I am your typical Ontario transplant here in BC. I came, I saw, I took too many pictures and I moved back as quickly as I could. My first powder experience was at Big White at least a decade ago. A group of us came out to compete in the halfpipe nationals and it was dumping. We had never seen snow like this before. Correction, we had never seen snow like this on a ski hill before. I don’t remember how I placed, what my run was but I do remember that first feeling of experiencing deep snow. We still talk about it to this day and I would say the majority of us now call BC home.
Every year my parents come out to visit my sister and I for a good old fashion ski vacation. Hands down we picked Big White this year, with the horrible start to the year as far as snow was concerned this was our best bet. And luck have it Big White had been consistently getting snow all season and the week before our arrival they got another 30cms of fresh and falling.
Big White is located 55kms southeast of Kelowna, which is a short 50-minute flight from Vancouver (YVR → YLW). It’s handy for those of us who, ahem, get nervous in the car. I felt no need to put my life in the hands of the Coquihalla hwy, an infamous stretch of Highway 5. Once you arrive at the airport get on the shuttle you remembered to book before you left. The Big White shuttle will take you directly to your accommodations for a fee of $75 return trip.
For this trip we decided to rent the top floor of a 3-floor cabin, equipped with the mandatory hot tub and ski-in-ski-out location. We were not disappointed either; it was exactly “as advertised”. Accommodations in Big White are reasonably priced and there are many options to choose from. Most accommodations are located near the village and ski lifts, Big White is a very compact little resort so you’ll never feel like you are too far out. You do not need a car to get around the resort, food for thought. If you are planning an extend stay, I suggest you grab the bulk of your groceries and booze in Kelowna. You can always top up your supplies in the village if needed.
Big White is almost what I would call a ‘hidden gem’; sometimes you have to look beyond Baker and Whistler when you live in Vancouver. What makes Big White a gem is a true trifecta; price, lift-line times and snow! Price: A 4-day lift ticket only set me back about $300 and if you are planning a trip watch the website, many deals pop-up during the season, Costco also sells discounted lift tickets. Lift-line: wait times have become an increasingly important factor for myself when choosing a resort, as a weekend warrior every run counts. I was not disappointed, even on a sunny Saturday I never waited any longer than 5-10 minutes. Snow: we got lucky and had 30cms of fresh fall before we got there. I only say we got lucky because this year has been a very slow snow year everywhere. But generally speaking, every trip I’ve taken to Big White has been sensational in the snow department. There’s a reason their slogan is ‘Big White; it’s the snow’! Ski Canada Magazine has also awarded them the coveted ‘Best Tree Skiing’ and ‘Best snow’. Need I say more?
We spent most of our time riding in the same area for the 4 days we rode. ‘Powder Chair’ has always been my favorite. It’s a fixed, two-man, old-style chairlift that will take you out at the knees if you aren’t paying attention. Yes it’s slow but man is it ever worth it, you’re patience will be rewarded. The time on the chair gave us the chance to scope out our next run, talk about how good our last run was and bring our heart rate down. This chair covers so much terrain that you can easily ride it all day long, from 8:45 to 3:30, and find new un-tracked areas. This is not a beginner area though, there is no easy way out, teach your girlfriend somewhere else.
Our second favorite area was Gem Lake; it’s the first chairlift you will see on your way up to Big White 20 minutes before you get to the resort. It’s a long cat track ride out from the main resort; you’ll get a good leg burn out of it. Once you get to Gem Lake, you’ll feel like you are at a completely different resort. There is a warming hut and a parking lot, so if you are coming up for the day you could essentially ride in this area alone. The Gem Lake Express covers about 3-times the distance of the Powder Chair. It’s a workout from top to bottom especially if you do it all in the trees, which we did. I love this area, it’s challenging and you are rewarded with powder if you do the work and search for the spots. Just remember to head back to the village before end of day or else it’s a long walk back.
If skiing is not your thing or you just need a day off, no worries, Big White has you covered. There is everything from snowshoeing and snowmobiling to ice climbing and outdoor skating or book an Okanagan wine tour. You’ll keep busy, I promise. So the next time you’re planning a family vacation or a no-rules bachelor party, consider Big White. I guarantee you’ll come back with stories.