It’s not every day one gets to see a fluffy kitty in ski goggles.
It’s even less likely, however, for someone to see a fluffy kitty in ski goggles wrapped around a human’s shoulders like a scarf skiing down a mountain in the Rockies.
Yet, for people who decided to hit the slopes at the Kimbeley Alpine Resort on Friday or Fernie Alpine Resort Monday, they may have seen just that.
That’s because Gary the Cat was in the East Kootenay with his human, James Eastham, while they toured different Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) hills for a social media campaign to kick off the snowy season.
The seven-year-old domestic longhair cat is a social media star. The Instagram account, greatgramsofgary, run by Eastham, has around 431,000 followers. He is a “professional cat” according to TikTok, the account description reads.
“It’s kind of amusing. Certainly lots of people seem to think it’s amusing, or fun to look at. We get all sorts of comments. Lots of people stop us and want a photo,” Eastham said.
Gary always had a yearning for the outdoors. Over the last couple of years, he’s gone on all kinds of walks, hikes, paddles, and now, ski outings.
After the first little ski with Gary and an Instagram post joking about cat skiing, Eastham thought “that would be the end of that.”
But it certainly was not the end of that. They started to get noticed.
Now, they are doing social media ambassadorship for RCR. Before coming to Fernie, they had visited the Kicking Horse Mountain Resort and Kimberley Alpine Resort.
“It was definitely unexpected. It’s not what I thought would ever happen when I started posting photos of my cat online. I didn’t think that I would be doing a week-long tour of ski resorts in B.C. for my cat.”
“Gary loves it. It’s all just another shoulder ride for him. He just sits and watches the world go by.”
The man and his cat got to meet FAR ski patroller and Canadian Avalanche Rescue Dog Association (CARDA) handler, Paul Vanderpyl and his dog, Drift.
The four did a run down Falling Star, Gary on Eastham’s shoulders, and Drift on Vanderpyl’s shoulders, according to FAR social media and content specialist Emma Polit.
Gary himself is not an avalanche rescuer, though Eastham has joked about him being an “honourary member” of the Canadian Avalanche Rescue Cat Association (CARCA).
Eastham said that if someone is trying to train their cat into more outdoor activities, he wouldn’t advocate starting with skiing.
“Don’t just throw fluffy in a backpack and hit the slopes.”
Cats can do a lot more than people give them credit, he said.
“You need a lot of patience… Cats will tell you how they’re feeling. It’s pretty clear. So just pay attention and make it a positive experience.”
Going up the hill, Gary sits in Eastham’s special pet backpack.
“Then when we ski, Gary rides on my shoulders. He kind of drapes himself around my neck like a scarf, and holds on. We cruise down the hill.”
They stick to “fairly easy” slopes and don’t go very fast. Gary doesn’t love it when it gets too windy, Eastham said.
“It’s just chill days on the hill with Gary.”
It was their first time in Fernie, Eastham said.
“We’re loving it… We’ve gotta come back. One day isn’t enough to explore the whole hill.”
“It’s been a blast so far.”