A high pressure system was moving into the Pacific Northwest, essentially putting an end to our power-chasing week. So we decided to look for the best deal we could find between Revelstoke and the USA border, as snow conditions were good enough everywhere to hang out for 3 days in the sun. The bargain gods dictated we ended up at Big White, so here’s our trip report …
Trip report format from Snowheads
Date: 1st-4th Feb 2012
Our mob: Jan, the Walrus and me
Website : http://www.bigwhite.com/
Basics : In BC’s Okanagan Valley, 45 minutes from Kelowna, Big White is a highly developed, good-sized ski hill. The village is a bit sprawly, but we always find it a pleasant place to be. And there’s some darn decent skiing to be had.
The skiing: Big White’s skiing is more Flintstones than South Park, more Twilight than True Blood. The rounded peaks, tree-lined gullies and gentle creek lines make for extensive, cruisy riding, with an abundance of terrain choices. The Ridge Rocket area groomers are a delight to warm up on before moving to the trees off the Powder Chair, the steeps off the Cliff Chair, or the timid groomers and fun bumps off the Bullet Chair. Snow and weather permitting, the terrain served by the Gem Lake Chair is where I spend most of my time. Pick off the runs left-to-right (or for conservatives, right-to-left), poke around in the trees on the edge of the tree-cut lines, and your legs will be trashed well before the lift schedule drives you back towards the village.
The local’s rule-of-thumb for snow conditions seems to be roughly along the lines of – 1m base is open (just), 1.5m base makes venturing off groomed possible, and 1.8m+ base means all round exploration is the order of the day. We arrived after a 20cm storm and with a base of 1.85m, so our odds were good. Thursday was a sublime day, cold, sunny and powdery boot-deep remnants available to be mined all day long by the mid-week ‘crowds’ (ie deserted) . The weather stayed cold and clear for the next two days, the snow held up like the New York Giant’s defense, and we shredded the mountain with the vigor of Buffy at a vampire party. 3 great days indeed.
Off-piste : The runs off the Cliff chair are genuinely steep, albeit short. They were in fabulous conditions while we were there. Many laps required. Options exist elsewhere for ducking into trees and between runs, and exploration usually brings rewards. Rip Sun Ripe Bowl and mine the almost constant wind-blown pow piles, and then carve rolling groomers or long bump runs all the way to the base of Gem Lake. If you’re not having fun by then, check your pulse.
The resort: Dominated by some older and many new condos, and a couple of hotels, Big White is a genuinely pleasant place to be. Nearly all the accommodations are slope-side or very close. The main village is small but has a respectable number of restaurants and bars, and a decent little supermarket. Snowshoe Sam’s is the main apres/drinking hole, attracting a mixed ‘ski bum meets resort worker meets moderately affluent vacationers’ crowd. They often have live bands, and a good selection of local micro brews always makes me happy 😉
Food : On hill is pretty basic. The lodges at the base of Ridge Rocket and Gem Lake serve decent soups, sandwiches, and even an Aussie-style meat pie or two – my indulgence! As you can ski through the village, other lunch time options exist in the village restaurants. We only sample them at night, and while there’s nothing that will shiver your culinary timbers, there’s tasty food that won’t empty your wallet either. Fight your way past the caniform guard at the Swiss Bear, and hearty lamb shanks, pork chops and stews reward your bravery. The food at Sante’s is as reliable as Manchester United’s annual Premiership challenge, and housed in a much more pleasant environment that a Salford football stadium. And if you’re just drinking, Snowshoe Sam’s has pub food that would well impress the average Salford resident.
Hotel: We started looking Monday evening for somewhere to stay on the hill (for a Wednesday arrival), using Owner Direct. There were many last-minute bargains, but we settled on a 2 bed/bath slope-side condo in Winter Ridge, for the exorbitant (not!) fee of C$495 for 3 nights, This was a complete bargain. A really nice condo, great kitchen, spacious and comfortable living area, views over the ski runs, and as ski in-out as it gets, Last minute bargains are fine things 😉
Costs: Apart from our bargain condo, we got 25% off lift tickets with our Mission Ridge season pass, making it $C150 for 3 days skiing. All other costs are respectable. It’s not a high-end joint.
Conclusion: When the snow base is deep, which is most of the time, it’s hard not to have fun at Big White. Especially when the sun shines.
10.500m, 11,000m, 10,300m vert
Season Totals: 34 days, 274,80m vert, 14 powder days