Find big terrain with adventures for everyone at Big White only 4.5 hours away
This post is sponsored by Big White Ski Resort.
Making it back up to Big White last season after a two-year pandemic hiatus felt a bit like returning to a home away from home. Since 2015, our family has made a pilgrimage at least once a year to this snow magnate between the Okanagan Valley and the Monashee Mountains. With a summit that rises up over 7,000 feet east of Kelowna, BC’s, wine and lake country, Big White typically catches frequent dumps of light and fluffy powder all season long.
Aside from the relatively reliable snow quality and depth (24.5 feet on average annually), the allure that has fueled our repeat family adventures is largely due to the expansive amenities within ski-boot walking distance. The mountain’s layout facilitates a laid-back ease when it comes to getting everyone (from kids to non-skiing grandparents) moving around the mountain to their own happy places. In our case, this has ranged from child-free early-morning first-chair powder runs and late-night pub carousing to late-start beginner runs with little ones followed by family tubing missions and large group dinners.
When it comes to getting around the mountain easily, the biggest thing that sets the resort apart from others in our region is that Big White happens to be Canada’s largest totally ski-in, ski-out resort village. That means, no matter where you stay at the 7,355-acre resort, from a luxury vacation home to a budget-friendly condo or hotel room, you’ll be minutes from sliding your way to one of 16 lifts to get after your choice of 119 designated runs.
For staying several days on a mountain, Big White has the most expansive on-mountain amenities of any Inland PNW resort we’ve visited by far. It’s basically a ski town on the mountain with a “village” that truly has a village-like vibe with a wide, bustling center lined with restaurants, cafes, pubs, hotels, condos, and services including a well-stocked grocery store and the usual lodge, ski shops, and other skier/rider amenities.
Another big part of the attraction to Big White for us is the genuine, friendly atmosphere, be it enthusiastic cross-border conversations with Spokane-loving Kelowna locals on the chairlift or with the ubiquitous and always enthusiastic Aussie resort employees who typically have no clue where we’re from but will chat us up like we’re old mates nevertheless.
Big and Diverse Terrain
When it comes to terrain, there are certainly other Pacific Northwest resorts with more extreme offerings, but what Big White uniquely delivers is a diversity of terrain with an equitable mix of expert, intermediate, and beginner runs (18% beginner, 54% intermediate, 22% expert, and 6% extreme to be exact). The abundance of runs for all ability levels will make everyone in a diverse group of family or friends happy.
Things to Do When You’re Not on the Slopes
Even the most hardcore skiers and snowboarders put the boards away at some point on a ski trip, and some beginners, kids and families may only have the capacity for a half day or so of skiing and riding. On a trip to Big White, the question isn’t what is there to do after hitting the slopes, but how to fit it all in! Here are some favorite options:
- Go ice skating at Canada’s highest ice-skating rink. Bring your own skates or rent some at the Happy Valley Lodge.
- Take a dog sled tour or horse-drawn sleigh ride.
- Go tubing at Big White’s thrilling surface-lift-accessed tubing area that includes five fast lanes.
- Enjoy the serenity of a quiet snowshoeing tour on 14k of snowy forest trails (rentals and tours are available).
- Create your own Big White pub crawl by visiting a few of the eight lounges, pubs and bars on the mountain. Many venues offer regular live music, DJs, and other entertainment, including bingo and trivia nights.
- Take your time dining out at one or more of the 23 eating and drinking establishments.
- Enjoy family-friendly events every night of the week, including Big White’s popular Carnival Night on Saturdays where the Village Centre Mall is transformed into a magical carnival.
- Shop for ski and snowboard gear, and, as of fall 2023, get around 30% off whatever you buy thanks to the currency exchange rate favoring the U.S. dollar. There are several gear shops located in the Village Center Mall.
Located a little over a 100 miles north of the border from central Washington, Big White is a 4.5-hour drive from the Spokane area on scenic, two-lane roads. Head north on Highway 395, and, if road conditions are good, take the Boulder Creek Road shortcut near the community of Orient (watch for the sign for Curlew), then on to the Midway Border Crossing (open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily). If road conditions are less favorable, continue north to the Canadian Border at Christina Lake and hop on the much-better-maintained BC-3 and navigate your way to the Big White Road turnoff.
Cover photo courtesy Big White Ski Resort