Valhalla Powdercats, Feb. 27, 2017

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Valhalla Powdercats, Feb. 27, 2017

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Mar 04, 2017 1:25 am

Backing up my time at Castle Mt. by a day gave me an extra day early the next week. So after skiing Feb. 23 at Castle I browsed online and found to my surprise that Valhalla Snowcat had one opening for Feb. 27. I was able to sign up online, thus never had to talk in person to anyone in the office who might recall our dispute over a lost reservation in 2013. When I showed up early Monday morning I was dealing with guides and other support people, who were as most cat operations friendly and helpful. I would be surprised if my adversaries from 2013 realize I was there last week. At any rate I skied Valhalla 4 years to the day of the disputed reservation and at a discount price considering the $CDN is 78 cents US now vs. 98 cents in 2013. The 2017 price was $581CDN including taxes.

Clients are directed to meet at Valhalla’s South Slocan office at 7:30AM, which is about 15 minutes from Nelson or 45 minutes from Rossland where I was staying. After doing paperwork and checking out the guest packs with avy gear, the bus departs at 8AM. After an hour on the bus, you transfer to the snowcats at 2,900 feet and go up to 5,800 feet, where first day skiers get the avalanche briefing and do a transceiver drill. We were out skiing at about 10:30 while those who were skiing multiple days at Valhalla got one extra run while we were doing the avy training.

Our first run demonstrated that Valhalla is not your typical day skiing cat operation.
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Steep trees right off the bat that would not be out of place at Mustang or White Grizzly.

There were 5 snowboarders in our group, some of whom enjoyed these pillow drops near the end of our second run.
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There were 8 inches of new snow reported, and most of the skiing was soft and reflected that. However our third run faced south and had breakable crust. This was a surprise to me and I think to our guide Josh too as it was cloudy all day and even snowed a few flurries. Josh said the Sunday snowfall was convective and thus not uniform over Valhalla’s terrain. The top half of our 4th run was the highlight of the day, similar to Cloud 9 at Mustang.
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Trees below that:
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Working our way along we had another south facing area for the 6th run. Josh had been directed to dig a snow pit there, as the area threatens one of the cat roads if unstable. The view is very inviting.
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Josh traversed left towards the steepest wide open line, but radioed back that it was crusty and sent us right, which still had a sun crust from 2 days before but was more manageable being less steep.

The 7th run was farther right and hopefully bent just far enough out of direct south exposure to avoid the crust.
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This was true for the top half but I got going fast so when the crust returned halfway down I lost balance and buried a ski. I found it in about 5 minutes not far above me and made it to the pickup on time.

For the 8th run we were back in deep powder in the trees.
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Our final run had a steep chute entry like the “Roman” runs at Mustang. Josh inspecting:
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One of the snowboarders dropping in:
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Chute viewed from below:
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Near end of last run, about 3:45PM:
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Valhalla is in the eastern side of the Pacific time zone, so that 3:45 finish is about the same as Mustang’s Mountain time 4:45. But Mustang starts nearly 2 hours earlier in the morning, one of the inherent advantages of a remote lodge in the ski terrain vs. staging over an hour from an office location. The staging area is in the south end of the tenure, so a few south facing runs are inevitable in the logistics of getting around.

Valhalla definitely has fun and challenging terrain, as I had seen in other TR’s before my visit. Their tenure location west of Baldface’s should get ample snow of well over 400 inches too. But the total skiing was 9 runs and 10,000 vertical, which is typical of day operations. I asked Josh if Valhalla’s terrain overmatched first time cat skiers, and he said sometimes. One unlucky customer sat out all but the first run after developing a migraine headache, just unlucky and unrelated to the skiing. We had one 10 minute wait in the cat while the tail guide helped found a lost ski, but of course that could have been me on that 7th run. Overall it was a compatible group of skiers and boarders, not a particularly slow pace.

So in conclusion Valhalla lives up to its billing and is a top tier day option for cat skiing. But I have been spoiled by the remote lodge experience on most of my cat/heli trips in Canada since 1997.
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
 
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Location: Glendale, California

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