Chase tours are a great way to (ideally) be guided out into the field by an experienced chaser. The downside is you can expect to pay in the thousands for a week of chasing, but you'll get to sit back and relax and not worry about the tough decisions.
Here are some in no particular order:
* Cloud 9 Tours, run by Charles Edwards
* StormTours of Minnesota, guided by Twister Sisters Peggy Willenberg and Melanie Metz
* Silver Lining Tours run by David Gold and Roger Hill.
* Tempest Tours with Martin Lisius, Bill Reid, Brian Morganti, Dean Cosgrove, and Chuck Doswell
* Warren Faidley at $6500/wk may sting your wallet, but for some it may be better than a crowded van.
There are certainly others that I may have overlooked. There are also a few out there that are quite shady and I would NOT recommend.
Some things to look for: check the resumes of the tour operators. They should be open and honest about their background and experience. Their websites should be packed with solid information and not leave you scratching your head. Check around with other chasers to find out about the track records of tour operators. You can do that here on Stormtrack. Also look for others who have chased with the tour operators, and see if they have a reputation for being safe, helpful, and friendly even in the heat of a chase. A zeal for educating guests is a plus. Also you may want to feel around to see if you'd like a loud, lively tour or a mellow, reflective one -- different tour companies do have different personalities, and you don't want to be immersed in the wrong one!
Also be prepared for a lot of boredom sitting in the vehicle. Chase tours will not deliver action by the hour. It's not uncommon to drive all day for 500 miles under clear skies to get to the next day's target area. Also "down days" are common and can extend into weeks if a big ridge builds into the area. This can be a major disappointment. So plan for these down days. All tour companies maintain a plan for down days -- check around and see if they do things that you enjoy doing, or if they offer rest and relaxation if that's what you want.
If you don't have the dough, you can sometimes hook up with other chasers here as long as you split expenses. If you show a firm commitment, flexibility, and have educated yourself on the basics of chasing, you'll be a step ahead in finding a partner.
Besides the above at least one experienced chaser offers what amounts to a personal guide service where the client pays expenses and does the driving. IMHO this is a good way to get the expertise and experience of a tour without the regimentation. We did that last spring and will again next spring. It was a blast that my reluctant wife loved as well.
Another thing to look for when choosing a chase tour is if they have actual pictures and/or text accounts from previous years chases on their site. Be cautious though of companies that don't list exact dates or locations for their pictures. If the company is brand new or has no information on previous chases, do a Google search on any of the guide's names....include keywords such as "storm chasing", "storm chaser" or "meteorology" to narrow down your search. Even if they don't have a personal web site, their name should come up with at least a few hits if they have been seriously chasing in the Plains for more than a few years.
I also agree with David's comments about adding Cyclone Tours to the list.
I started chasing after a two week period with Cloud 9 Tours in 1997. I had a blast and it helped me learn how to chase. In addition to the comments above, please note that the expenses of a tour are cheaper than chasing alone. I did some calculations and I spend more on hotels,car rental, cell phone etc than I would on most tours. I chase alone or in a caraven. Sharing expenses would help but chasing is still expensive. I highly recommend tours for those getting started chasing or who want to experience storms without becoming a chaser. There are still times after driving for hundreds of miles, watching my increasing expenses and sometimes still missing the tornadoes that taking a tour would be a more relaxing and fun experience.
I thought I would add our little tour to the list. Eric Nguyen and I are offering private 15-day storm chasing tours this May and June. There will be only two guests for each tour. Please visit www.violentplains.com to learn more.
Do what i did a few years back. I am immersed in my documentary. I was unable to find anyone to help me So I came here and studied and elsewhere.. I bought me a damn map and Weather radio and went into the field and learned hard knocks. (now i got all the toys and know how to use them )
I have learned soo much. I now can consider myself beyond a novice as I am beginning to understand storm structure and forecasting methodology.
If you want a vacation and interested in storms a tour company might be your speed. But ... If you wanna be a chaser go into the field. Learn all you can as it is an ongoing process. Im sure 10 yrs from now I will still have alot to learn. However I have been quite succesful and am getting better every day I study and ever chase I go on.
I realize that everyone isnt that self sufficient but if you study and ask alot of questions and "Just do it" as Nike says then you will also start to see success. That sixth sense works too... hehehe
Fear is our enemy. Dont talk about it.. Be about it.. lol