Big White Ski Resort
A ski area worth seeing
It was a wonderful day of skiing, even if I had no idea where I was or where I went.
"You should have been here yesterday," more than one person assured me.
Around the Okanagan region of British Columbia, skiers and snowboarders from other areas frequently refer to Big White Ski Resort as "Big White-Out" because it's occasionally subjected to dense, heavy fog. But there's also a trace of envy, of sparring respect, and truth in that statement. That first day, a big whiteout left me without the foggiest notion of where I was.
|With the help of a knowing guide, I spent the morning skiing
a variety of groomed runs and, even better, gliding snowy glades cushioned
with severalinches of pillowly fresh powder snow that fell a night earlier.
We zigged and weaved around trees, cutting our own first tracks. I felt
like a bug flitting and floating on water. Two summers ago, Big White
carefully thinned tightly bunched trees to create spaces for tree skiing. It was work done well..
We found other surprises. Most experienced skiers fastidiously avoid the green, or beginner, runs, but that worked to our advantage. Those shunned runs, including some that would earn intermediate ratings at other ski areas, were untouched, providing carefree fun runs on fluffy powder
That afternoon I met Steve Threndyle, a ski writing friend. We zigzagged around
more trees, mostly off the Black Forest chair. It was great fun, until we separated
somewhere in the glades between Cougar Alley and Whiskey Jack. Or was it between
Whiskey Jack and Herbert's Hollow? I'll never know. At one point we exchanged
shouts. After skiing out of the trees, I waited
along the run, at the chair lift and at the Village Center, but we never reconnected. We didn't come back in contact until several days later when, to our mutual surprise, we both boarded a Seattle-bound Horizon Airlines flight in Kelowna.
That same foggy night, after skiing until the lifts closed, I rode the gondola
to nearby Happy Valley, 1,800 feet below the Village Center. There I spent more
than an hour at the Mega Snow Coaster, where I jumped on tubes
for zippy rides down a series of nine groomed lanes. Some runs are steeper and faster than others. The speediest run has a sudden dip, which send me bounding bump-thump. Getting uphill is a cinch because tubes are hooked to a rope-tow to provide a relaxing ride. The snow coaster was pure fun.
Ater a rib eye steak dinner (with balsamic rice, broccoli smothered with cheese and a glass of Okanagan Pinot Noir) at the Kettle Valley Steakhouse, I did some serious muscle massaging at the White Crystal Inn's outdoor hot tub.
A Massage is Mandatory
Things changed overnight. That second morning the view from my room at the White Crystal Inn, one of the resort's many mountain lodgings, revealed a mountain free of fog with sweeping views of ski runs and tony homes. Big White is Canada's largest totally ski-in ski-out resort with more than 14,000 beds, including four hotels, 25 condo-town home complexes, 24 vacation homes and luxury cabins, two youth hostels, 17 restaurants-bars-delis, eight bars and lounges.
Less than an hour after peeking out my window I was at the front of the line when the Ridge Rock Express chair lift opened at 8:30. This past summer the resort has added another $110-plus million in improvements, including two new chair lifts, a state-of-the-art ski and snowboard terrain park and new on-mountain day lodge.
Moving Up in the World
Right on the Ridge
But this day I didn't know about that, or even care. Instead, on the ride up
I gasped at the panoramic views, seeing sights unseen a day earlier. I gazed
at the line of chair lifts that transport skiers and boarders to heavenly views
and, at the top Ridge Rock, looked into a massive backcountry bowl that had
been shrouded a day earlier. There's a reason why Big White earned
honors from Ski Canada magazine for its best variety of terrain award.
Big White is a huge mountain, with lifts that access massive bowls, tree-freckled
glades and, above tree-line, wide open steeps. I spent the long morning bedazzled
by sights. Instead of skiing by braille, I hungrily revisited runs I'd tested
a day earlier and explored new areas, including off-piste routes that drop down
elevator-like slopes into narrow valleys. It was exciting and exhilarating.
Big White is truly big, with 2,500 feet of vertical and nearly 2,800 acres of
skiable terrain. Ski Canada magazine
honored Big White with its "best grooming in the West" award and, despite its occasional white-outs, the resort also received the magazine's "best weather" honors. Actually, that freezing fog has its advantages, it transforms hilltop trees into beautiful "snow ghosts." As I learned, Big White Ski Resort is truly worth seeing.
Vance Creek Hotel
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Big White Resort is 45 minutes from Kelowna in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley. It is Canada's largest ski-in-ski-out resort and the winner of numerous award, including North America's Family Resort of the Year, best terrain variety, best grooming and best natural snow. Investors have financed $140 million in improvements. The wide list of offerings including the tube park, several restaurants and shops, ski-snowboard rentals and instruction, dog sledding, snowmobile tours, heli-flightseeing and outdoor ice skating. For information visit the Big White Web site at www.bigwhite.com or call toll-free (800) 663-2772.
Lee Juillerat is the regional editor of the Herald and News in Klamath Falls,
Oregon. He has written travel and adventure stories about national and international
destinations for High On Adventure for eight years. Lee has had more than 100
stories and photographs in a variety of magazines, including Alaska/Horizon
airlines in-flight publications, Northwest Travel,
Oregon Coast, Sunset, Range and Oregon Outside, among others. He has also written two books about Crater Lake National Park and contributed writings and photographs to several books and journals. He can be contacted at