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It's officially ski season! Here's everything you need to know know about B.C.'s best resorts
It’s still early and this ski season is already looking better than last year’s. El Niño’s extra precipitation has given B.C. ski resorts a good dump of white for a powdery start to the winter season. Big White in Kelowna was the first to open in early November. Whistler Mountain opened a week early on November 16 (with Blackcomb following a week later) and Sun Peaks, Silverstar and even local North Shore mountains all have the white stuff. Farther east, the Selkirk and Monashee mountain ranges have had some serious snowfall too.
Skiers and boarders, consider yourselves spoiled for choice. Click through to find out more.
This year Whistler Blackcomb was named the best ski resort in North America by SKI Magazine. No surprise. And the entire mountain opened early (again!) this ski season and has seen more than four metres of snow for a base that’s close to two metres. A great start for Whistler’s 8,171 skiable acres (with 16 alpine bowls and three glaciers), 1,609 metres of vertical, 200-plus runs and 37 lifts. Whew. There’s also Whistler Heli-Skiing, with access to another 173 glaciers and 475 runs. One of the first resorts to allow snowboarders, Whistler Blackcomb celebrates its 50th anniversary this season with lots of festivities—as well as more white stuff. And new this year: a revamped Rendezvous Lodge with not-your-typical ski fare—Japanese ramen bowls, a Thai-inspired wok station and Mexican taqueria—for yummy refueling.
Across the Georgia Strait, Mount Washington on Vancouver Island opened on December 11. At 1,000 metres elevation, rising above Comox Valley, it’s known for the deepest snow in all of Canada. With over a metre of snowbase now, here’s hoping most of its 81 runs and five lifts covering 1,700 skiable acres and 505 metres of vertical are accessible soon. And in Vancouver’s backyard, the North Shore ski hills opened as early as November 20. Not all runs are open at Cypress Mountain and Grouse Mountain (Seymour Mountain opened December 13), but with a two-metre-plus base and recent reports of “monster snow” at Cypress, it’s still an easy after-work warm-up session early in the season and over the holidays.
Happening NOW: Get in the holiday spirit! Dress like Santa this weekend and ski for free at Whistler Blackcomb on December 19. Ho ho ho!
Coming up: Spend New Year’s Eve in the snow atop Grouse Mountain on a one-hour guided snowshoe tour, then warm up and celebrate with a fondue feast.
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 and long waves of tracks behind. 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 and close to two metres total) 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. And with the new Black Forest Day Lodge now open, all that terrain is even more accessible.
Also in southern B.C.’s interior is Red Mountain near Rossland and Whitewater near Nelson (dubbed the “Cat Ski Capital of the World”), both open since the second weekend of December with a now close-to-two-metre snowbase. Plus, it’s Whitewater’s 40th anniversary, so this January there’ll be a celebration of the mountain’s “humble yet huge” character, as well as its first annual Community Day (locals ski for just $10!).
Happening NOW: Take advantage of Big White’s “fly, stay, ski” package—from $505 for a three-day powder-filled ski weekend from Vancouver.
Coming up: The Kootenay Coldsmoke Powder Fest celebrates its 10th season at Whitewater from February 19 to 21 with pro clinics, competitions and evening parties.
Affectionately called “my mountain” by locals and regulars, Silverstar, just east of Vernon, also has an abundance of that airy Okanagan powder—seven metres of it annually with more than a metre so far. Open as of November 26, Silverstar has 762 metres of vertical and 128 runs across 3,269 acres of skiable terrain, an expansive playground of which 45% is expert runs—think powder-filled chutes and winch-cat black-diamond runs. To round out your adrenaline rush, SilverStar’s My1Pass—Canada’s first all-inclusive season’s pass and lift ticket (downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, tubing, skating, snowshoeing are all-in)—now also includes fat biking. Yes, biking through the snow. The resort has added more than 15 km of trails for the hot new sport of cycling on oversized snow tires.
The other big interior go-to ski mountain—for snow and sun—is Sun Peaks. Open since November 20, it already has a close to two-metre base and ongoing snowfall of the dry, fluffy stuff you’d expect just north of Kamloops’ desert-like climate. It’s the second-largest ski area in Canada with 4,270 acres of in-bound ski terrain over three different peaks, two bowls, 11 lifts and now 135 runs. That includes two new advanced trails added last winter—Tumble Dry and Lint Trap on north-facing Mount Morissey—plus two more to be named this year. And if you want to go hard, the resort now also offers private tours of what was previously backcountry-only, the powder-filled Gil’s area is now inbound terrain. Sweet.
Happening NOW: Get up early and sign up for the First Tracks Breakfast at Sun Peaks (every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday) to get exclusive access to fresh powder.
Coming up: The go-to winter sips-and-snow event is 18th Annual Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival, taking place January 14 to 24.
There’s more than a century of ski history around the eastern B.C. town of Revelstoke with its stellar backcountry in the Selkirk and Monashee Mountain ranges, but more recently it’s been homebase for heli-skiing operations and, of course, Revelstoke Mountain Resort. This mountain features the most vertical in North America (1,712 metres) and 3,121 acres of diverse terrain with two alpine bowls and some 65 runs. Plus, it’s the only resort in the world to offer lift-, backcountry, cat- and heli-skiing from one village base. Opening day here was November 28, with early lines to “shred hard all day long,” as per the locals (there’s been over four metres of snowfall for a close to two-metre base). And this year, Revy, as it’s known, is one of the only resorts anywhere to offer tandem paragliding flights on skis (with Revelstoke Paragliding) so, um, you can take flight right from the slopes.
Panorama is just 308 km west of Calgary with 1,225 metres of vertical, 2,847 acres of terrain, alpine bowl, 120 runs, 10 lifts—and more than two metres of snowfall and almost a metre base so far. Open as of December 11, this year you can also explore the steeps and deeps of Taynton Bowl via chairlift for easy access to its 750 acres and 1,225 vertical metres of double-black-diamond powder. Gulp. And this new area is patrolled and controlled for avalanches, so you don’t need a guide or backcountry equipment. Also new is some sweet glading on trails Heli High, Heli Face, Kinbasket and Ktunaxa.
Happening NOW: The new Paparazzi Pass at Revelstoke—the first ski resort in Canada to set up HD video cameras all over the mountain and offer an app that records your shred skills.
Coming up: Make like you’re in the Alps at Panaroma’s Elkhorn Cabin for Swiss-style raclette, followed by a lamp-lit ski down. Or, even better, do the “heli-fondue” at the Summit Hut.