A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
And you thought it was just Whistler Blackcomb to discover among BC ski resorts? Do that for sure, but there’s lots more. British Columbia, a province in western Canada, is no little playground. Here’s a fact to ponder: If you were to drop all of BC atop the mountainous spine of the western U.S., it would cover some or all of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Now you’ve got the picture. But, yes, the big daddy at the party is magnificent Whistler Blackcomb and if it isn’t high on your bucket list, move it on up. Read on and we’ll tell you why.
But, this region is so big and there is so much space to ski and ride that what might seem like an inconsequential ski area you probably never heard of, is actually a pretty nice place to ski and ride. So much space, so little time.
British Columbia is accessible by air from anywhere in the world, but figure on a good bit of behind-the-wheel time to get to your next potential favorite ski resort. For example, Whistler-Blackcomb is about a four-hour jaunt from Vancouver International Airport. But, be sure to check because resorts such as Fernie are reached easiest by flying into Calgary in Alberta, the neighboring province. It’s a three-hour drive from there.
So, when you head to British Columbia, you are virtually signing on to an adventure of a lifetime. Take the plunge.
That question, of course, is loaded and subject to lots of opinion. But, here’s a synopsis of eight of the best you will find covered by OnTheSnow.com’s reports.
Whistler-Blackcomb is Number One here and right up at the top with world-class destinations in the United States and, for that matter, across the globe. It’s a favorite, for example, of skiers and riders in the U.K. who are getting bored with the same old, same old vacations in France.
The vertical drop at Whistler is a mind-boggling 5,280 feet. If you’re counting, that’s a mile. Both Whistler and its sister mountain, Blackcomb, are massive, with eye-popping terrain, more snow than you’ll ever ski and see, a former Olympic host, a long season and Whistler Villages is a terrific, vibrant base.
Need more stats to be convinced? You can play on 8,171 acres. You won’t get hungry on the mountains as there are 17 restaurants with seating for more than 6,000 people. There are 70 lifts with capacity to move about 70,000 skiers and boarders an hour and get you onto some 200 trails. Enough. Whistler Blackcomb is simply huge.
Big White Ski Resort, 36 miles from Kelowna, is especially convenient once you arrive as its Main Street is actually a ski run. You can ski to and from your doorstep or stroll through the village, shopping and dining in high quality restaurants and pubs. That kind of convenience is one reason Big White has become such a family favorite. There’s plenty of terrain for all levels of skier and rider and has excellent beginner and novice space to learn and play. Tot Town Day Care will keep the little non-skiers happy. Want to learn to ski powder? This is the place for powder skiing: Only about a third of the resort's 2,765 acres of patrolled terrain is groomed. The Cliff area is ungroomed, and advanced skiers can pick your line down the double black diamond bowl. There are 16 lifts, the most night skiing acreage in Canada at 38 acres and the vertical drop is a hefty 2,550 feet. There is a TELLUS terrain park.
Sun Peaks Resort is currently Canada’s second largest ski resort and one reason its popular is it is an intermediates' paradise with 50 percent of its terrain serving that skill level. You’ll find it 256 miles northeast of Vancouver and 39 miles from Kamloops in BC’s interior. The ski resort matches most of the biggies with 4,270 skiable acres. Olympic Champion Nancy Green has been the Sun Peaks Ambassador for more than two decades and, her husband, Al Raines, is the town mayor. Nippon Cable Co., the deep-pocketed resort owner, has poured more than $630 million into the ski resort. The vertical drop is 2,894 feet. You won’t be dodging big crowds and the short lift lines here are a delight if you can catch your breath. The atmosphere is authentic and you will feel like a local in no time.
Revelstoke is in southeast British Columbia, just outside of the town of Revelstoke. It is about 120 miles from Kelowna International Airport and 4.5 hours from Calgary. It is the only resort in the world offering lift, cat skiing, heli skiing and backcountry skiing from one base village. There’s 3,121 acres of skiable terrain with a 5,620 vertical drop, serviced by 7 lifts dropping onto 70 trails. This won’t be the easiest resort you’ve ever skied or boarded at, but you’ll be rewarded for the effort.
Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is located in Kicking Horse Canyon, just east of Golden, BC. This is one of the most rugged and scenic sections on the Trans-Canada Highway. The ski area is known as “the Champagne Powder Capital of Canada”, an abundance of varied terrain, its-easy-to-get-to location, its laid-back vibe. Skiing and riding here is all about chutes and bowls and the intermediate terrain is superb. The is 4,133 feet with 128 runs, 4 alpine bowls and 85 inbound chutes, spreads over 2,825 acres of skiable terrain. You can fly to either Calgary or Kelowna and shuttle to the resort.
Kimberley Alpine Resort is owned by Resorts of the Canadian Rockies that also owns Fernie and Kicking Horse in BC. It is located in the Purcell Mountains with beautiful views of the Kootenay Rockies. Some say this is the most underrated BC ski resort. And, they’re right. It’s no longer a locals ski hill and has evolved into a destination. It’s fine for families but certainly has some challenging terrain. No crowds here and you just might have a whole run to yourself and the snow. Fly into Calgary and you can connect to Canadian Rockies Airport 20 minutes away. The vertical here is 12,465 feet leading to 65 runs spread over 1,800 acres. Then there's the 13 feet of average annual snowfall.
Fernie Alpine Resort might best be known as Powder Central and you’ll enjoy it over 142 runs on 2500 acres of skiable terrain. The entire lower mountain is a beginners' paradise with multiple lifts and even a people mover. Lizard Bowl is easy to ski and ride and it’s wide, too. And, the mountain has more expert terrain than many mountains. The coolest thing is the Heaven’s Gate gondola from the town of Fernie, 3 miles away, to the top of the mountain. Fernie sits about 40 miles from the Alberta and U.S. Borders.
Grouse Mountain, known as “The Peak of Vancouver”, is an ideal option if you live in this beautiful city and want to access skiing and riding right at home. It is easy to get up to the Mountain on public transit. Grouse is probably best suited to beginner or novice skiers and snowboarders, but there’s also enough intermediate and advanced terrain for a good time by all. There’s skiing under the lights every night, too. The vertical drop is 1,312 feet, 33 runs (14 open at night) and 4 chairlifts.
Most skiers and boarders would rank the top three like this: Whistler Blackcomb, Big White and Sun Peaks. Skiing at Whistler is world-class and has it all, tops in every category you can think of. Big White is family-friendly because it has a convenient resort base and relatively comfortable slopes. Sun Peaks, Canada’s second largest ski resort, has over 4,270 acres of skiable terrain, and is generally crowd-free, family-friendly ski resort that spans three different mountains.
There are a total of 38 BC mountain resorts spread throughout the province, and includes the 6 major BC mountain regions (Cariboo Chilcotin, Kootenay, Vancouver Coast & Mountains, Northern BC, Thompson Okanagan, Vancouver Island). You will find 22 of those covered here at OnTheSnow.com.
Yes, yes and yes. From the biggies to the smaller ski areas, the snow is almost always superb and plentiful and there’s so much terrain you won’t ever feel crowded or like you are playing dodgeball on a weekend. Thanks to BC’s geography, 10 mountain ranges cut through the province, from the Rockies in the east to the Coast Mountains in the west. Many are located within a few hours’ drive of the U.S.-Canada border, and it’s possible to hit two or three in one trip.
Cypress Mountain is perfect for beginners and experienced skiers alike. The runs range from green to black double diamond, and there’s lots of off-piste skiing. Grouse Mountain is home to the Tyee Ski Club, one of the oldest ski clubs in Canada. Grouse is great for beginners and oh, so close with excellent in town transportation day and night. Mount Seymour is famous for snowshoeing and terrain parks. Its terrain park has produced many pros throughout the years.
The largest resorts are Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Peaks, Red Mountain resort, SilverStar, Revelstoke, Kicking Horse, Big White, Panorama, Fernie and Kimberly based on size of terrain and number of lifts.
Here are 10 family-friendly resorts in British Columbia based on number of kids’ parks and lifts especially made for kids (i.e., Magic Carpets); value for money; percentage of terrain for beginner and intermediate skiers and overall user rating for family-friendliness: Sun Peaks, Cypress, Fernie Alpine, Apex Mountain resort, Big White, Grouse, Harper, Sasquatch, Kicking Horse, and Kimberly.
Most of BC’s interior experiences freezing temperatures and snow that lasts from November to March. The north experiences longer, more extreme winters. The coolest month in British Columbia is February when the average maximum temperature is 45° and the average minimum temperature is 36 degrees. Prepare for the cold on these mountains, the higher you go. Check out which ski resorts in British Columbia are open right now.
Fernie: The shops here often close their doors and hang up “Gone Skiing” signs. Residents live for skiing and snowboarding here at a resort that’s just an eight-minute drive down the road. Nelson: North of the border where Washington meets Idaho you’ll find quirky Nelson, the ski town for Whitewater Ski Resort. This laid back city on the shore of Kootenay Lake boasts a greater percentage of heritage buildings—more than 350—than any other Canadian town west of the Great Lakes. Its dining scene is incredible, too. Whistler: Built in the style of Switzerland’s Zermatt or Italy’s Cervinia. There are restaurants and bars, boutiques, and accommodations ranging from hotels to condos, all located within walking distance of the chairlifts.
You will be so spoiled by British Columbia’s wide open spaces, incredible snowfalls, fun towns and generally laid back atmosphere, you might not ever ski anywhere else. Hey, that’s just a warning. Ski it for yourself.