Western Snow Sports: British Columbia

A Dozen World-class Resorts Beckon

By Peter Schroeder

Wondering what El Niño and La Niña might mean for your winter vacation? Whatever the ski conditions in the U.S., they’re bound to be better north of the border because of the latitude.

British Columbia features more than a dozen world-class ski resorts. Visitors have a choice of four airports scattered across the province —Vancouver, Kelowna, Kamloops and Cranbrook—which are all served by both Canadian and U.S. airlines. Even in the mountains, driving around is made easier since snowplows hit the roads immediately after a storm.

Top: Skiing the snow ghosts at Big White. Photo courtesy of Big White Resort. Above Carving up Sun Peaks. Photo by Adam Stein

Big White’s new, first-of-its-kind, 60-foot high ice climbing tower is built with four telephone  poles cross-braced together and flooded with water that freezes into three feet of thick blue ice. The Ice Tower features a beginner side and three other sides for advanced ice climbers. Also new is the Family/Seniors Skiing and Snowboarding Zones which offers signage, gated entry and extra slope watchers to monitor speed, safe skiing and riding.

This season Cypress Mountain will open a new rental fleet and demo center featuring the latest skis and snowboards from HEAD. Snowmaking has been expanded on the Panorama run with five new snow guns to improve early-season conditions.

Fernie celebrates its 50th anniversary with the installation of the Polar Peak Lift, which adds above-tree-line bowl skiing starting from the top of Polar Peak, the highest summit in the Lizard Range. With an additional 22 new runs, Fernie claims the most ski runs (140), the biggest vertical (3,550 feet) and the most alpine skiing (five bowls) in the Canadian Rockies.

Enhancements this year at Kimberley include glade widening, and many new amenities including a Conference and Athletic Training Centre, skier/boarder cross course and restaurant in the Trickle Creek Lodge. Kimberley claims the largest gladed ski terrain and the longest night-skiing trail in North America.

Upgrades for this season at Panorama include a new tubing park, a boarder/skier cross expansion, doubling of the terrain park, and renovation of the Pine Inn. New sections of the Taynton Bowl have also been opened and Stumbock’s Run has been widened so riders now have more room to carve. When new owners took over last year from Intrawest, they committed to re-investing 100 percent of the profits from the past 10 years back into the resort.

Red Resort has opened 300 acres of backcountry terrain on the Grey lift as well as constructing Glory Hut, a backcountry hut accessed with a local ski guide for day or overnight trips. After extensive renovation, the historic day lodge now features additional cafeteria seating and faster food service while a new conference center, retail and rental areas and coffee and wine bars will be sure to please visitors.

Up to now, Revelstoke has been an advanced skier’s mountain. But this has changed since the resort reshaped the lower mountain terrain and used snowmaking to produce a new beginner area. A new nearby tubing park features a conveyor lift that serves both areas. The third building of Nelsen Lodge’s ski-in, ski-out hotel condominium is opening this year, while construction continues on the build-out of the base village.

Silver Star and Eagle Pass Heli-Skiing have joined to open the Gold Range in the Monashee Mountains. A Bell 212 helicopter, located out of the village, will take 10 skiers and two guides to untracked powder. Silver Star’s Nordic activities include a 100-kilometer trail system with two biathlon ranges.

Photo courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort

Fifty years ago the Burfield Chairlift opened up for skiing at Tod Mountain where today Sun Peaks has grown into the third-largest ski resort in Canada and a world-class destination. This season the resort will commemorate its Golden Anniversary with celebrations every month to relive the Tod Mountain days.

The new Whistler-Blackcomb app allows skiers and riders to track their runs using GPS; view trail maps; track total vertical and distance traveled and clock their maximum speed. Complimentary Wi-Fi has been installed in all mountain lodges, and flat-screen TVs in many restaurants display grooming information, lift status, special events and more. Whistler Blackcomb serves as an elite training ground with a renewed snow-cross track, a 22-foot Olympic half pipe and a 14-foot half pipe.

This season marks Whitewater’s first full season for the new Glory Ridge Chair, which opened eight new runs and additional backcountry glade skiing. At full build-out, the new chair will access additional advanced and intermediate ski terrain that more than doubles the existing acreage.

B.C. Resorts

British Columbia Skiing – www.bcskiing.com

Apex – www.apexresort.com

Big White – www.bigwhite.com

Cypress Mountain – www.cypressmountain.com

Fernie – www.skifernie.com

Grouse Mountain – www.grousemountain.com

Hemlock – www.hemlockvalleyresort.com

Kicking Horse – www.kickinghorseresort.com

Kimberley – www.skikimberley.com

Mount Washington – www.mtwashington.bc.ca

Panorama – www.skipanorama.com

Red Resort – www.redresort.com

Revelstoke Mountain – www.revelstokemountainresort.com

Silver Star – www.skisilverstar.com

Sun Peaks – www.sunpeaksresort.com

Whistler-Blackcomb – www.whistlerblackcomb.com

Whitewater – www.skiwhitewater.com

Check out the winter resorts in these other western states/provinces:

>> Washington Resorts

>> Oregon Resorts

>> Idaho Resorts

>> Montana Resorts

>> Alberta Resorts

>> The Rest of the West’s Best

>> Click here to see our Winter Lodging Directory