimes they open up a little. The terrain is super steep for short pitches, and just plain steep the rest of the time. This area is scattered with interesting features such as big rocks, narrow cliffettes, and pillows. This zone is the piece de resistance of White Grizzly. 
  2. The next short zone has mellow, moderately spaced trees. 
  3. Next is a little low-angle meadow, parts of which have small to medium sized delights to launch off. 
  4. Finally, a mellow rabbit warren of very tight trees provides little choice except to stay in track. I can’t imagine snowboarders would enjoy the fossicking required here, but thankfully it’s only a very short pitch. 
There is some potential that guests at the rear will get less freshies compared with other cat ski operations (see below).
Alpine Terrain
White Grizzly has added little patches of alpine terrain to their repertoire. The shape of the terrain combined with very low appetite for risk, results in it only being skied when snowpack stability is high.

We devoured one steep gnarly run that had some little rocky cliff-like outcroppings – the result was a lot of high-fives! The only downside was that it required a very long egress that we nicknamed “quadzilla”. Another little alpine run was also super fun because it was littered with pillows as well as cushions (aka little pillows).
Tree Skiing
The tree skiing is what makes some powder hounds drool when they think about White Grizzly. As described above, the top part of the runs typically had steep tight-ish trees that were just an absolute joy to ski. Forgot those movies of athletes hucking off cliffs, these trees are really the true definition of “ski porn”! Thankfully the runs eventually peter out into relatively snooze-worthy mellow trees, because that much sustained excitement might just be orgasmic!

They would score full marks here if the terrain had a wider gamut of steep tree runs. Runs like “Eager Beaver” and a burn were somewhat open and added a little bit to the variety, but it would have been perfect with a few more of these sparsely vegetated zones where you could put ‘er into top gear!

Strong Intermediate Terrain

Whilst there are a few open mellow areas where you could learn to link powder turns, there is not one top-to-bottom run that a strong intermediate rider could cope with. This operation is for experienced grizzlies only.
Advanced Terrain
Along a similar vein, this cat skiing isn’t great for low-end advanced riders either. There are a few open areas where you can go for a fang, but many advanced riders would find the steep tree skiing excessively challenging and might struggle to keep up.

High-end advanced riders who have deep powder experience and boundless energy should enjoy the terrain.
Expert & Extreme Terrain
Expert terrain is unashamedly White Grizzly’s forte. The precipitous terrain in the trees is lots of fun and ideal. The terrain would be perfect if there was a little more variety such as alpine chutes.

Freeskiers and extreme pros will find plenty of exciting offerrings at White Grizzly. The terrain is chocked full of fun things to pop off, they come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and the guides are happy to point out the bigger jumps to those who are keen.
Impressively they have three guides: a lead guide, a tail guide, and the hollering Brad who hangs towards the back to help with route finding and to pick up the pieces after any yard sales.

The guides knew the terrain incredibly well, including the location of bear den vents (yikes, even though it’s not true that hibernation is for wimps, I wouldn’t want to fall down one of those holes)! The guiding was extraordinary and we felt completely confident with the guides’ proficiency.

It was incredibly clear that safety was the utmost priority. They did everything within their power to minimise the backcountry risks. Some folks with a little more appetite for risk may think that their guiding is a little too tight at the expense of being able to get freshies. A combination of terrain shape that doesn’t always have an obvious fall-line and a very strict policy on keeping things vertically tight, meant that guests couldn’t spread out horizontally. Those at the back sometimes struggled to get freshies, and negligible guide intervention into some powder pig behaviour probably didn’t help.

The two tail-gunners had sooooo much personality. They both sat in the rear of the snowcat and loved a chat. They revved everyone up and it was impossible not to have an awesome time!
In the words of Bob Legasa, “the snowcat is totally pimped out”! The set up of the cabin has been really well thought out (as with the rest of the operation). The cabin has two rows of front facing seats (so no one faces backwards with the associated discomfort of sliding off the seat), and it’s very a social layout. The whole front section has easily accessed stowage for the amazing food (more on that below!) and the selection of hot beverages.

I’m usually more of a fan of a cabin with rear steps rather than climbing in on the side tracks (because I’ve got short legs!), yet it was reasonably easy to get in and out, and it provided the advantage of having two doors for more rapid loading and unloading.

Other pros include a heater, a convertible roof for fine days, an abundance of great storage for guests’ paraphernalia, and the snowcat has plenty of get up and go. White Grizzly also has a backup snowcat.
Avalanche Mitigation Strategies
The avalanche mitigation strategies are very impressive. The risk reduction procedures utilised are somewhat uniform across many of the British Columbia mechanized backcountry skiing outfits. White Grizzly makes sure that avalanche safety aspects are very evident to guests, both on their website, during the safety briefing, and out in the field. They discuss the current conditions openly with guests, including the interpretation of the snow-pit evaluation, and slope selection.

White Grizzly provides a couple of guest backpacks that contain a shovel, probe, and radio, and all guests are provided with a whistle (for tree wells, not for bears!).
Safety Briefing
The guides provided a very comprehensive safety briefing that was faultless. It covered the general hazards of backcountry skiing, the snowcat, and even the potential for wildlife on the road out to the staging area. They also spent time talking about current conditions and risks, and many aspects were reinforced out in the field. The practical component of the briefing regarding avalanche beacon, probe and shovel use, was also very well done.
We were spoilt rotten with the frills that were provided! The range of unbelievably yummy food available during the day was impressive. There were lots of little snacks such as dried fruit, nuts, honey beef jerky, vegies, home made slices, and other treats, and more substantial items included gourmet sandwiches, wraps and croissants. The food was made with love, and each item came complete with a little rhyme to describe it. They also provided lots of hot drinks.

Powder skis are available to rent. They don’t have a professional photography service, but they don’t really need one because Brad takes a mean snap, and he often puts on a little slideshow at night time.
Brad and Carole sort of undersell the lodge and meals on purpose, because they want the main attraction to be the skiing and snowboarding. So we arrived with no to low expectations of the lodge, and left very impressed! This is not a luxurious fluffy lodge where you come to get pampered (although you can get a great massage!). It’s a gorgeous log house that is rustic and delightfully low key.

The lounge room has really comfortable couches, a lovely fireplace, and wilderness style décor, and it’s a great place to congregate. The hot tub is a highlight, but it pales into insignificance compared to the meals. Breakfast, apres appetizers, and dinner are fabulous!

The rooms are really nice. The only small downside is that there is no option for a single room and guests will need to double or triple share.
Value for Money
White Grizzly is the least expensive of the BC multi-day cat skiing operations that provide a backcountry style lodge experience. The need to rent a car adds to the cost, but overall the value for money is great: awesome snow; exhilarating tree skiing; and all that amazing food!

Powder ski rentals cost a little more and the only other optional extra is the massages, which are so economical that it seems criminal not to have one. The ability to fully BYO alcohol also significantly cuts down on costs.

Notes Regarding Review

The review is largely based on our experience, but also on discussions with staff, former guests, and information available on their website. Our review has some limitations as it’s not possible to ski every run and in all possible snow and weather conditions. Every guide is somewhat different and we acknowledge that everyone’s experience will be slightly different. The ratings are from our perspective only.

The photos were not taken using professional riders, but rather they aim to show an example of a real experience.