Shoulder Check: Booking Outside of Primetime to Save Money Without Sacrificing Where it Counts

When it comes to booking a cat or heli trip, one of the most popular questions an operator gets is, “When’s the best week to visit?” While the answer may seem scripted and cliché (“The best time to be here is when you are here.”), it’s an idea that often rings true.

 

 

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A common misconception is that February, being mid-season and most expensive, offers the best conditions (It’s more expensive, how could it not be better?), but according to Megan Osak of Selkirk Snowcat Skiing, this isn’t necessarily the case.

“We’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s not more expensive because of the conditions. It’s simply supply and demand,” she says. “Some of the very best skiing happens in December,” she continues. “We’ve got low angle sun, the air is consistently cold, and you don’t get the temperature fluctuations you can get in late January and February, that thaw-freeze cycle. And the storms—those December storms.”

Considering the bookend months can save would-be customers money (often nearly half the price of a primetime booking), there are also other benefits, according to Osak.

“The end of season is just as great. We get fantastic storms in March. It is a little warmer, but at 8,500 feet, it’s still cold,” she says. “Plus you get those longer days, so you can ski until almost 5 o’clock, and the snowpack has settled, which opens up a lot of terrain.”

“The end of season is just as great. We get fantastic storms in March. It is a little warmer, but at 8,500 feet, it’s still cold,” she says. “Plus you get those longer days, so you can ski until almost 5 o’clock, and the snowpack has settled, which opens up a lot of terrain.”

So why is February still far-and-away the most popular month for cat and heli bookings? Sure, it’s often the only option for timing a winter vacation, but Osak also feels it has to do with many people’s “resort mentality.”

“People fall into a pattern,” she says, referring to the spring season. “When you’re at a resort, and things are getting crusty in the spring, people tend to think it’s like that everywhere. Or they’re starting to think of summer activities.

“Cat skiing is usually at higher altitude than a resort, and we’re not constrained geographically,” she explains. “Resorts usually don’t have multiple aspects and multiple runs within those aspects. With a cat or heli program, if it’s getting a bit warmer, we shift and only ski the aspects where the snow is good. We are constantly shifting to find the best conditions.”

For most, booking a cat or heli trip can be a substantial financial commitment. Being flexible on timing can not only save a lot of money, but also deliver where it counts—the skiing.

 

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