Big White

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Snowboarder in Powder at Big White Ski & Snowboard Resort
Not just Big White in name but Big White when it comes to the slopes
  • mostly ski in/out accommodation.
  • Family friendly ski resort
  • Limited Apres ski it more families rather than party animals.
  • Best for Beginners & intermediates.
  • Good for chances of Powder.
  • Limited Advanced terrain.

The Mountain’s of Big White

Less than one hour from Kelowna, the nearest airport, is the purpose-built resort of Big White. Built in wood and stone, accommodation is mostly smart ski in/out condos spread out around a pedestrianized centre.  Apart from the mighty Whistler ski resort no other in Canada has as much accommodation for visitors as Big White. The resort is well known for its quality of snow with 7.5 metres falling annually.

Not just big with the white stuff but also big for families. Off the mountain, it offers plenty of programs and unique activities geared to families. Including services from collecting kids for ski or boarding lessons from their accommodation to kids actives conveniently timed in the evening when a parent is mostly like to have built up a thirst for a beer or 3.

With 72% of the trails either green or blue and uncrowded especially on weekdays, Big White is ideal for beginners and intermediates. Combine this with its record for good quality powder snow and it makes this an ideal resort for somebody to experience powder skiing or boarding for the first time. Throw in the pretty limited but slowly growing après ski scene and you can see why it’s so popular with families. But with Big White’s annual snowfall of 7.5 metres who needs a massive party scene.

Great variety of terrain, bowls, glades and long groomers

On the slopes, the resort’s slogan “It’s the snow” does not disappoint. Putting it simply if you want a ski resort with mostly easy terrain and great chances of powder, then Big White is for you. There is some changeling terrain to be found in the bowls near the mountain summit. But it’s limited making the resort most suited to beginners and intermediates .

Big White is the Third-largest resort in British Columbia, behind Whistler-Blackcomb and Sun Peaks

Recent extensions to Big White and a massive effort to improve the mountain’s terrain park means the resort is rapidly becoming more and more popular. Overall, Big White is pitching itself to be the next big thing and they’re going a good way about it.

The TELUS Terrain Park is world class. It boasts well-graded lines, so once you hit the first jump or rail you can keep going safely in the knowledge that you won’t be throwing yourself over anything above your standard. Also noteworthy is the Boarder/Skier-Cross course it’s very good and often hosts regional, national and World Cup events.

The lift system at Big White is good and getting better every year.

Transportation between Happy Valley and the mid-mountain village. The impressive Gem Lake Express gives fast access to a good amount of quality skiing and snowboarding terrain. Its downside is it has no protection from the wind. Another downside is that in order to reach the Gem Lake Express you need to ride the very slow Powder chairlift which seems to stop every few minutes hence causing queues to develop. It set to be replaced in the future.

Big White has 15 Lifts with capacity for 28,000 people per hour

  • 1 gondolas (Lara’s Gondola)
  • 5 Express Chairs (Snow Ghost, Bullet, Ridge Rocket, Gem & Black Forest)
  • 5 Chairlifts (Powder, Plaza, TELUS, Falcon, & The Cliff)
  • 1 T-bar (Alpine)
  • 3 Magic Carpets

Night Skiing is possible 3.30-8pm Tuesday to Saturday. With a vast amount of well light slopes open, not just the green trails but also some long blue runs.

Big White has 2,800 acres of ski-able terrain & 118 runs.

Below the mid-mountain village the area consists of green runs. To the east and above the village are blue and green trails, whilst tucked over the back is an alpine bowl with double black diamond runs. West of the village are lots of blue runs, with more blacks than blues as you move further north-west towards the Gem Lake chairlift.

Download large Big White Trail Map

Big White Trail Map
Download large Big White Trail Map

“It’s definitely the quality and amount of snow that keeps visitors coming back to Big White”

Beginners in Big White

For those absolute beginners, there’s a special learning area next to Happy Valley Lodge, complete with handle tow lift and magic carpet. Happy Valley’s only minor downside is that the area is not in the main village and a gondola ride is required to get down there.

Those more confident beginners, most of the other chairlifts have green runs so there is a lot of exploring to do. There are many options, you can take the Ridge Rocket chairlift and check out the super smooth summer groomed Highway 33 or the epic top to bottom Serwas run.

21 out of 118 runs are classed as Easy

18% Blues
  • 18% Beginner Runs, of a total of 105km (65 miles).
A feature of Big White's terrain is its "Snow Ghosts". Pine tree's baked in snow.
A feature of Big White’s terrain is its “Snow Ghosts”. Pine tree’s baked in snow.

Intermediate

Start your day with warm up runs on the Black Forest chairlift, the mellow runs and easily accessible glade skiing providing a great introduction to the tighter tree runs to come. In the afternoon, take the Bullet chairlift to explore some steeper and more challenging runs, scattered with natural hits and trees to push your skills as far as you wish. End the day with a session in the Telus snowpark.

Even tough runs are not supper wide those in search of making some big fast turns on piste will enjoy Big White. Take the  Bullet Express form the base which will give access to the long fast Cougar Alley. Want it longer, from the Bullet Express take Cliff Chair to the summit if you really want to feel your legs burn.

Longest Run: 7.2 km (4.5 miles) – Around the World Route – it runs from the top of the T-Bar to Bottom of Gem Lake

Also, the very nature of the rolling lower mountainside makes for some perfect blue runs which, taken at speed, offer up almost continuous rolling hit after hit. If rollers are your thing
check out Black Jack and Black magic. For some natural hits there are some small rock drops, kickers and banks to turn on under the Rocket Ridge Express.

64 of Big White’s 118 total runs are Intermediate.

54% Reds
  • 54% Intermediate

Affordable ski in/ski out riding in BC’s second biggest resort: 7.5 m of annual snowfall, varied alpine terrain and an ever-expanding progressive snow park.

Big White’s Advanced & Expert Terrain

On a powder day head straight to the Alpine T-Bar and the Cliff chairlift. Once up on the ridge line, there is a wealth of chutes and cliffs to pick your line through. It really is a free riders and backcountry lovers playground where you can do fast laps without hiking all day long. On the left-hand side of the mountain, the Falcon chairlift and the Power chairlift are your gateways to some of the resorts more gnarly gullied terrain.

The Gem Lake Express Chair gives access to one of the newer runs on the mountain, the Fourth Ace. Reached by taking a right off the top of Moonlight Run, then enjoy lots of interesting twists and turns with a couple of rock bands crossing the run as you head down.

22% Advanced & 6% Expert Terrain

28% Blacks

Compared to other Canadian ski resorts Big White is pretty limited when it comes to Expert terrain.

The Alpine Bowl reached via the Cliff chair is the main location for the resorts most extreme runs. Most of the bowl is in-bounds and is managed by ski patrol, however, the bowl is quite steep and at risk of avalanche. The Playground is also considered a double black run, but this trail is a waste of time unless there’s lots of snow cover or you  damaging the base on your skis or snowboard.

Some backcountry runs can be found to the right of Kalina’s Rainbow which drops down to the Moonlight run. Or if you hike to the skiers’ left along the reasonably flat ridge from the Cliff chair, with lines that head down to the chair lift.

  • 6% Extreme

TELUS Terrain Park is a great place to Finnish the day

50 acres of well-thought-out, flowy features off all growing in size to encourage progression. Plenty of jumps and jibs and served by a dedicated park chairlift that cross over the park allow those onboard to check out who’s laying down what trick below. Throw in a permanent snow cross course, two well maintained pipes and an all-new sound system make this the place to be.

  • 1 Boarder/Skier-Cross course
  • 1 Terrain Park (TELUS Park)

When it comes to freeriding and skiing in Big White it’s all about the bowls

Parachute Bowl, a double-black diamond run accessible by the Cliff Chair. Hike 4-5 minutes up to enter the bowl via the Slant Chute, follow the chute all the way to enter the bowl at speed or take an early left to enter the bowl with a bit more style and air. Either way, it’s super fun and you’re rewarded with the wide-open alpine bowl.

Ski or board to the right of the Powder chairlift and then cut back under the chair to get to a challenging black called Flag Pole. There are lots of unique features in the terrain from small drops to off-camber turns, plus some really nice glades to the right.

For some tree runs the Gem Lake chairlift gives access to the Sun-Rype bowl area, one of the only powder faces, before dropping through the trees or onto the deserted rolling pistes below. For the less experienced or just to chill off the Ride Rocket chairlift the blue runs off are fun and worth go, in addition to the Blue Ribbon run over on the West Ridge area.

 

Mountain Stats

Top Lift 2,319m (7,606 ft)
Vertical Drop 777 m (2,550 ft)
Bottom Lift 1,508m (4,950 ft)

Essential Info

Opening Late November (3 December 2016)
Closing Early April
1 Day Pass Can $ 91
5 Day Pass Can $ 399
Season Pass Can $ 1,179
Tourist Office bigwhite.com
Website bigwhite.com

Getting There

Calgary (YYC) Airport is the resorts nearest at 115 Km or 72 miles away.

The Town

Unpretentious, laid-back and family friendly, Big White’s location right in the heart of the mountains. And status as home to North America’s largest night-riding terrain means you can fully immerse yourself in snowboarding or skiing 24 hours a day. Runs, chairlifts and a gondola snake through the small village centre ensuring you need never catch a bus in the morning.

Sleeping

Same Sun Backpacker Ski Lodge is the place for sociable long and short term budget accommodation, while the Whitefoot Lodge offers a range of accommodation to suit all budgets. It has ski-in-ski-out access, too, and houses a modern deli and grocery/liquor store.

If you’ve got some dough to spend and want to lay your head to rest somewhere extra-nice, settle in at Stonegate Resort. It’s a ski-in-ski-out, spa-hotel combo, offering multiple hot tubs, a huge heated pool, a movie theatre, amazing rooms and more.

Big White's Clock Tower, located at the foot of the mountain sin the ski resort base
Big White’s Clock Tower, located at the foot of the mountain sin the ski resort base

Eating

At the base of the Black Forest chairlift, the Black Forest Day Lodge does a hearty feed which can be washed down with local Okanagan craft beer. I’ll have a Big White White IPA if your buying!

Classic comfort grub, like lamb & Guinness shepherd’s pie or battered fish n’ chips, all washed down with a pint (or four) at The Blarney Stone Irish Tavern. Or, for something more high end, enjoy The Kettle Valley Steakhouse, nestled into the Happy Valley Day Lodge. Hungry skiers and boarders should go for the 45-ounce Tomahawk steak.

Apres Ski & Nightlife

The fun kicks off at on the massive sun deck of the  Sessions Taphouse & Grill. Snowshoe Sam’s at the base of big white, has either a live band or a DJ every day. Snowshoe Sam’s is said to be one of North America best Ski Bar’s.

For families, the Moose Lounge, in the Happy Valley Lodge, has evening drinks deals. Also  great when the kids are being entertained by one of the many post-ski activities on offer. Giving parents quiet time for a few beers, they host live entertainment here daily between 4-6pm (it also does a good breakfast). If you’re looking for Italian, then the 6 Degrees Bistro is the place to go.

Pro’s & Con’s

Pro’s Con’s
Many of the benefits of Whistler riding in a more low-key, relaxed environment. The trade-off for all the snow is a fair amount of white-out days. Visibility can be poor, especially on the upper mountain
Good value for money. Family & Beginner friendly Not a massive ski area and full mountain terrain often not open until mid-January.
Lots of light, cold powder. Shops, bars and clubs in the village are limited. Leading to a poor party scene.

Big White is the British Columbia’s up and coming ski resort. More commonly known for dry interior powder and acres of diverse freeriding terrain, the resort’s park has also become a big drawing point.

Shopping

Get groceries at the Mountain Mart in the village centre.

Health & Wellbeing

The Spa Beyond Rapture at the Big White Chateau has an extensive variety of massage treatments.

Internet Access

Free Wi-Fi thanks to TELUS.

Transfer Options

Big White run their own shuttle service between the resort and Kelowna Airport seven times a day for a C$82 return. Shuttles don’t run if they are not reserved therefore they need to be booked beforehand. Check out the Big White shuttle bus on there website.

 

Complimentary mountain tours offered by Snow Hosts, meeting daily in the Village at 10:30am.

Families

The Big White’s Tot Town Day Care will keep the little non-skiers aged 18 months to 5 years happy.

Bad Weather Days

Head to the trees the Black Forest and the area around the Moonlight Run are two low-altitude, sheltered areas perfect for all abilities in bad weather.

Avoid in Big White

On busy days the runs PerfectionGoat’s Kick and Dragon’s Tongue become treacherous icy mogul fields, avoid at all costs.

An Interesting Little Fact about Big White

The Canadian backcountry riding is now one of the most popular filming locations for the big films. Big White has too many famous lines to mention.

While in Big White Don’t Miss

Explore the expansive wilderness that surrounds Big White via a snowmobile tour. Guides will take you on endless trails through the British Columbia backcountry, and even let you tear up some powder fields if you’re lucky.

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Jen is a correspondent for Outside, Ski and Snowboarding magazines and a frequent contributor to the New York Times travel section. Her work has been featured in Best American Travel Writing, Best American Sports Writing and other anthologies. She has reported from seven continents, loves languages, and is based in British Columbia, Canada.

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