6 B.C. Ski Destinations Outside of Vancouver

Unhappy with this season's snowfall? Here are six ski resorts outside of Greater Vancouver with plenty of snow

Need powder, will travel: Where Vancouverites can ski when local hills are lacking snow

It’s the height of ski season, although you might not know it in Vancouver. Warm weather and lots of rain have left the local North Shore ski hills more soggy than snowy. Cypress Mountain has nine runs open, Grouse six and Mount Seymour just two – and all the cross-country and snowshoe trails are closed. Bummer.

We hope the flakes start falling for a more powdery finish, but meanwhile there is plenty of white stuff – some of it even record breaking – just hours away. Whistler has 196 of its 200 runs open. Big White has 117 of 118 runs open. And all of Apex’s 73 runs are good to go. So this weekend you can hit those slopes and be knee deep. Skier or boarder, here’s where to get your snow fix.

Mount Washington, Vancouver Island

Last year, Mount Washington on Vancouver Island also dealt with a serious lack of snow. But the year before it had an epic snowpack (over 18 metres; the average is 11). This year the snow’s back.

Knowing Mother Nature’s capriciousness, Mount Washington has stepped up to offer complimentary lift tickets to season pass holders at snow-deficient Mount Seymour. So North Shore snow seekers just need to cross the Georgia Strait. Set near Comox Valley between the Pacific Ocean and Strathcona Park, the alpine coastal setting of Mount Washington equals deep pile and some sweet snow ghosts. There are 81 runs and five lifts covering 1,700 skiable acres and 505 metres of vertical. Hotdoggers will find powder stashes off the backside of the Sunrise chair and plenty of challenging terrain, like the Powder Face black-diamond open bowl, but there’s also a network of covered magic carpets dubbed Easy Acres for the novice set. Think equal opportunity.

Good to know: From the 1,588-metre summit, there’s a 360-degree view from peak to Pacific and an even split between intermediate (35 per cent) and advanced (36 per cent) runs.

Come for: The Alpenglow Festival, when local breweries, wineries, distilleries and eateries come together to offer some serious post-ski sampling on March 21.

Après ski: Kick back at Ted’s Bar & Grill or, if you haven’t had enough snow, head back outside for the Snowshoe & Fondue at the cross-country Raven Lodge.

Big White, Kelowna

Take off Friday post-work and head east to Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna in the Okanagan. Wake up to ski fresh powder amidst surreal snowghosts in the Enchanted Forest as the Monashee Mountains stretch in front of you.

From the 2,319-metre summit you have 118 runs of “champagne powder” (eight metres of it annually; this year there’s already been a record-breaking stretch of 56 centimetres of snow in 36 hours) accessible via 16 lifts. In the almost 2,800 acres of skiable terrain there’s something for everybody, from easy green groomers to tree skiing and an alpine bowl with double-black-diamond runs that are the closest you’ll come to human flight: Pegasus, The Cliff and Parachute Bowl.

To get the lowdown on where and what to ski, take advantage of Big White’s local ski hosts, who’ll give any level of skier or boarder a guided overview of the slopes – for free. And if you want an adrenaline rush off the slopes, there’s a 60-foot ice-climbing tower that’ll build the burn in your arms as well as your legs.

Good to know: Over 50 per cent of Big White’s runs are blue. And there are 38 acres to explore under the stars – the largest night-skiing area in Western Canada.

Come for: Big Whites at Big White, a celebration of Okanagan wines paired with chef-prepared fare on March 28, has become a go-to event.

Après ski: Sip a pint of Okanagan Spring 1516 in the Moose Lounge at Happy Valley Lodge.

Silver Star, Vernon

Affectionately called “my mountain” by locals and regulars, Silver Star, just east of Vernon, also has an abundance of that airy Okanagan powder–seven metres of it. And with 762 metres of vertical and 128 runs across 3,269 acres of skiable terrain, it’s an expansive playground for powder hounds.

For those who like a challenge, the highest percentage of runs here is expert (45 per cent), but if you’re not into powder-filled chutes and winch-cat black-diamond runs, there are plenty of cruisers and intermediate slopes (40 per cent).

Mid-mountain is a toy-like village modeled after an early-1900s mining town that’s been dolled up with cheery colours. From here there’s skiing above (take black-diamond Outback or blue Lonestar) and below (go green on Easy Street or hardcore on black-diamond Mine Shaft). Topside is the aptly named Paradise Camp, which could double for an old-west cowboy outpost. This is where you fortify with some hearty chili while overlooking Powder Gulch and contemplating your route back down.

Good to know: Silver Star is offering a three-day “PowPass” at $199, and a night-skiing pass at $15.

Come for: Silver Star is hosting the 2015 Junior Nationals, March 30 to April 5, during which you can catch some serious action at Moguls, Dual Moguls, Slopestyle, Big Air and Aerials events.  

Après ski: Stop at the Den for a Swing Span Amber Ale while still in your ski gear, then, post-shower, do dinner at the Silver Grill (think juniper-spiced bison and truffle potato purée) and finish with a nightcap at the Saloon. Yee-haw! 

Apex Mountain, Penticton

Go south, sticking to interior B.C.’s powder haven, to Apex Mountain Resort just west of Penticton. Smaller than the other rather behemoth-like Okanagan ski hills, Apex still packs a punch with its 1,112 skiable acres, 610 metres of vertical, 73 runs, six metres of powder and some seriously fun terrain, from steep chutes to bump runs (including a World Cup Mogul Course).

So, while you can go nice and easy on the scenic five-kilometre Grandfather’s Trail, you can also go steep ’n’ deep by taking a sharp right off this long cruiser to double-black chutes Gunbarrel, Make My Day and Dirty Harry…

Then there are the glades, bowls and more chutes to explore on the Wildside. And Apex is a freestyle skiing mecca (think moguls, aerials, ski-cross) with a ski- and board-cross track (featuring high-banked berms and rollers), three terrain parks (hello jumps, rails and boxes), the “Bus” (a rideable feature made out of a school bus) and a World Cup Aerial Site. Nothing boring here.

Good to know: Apex was named the “Best Small Destination Resort” by Ski Canada Magazine.

Come for: The second annual Brewski celebrates local craft beer (like Penticton’s own Bad Tattoo Brewing), cider and spirits at the legendary Gunbarrel Saloon, February 14. Bring your valentine…

Après ski: Get fiery at the Gunbarrel Saloon, where the must-try classic warm-up drink is the Gunbarrel coffee into which flaming Grand Marnier is poured through a doublebarrel shotgun. Seriously.

Sun Peaks, Kamloops

By mid-December, Sun Peaks already had a 99-centimetre base of snow (the dry, fluffy stuff you’d expect just north of Kamloops’ desert-like climate) and almost 100 per cent of its terrain open. And this season it’s also grown to claim the title of second-largest ski area in Canada with some 4,200 acres of in-bound ski terrain over three different peaks.

Take in some of the 133 runs by following the tracks of a local Sun Host, one of whom is Olympic medallist, Canadian Senator and Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks, Nancy Greene Raine.

Still feel the need to go out of bounds? Try your off-piste skills with a certified Canadian Ski Guide in the Beyond the Groomers or All-Mountain Skills camps. After all, Tod Mountain was developed back in the ’60s for its steeps, glades and powder stashes. You’ll find plenty of those (think black- and double-black diamonds) off the original, old-school-cool Burfield Chair. Or bounce along the rollers of blue-run I Dunno, or just drift down 5 Mile, the easiest, longest route down from the top. 

Good to know: In addition to 133 runs (58 per cent of which are blue), Sun Peaks has 16 gladed areas where you can challenge your inner backcountry wannabe.

Come for: The Bear Country FIS Speed Ski World Cup, March 11 to 14, in which the world’s fastest skiers accelerate from 0 to 175 km/h in, um, eight seconds. Last year’s record: 178.22km/h.

Après ski: Hit the “the locals’ living room,” Bottoms Bar & Grill, for the hoppy house draft.

Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler

When it’s a “bluebird” day at Whistler, there’s no place better. Blue skies against lots and lots of snow, 360-degree views, unlimited terrain, fresh tracks… you get the picture. This is why Whistler Blackcomb ranks as one of the top – and most popular – mountain resorts in the world. And if the 8,171 skiable acres (with 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers), 2,284 metres of elevation, 1,609 metres of vertical, 11.74 metres of snow (this season the mountain even opened five days early back in November), 200-plus trails and 37 lifts just aren’t enough for you, there’s also Whistler Heli-Skiing, with access to seriously big mountain terrain that covers some 173 glaciers and another 475 runs. It’s almost – almost! – too much. You can even spend the day shredding the snow with an Olympian.

The “Ski With An Olympian” Snow School program offers full-day sessions with local stars like legendary Rob Boyd and 2010 ski-cross gold medallist Ashleigh McIvor. Afterwards, sip on a Highway 86 cocktail (named for one of the runs you just bombed down) at Alta Bistro in the village.

Good to know: With so much terrain (the most at a North American ski resort), accept that you won’t cover it all. Choose a plan of attack, as conveniently laid out in the “Wonder Routes.” We like the blue-leaning “Size Matters,” which takes four hours and goes from Whistler to Blackcomb via the Peak 2 Peak gondola.

Come for: The Winemaker Après Series at Steeps Grill & Wine Bar atop Whistler Mountain at 6,000 feet, which pairs wine (Robert Mondavi is on February 24; B.C.’s NK’MIP is on March 12) with locally sourced fare in a five-course feast, March 12. And at $69 per event, it’s a sell-out.

Après ski: Recoup at the Scandinave Spa for oh-so-good après-any-activity soaking.