I am a tail guide and photographer for a cat skiing operations during the winter months. Guests come from around the world to the interior of British Columbia to ski big mountains with more than average snowfall. The Selkirk and Monashee mountains surrounding Revelstoke are home to one of the two inland temperate rainforests in the world, making it a world class ski destination.
For those unfamiliar to cat skiing, the activity consists of crawling up a mountain in a slow-moving, tank-like vehicle that can travel on snow called a snowcats. The ski group is composed of a lead guide, tail guide, cat driver and up to 12 ski guests. A typical run is 700 vertical meters and takes about 20 minutes to ascend in the snowcat and a similar amount of time to descend on skis.
Part of my work is physically demanding, most of my work is providing emotional support and taking care of the guests, making sure they stay safe and enjoy themselves. Guests come from around the world come with one common purpose; to experience deep powder amongst the huge trees of the inland rainforest. They range from ski bums to corporate directors, doctors, oil and gas workers, and everyone in between.
The visitors experience ecstasy and joy after carving deep powdery turns around old growth cedars. They jump back in the cat energized and in awe of the experience they just lived.
I love my work, mostly because of the conversation that takes place in between the skiing. Over the years, the depth of conversation has never ceases to impress me just like the depth of the snow never ceases to impress the guests. Every day while traveling up the snowy cat roads, we encounter cut blocks. The transition between the tall cedars to cut stumps is often shocking for guests.
“Why are there so many cut blocks?” At this point in the conversation inevitably shifts as the try to make sense of it. I try to be delicate in those discussions, giving a neutral explanation without forcing any preconceived idea, remembering that my guests are often CEOs of resource extraction companies.
I am always amazed to see how people are engaged and passionate about environmental topics such as logging. After providing guests with a deep experience of place and a sense of small community, people start opening up. Company directors along with mayors, media outlets and ski bums start brainstorming about solutions to reduce environmental impact, rethink systems and economics that affect our landscapes. It is fascinating to see how sharing passion for a sport like backcountry skiing, people are able to broaden their perspective and step out of their typical roles to meet on the same level. It is a testament to the importance of diverse collaboration and getting people into the environments the love to find global solutions around how best to live within our means. I call this making peace in the world, one cat at the time.
At the end of the day, the physical exhaustion catches up with me. I go to bed early feeling gratitude for being able to facilitate important discussions. It is only 12 guests but I firmly believe these people go home and become the seeds of change.