THE CAT’S OUT OF THE BAG

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - TRAVEL -

While Red Moun­tain stacks up bet­ter than most when it comes to get­ting a pow­der-rid­ing fix, Big Red Cats of­fers an even bet­ter chance of great con­di­tions.

Once thought of as a poor man’s ver­sion of he­liski­ing, cat-ski­ing (or cat-board­ing) is very much a big-ticket snow ad­ven­ture in its own right th­ese days. In­stead of us­ing a he­li­copter, over­snow ve­hi­cles (the ‘cats’) are used to ac­cess vir­gin pow­der fields for about half the price of what it costs to cover sim­i­lar ter­rain with a chop­per. And Big Red Cats, lo­cated at the base of Red Moun­tain, does it bet­ter than most.

Thought to be the world’s largest cat-ski­ing and cat­board­ing oper­a­tion, the com­pany has ac­cess to more than 8000 hectares of ter­rain, with eight ve­hi­cles at its dis­posal. It means you gen­er­ally don’t have to worry about cross­ing other tracks, given there are more than 500 runs across eight moun­tains in their catch­ment area.

The fe­line fun sys­tem has even more ad­van­tages: it can op­er­ate re­gard­less of most weather con­di­tions, and you can catch your breath on the ride back up the hill be­fore en­joy­ing a spot of lunch and then do­ing it all again. (With Big Red, there’s the po­ten­tial for up­wards of 10 runs a day, at any­where from 500 to 1000 ver­ti­cal me­tres.)

The peren­nial ques­tion fac­ing any would-be cat-skier is: how good do I have to be to ride pow­der? With such a big oper­a­tion, the an­swer at Big Red is in­ter­me­di­ate and up­wards.

Else­where there’s plenty of un­du­lat­ing ter­rain for off-piste novices, while hus­band-and-wife own­ers Kieren and Paula Gaul run a large num­ber of trips cater­ing for those ad­vanced and ex­pert riders who like to go steep and deep.

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