Image credit: Big White Ski Resort
Big White, Canada, in the heart of British Columbia, is a must for anyone who likes to ski or snowboard on rolling pistes through thick forest. This car-free and purpose-built village is totally ski-in, ski-out, making it big on convenience. And that works at all budget points, so Big White ski resort is big on family-friendliness too. As with all purpose-built on-mountain villages in this part of the world, it lacks a little charm, but it makes up for that with great facilities, with a huge investment over the past decade upgrading lifts and village infrastructure to make it truly world class.
With more than 750cm of light, dry, fluffy powder falling annually, the snow is a big draw for skiers, and the resort's 'snow ghosts' - snow-caked trees - are a famous and spectacular site on the slopes.
Big White is often winning awards from international press for being family-friendly. Big White's Tot Town Day Care will keep the little non-skiers happy, and there’s even a children-only shop, full of kids' ski clothing and sweets.
Big White - Ski Map & Pistes:
"Rolling" is the word that best describes this mountain. Not all of it, as there are some very testing areas, but it’s mainly gently sloping pistes which run through the trees. It's this that makes Big White a truly fantastic mountain for beginners and intermediates. There are some perfect beginner slopes, and mile upon mile of expertly groomed pistes to progress onto - 72 percent of the 105km of piste are either green or blue, and there's a green run from the top of every chair
Advanced skiers and snowboarders should not be put off, especially freestylers, as 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, safe in the knowledge that you won’t be throwing yourself over anything above your standard. Areas such as The Cliff, and the advanced runs over at Gem Lake also provide some testing terrain.
The Boarder/Skier-Cross course is very good and often hosts regional, national and World Cup events. The very nature of the rolling lower mountainside makes for some excellent blue runs which, taken at speed, offer up hit after rolling hit. Night skiing is big here, too, with the resort boasting the longest vertical drop (596m) of all night skiing areas in North America.
Big White - Off-Piste, Backcountry & Ski Touring:
Only about a third of the resort's 2,765 acres of patrolled terrain is groomed, meaning there's plenty of room for those who love to play in powder. The entire Cliff area is ungroomed, and you can pick any line down the double black diamond bowl.
If you're not too confident skiing off-piste in trees you might have a few issues as slopes here are heavily wooded, but the resort is also a good place to learn to ski powder. Of course, this is interior BC, so the powder is legendarily deep, dry and fluffy, and if you need to get further off the beaten track, there are more cat and heli-skiing operations here than you can shake a snow-covered stick at.
Big White - Restaurants, Bars & The Town:
With 19 on-mountain restaurants, cafes, delis, pubs and nightclubs, there's no shortage of places to relax or refuel. The resort offers everything from a tapas bar to a high-end steakhouse, an Irish pub and a classic Canadian pub. Snowshoe Sam's is the best bet for a couple of beers post-ski, with live music and average bar food. It’s been voted Canada’s #1 Ski Bar in a few North American magazines, and it boasts a good pub atmosphere with DJs on non-band nights.
The Moose Lounge, in the Happy Valley Lodge, has evening drinks deals, which is great when the kids are being entertained by one of the many post-ski activities on offer; there is also live entertainment here daily between 4-6pm (it also does a good breakfast). If you’re looking for fine dining and local Okanagan wines, then the 6 Degrees Bistro is the place to go.
There are loads of off-slope activities geared towards families, such as dog sledding, sleigh rides, reindeer round-ups, tubing, skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiles and ice climbing.
Big White - Ski Hire:
As is often the case with the 'all-under-one-roof' ethos of Canadian purpose-built resorts, ski hire in Big White is very much resort orientated, with the Big White Rental Shop the go-to venue. Alternatively, try Dizzy's Ski Shop.
Big White - Ski School:
Similarly, if you want to learn to ski in Big White, the resort's own Big White Ski & Board School has the learning experience all sewn up.