Wild Horse Snowcat is based in the town of Ymir, off the road between Nelson and Salmo, with ski terrain south of Whitewater ski area. We heard they might have space, left a message the day before, but there is no cell reception skiing at Whitewater. So after skiing we drove down to Ymir, found the Palace Hotel where Wild Horse is based and signed up for the next day. We returned to the Palace at 7AM for their pancake breakfast.
The early start is due to Wild Horse’s unusual logistics. First we drive our own cars 4km to a trailhead. Then we get in plastic sleds which are towed by snowmobiles for another 14km.
All of this in reverse at the end of the day, of course.
We get to the snowcat at about 4,100 feet where we have the usual safety briefing and transceiver drill. Guide Simon also did a tree well demonstration.
Nearby Whitewater had 27 inches of snow during the past 5 days and there had been virtually no sun during that time, so as expected snow quality was very good. The terrain near the base of the cat is partially south facing and our first run was directly into a morning sun. The snow became a bit more dense but was still very consistent skiing. Later runs until the last were on mostly north and east exposures, so the snow was lighter. And to no surprise from my experience in this region, before too long it clouded over for the rest of the day.
Terrain is typical Kootenay spaced trees similar to Whitewater as guide Robby points out here.
There were some open spots like this.
Liz said this was the deepest powder of her experience and to no surprise skied more fluidly here than in the earlier tree runs. The 4th run was very open with outstanding snow but only 400 vertical. The next couple of runs were 1,000+ of mostly trees but some open spots.
A couple of runs ended in clear cuts.
Some of the tree skiing.
The last run back to get on the snowmobile tows was 1,800 vertical, light snow at the top, a bit heavier in the midsection. The lower part we got into a steep sided gully with tracked snow. This was the only part of the day where Liz struggled and got exhausted. But since it was the end of the day she didn’t care and overall was delighted with the experience.
We had an apres ski drink at the Ymir hotel bar, well worth a stop for its unusual décor.
We had 8 runs for a total of 7,900 vertical. Part of that is from a mixed ability group, but with the snowmobile logistics I would not expect much over 10,000 based upon the ~1,000 vertical runs we were skiing. But the bottom line is powder quality and we knew we were going to get that based upon the past week’s weather. The other nice bottom line is that the last minute standby rate we paid was only $275 vs. $420 advanced booked. So we both thought our day at Wild Horse was a great value.
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,318K in 2010-11
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12