This is how a rocket launch must feel, I thought. My back pressed deep into the seat as our snowcat pitched further up the seemingly impossible climb, engine roaring as the tracks gnawed for purchase in the fresh snow. The large window in front of me, which only moments ago had framed a steep, narrow ridge, now only showed the blank, blue sky above. The cat strained and yawed back and forth on its precarious ascent, shaking bits of nervous laughter out of my companions in the cabin, until a final thunderous roar from the engine lurched the cat forward to rest level on the summit.
The rear door opened with a crisp click and I leapt out into the new snow below. Even more than the intrepid ascent, the serene view from the summit stole my breath. Snow-capped peaks stretched to the horizon, and I stood in awe overlooking the expansive Skeena Cat Skiing domain.
Based 750 miles from the U.S.-Canada border, Skeena is the northern-most cat skiing destination in British Columbia and, as one can image, is markedly remote. Traveling so far north into B.C.’s backcountry can seem daunting, but direct flights to Smithers International Airport and shuttle service from there to Skeena Cat Skiing’s staging lodge actually make the trip quite quick, and perpetual views of the mountains help pass the time. Yet the most beautiful part is the final leg of the journey—an hour-long snowcat ride from the staging lodge to the operation’s backcountry basecamp.
In welcome contrast to the typical Yellow Stone Club-inspired backcountry lodges flush with extravagant amenities and polished decor, the Skeena basecamp is a rugged and high alpine experience, emphasizing a communal atmosphere and skiing itself above all else. The camp is comprised of a bathhouse, multiple insulated and reinforced tents for sleeping, and one large insulated structure for shared dinners and hanging out with the crew while recounting the day’s deepest stashes. While you can’t escape the gentle thrum of the three-phase diesel generator or the fact you have to walk outside across a snowy expanse to pee, the camp is downright cozy and has a certain adventurous allure. The beds are comfortable, the fire place is almost constantly roaring, and the food from the camp kitchen is exceptional. Baked brie in the backcountry? Why yes, thank you.
In welcome contrast to the typical Yellow Stone Club-inspired backcountry lodges flush with extravagant amenities and polished decor, the Skeena basecamp is a rugged and high alpine experience, emphasizing a communal atmosphere and skiing itself above all else.
Each morning begins with the deep rumble of the snowcat firing up. This is the camp’s alarm clock, waking us to coffee, a mutli-course breakfast, and beacon check before we’re ushered into the awaiting cat. With 230 square miles of powder-filled bowls, spine lines, glades, and gullies up for grabs, there is little need to ski the same line twice during the trip. And with small group sizes—a maximum of 12 per snowcat—there are plenty of fresh tracks to go around.
Skeena’s tenure is perfectly positioned in the magical zone where the moisture-laden Pacific winds collide with the frigid air from the interior to deliver frequent dumps of light and airy snow, resulting in face shots and shit-eating grins galore. And this terrain still hasn’t been fully explored, with new aspects being scoped and first descents happening each season.
Beyond the ample snow and sheer beauty of the Skeena Cat Skiing domain lies an innate sense of adventure and a chance to explore something rugged and untamed. By virtue of being so remote, Skeena feels like a new frontier, and the intrepid guides who service the awe-inspiring tenure give you the confidence and knowledge to ski where few others have ventured.