Big White Ski Resort
The highest (and second largest) resort in British Columbia is known to local's as the 'Friendly Giant'. 55km from the regional airport in the town of Kelowna, this is the largest resort in the interior of British Columbia, with full-service facilities on site.
It has become renowned as a very good family resort along with its sister resort Silver Star..... (both owned by the Schumann family,.... expat Aussies with a history with Mt Hotham). An intermediate skiers paradise & very well catered for beginners with a green run from the top of every chairlift which allows beginner skiers a safe passage down the hill while the better skiers have plenty of other options.
Big White has a total of 118 "designated" trails and 27 unnamed trails. 18% of these trails are beginner, 56% intermediate and the remaining 26% are classed as expert. The wooded areas between trails are all open, and can offer a variety of ungroomed snow and widely varied terrain.
Big White currently has one 8-passenger high speed gondola, one 6-passenger high speed chair (new for the 06/07 season), four 4-passenger high speed chairs, one 4-passenger "beginner chair", one 3-passenger chair, three 2-passenger chairs (including the telus park chairlift), one T-bar, one children’s and one adult's magic carpet. There are also two tubing lifts. These lifts are capable of transporting 28,000 people per hour uphill.
- 1 Location
- 2 Pros
- 3 Cons
- 4 Contacts
- 5 Planning
- 6 Resort Facilities
- 7 Ride Guide
- 8 Other
- 9 Resources
LocationBig White is located 55 km from Kelowna in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. Nearest International/Domestic Airport: Kelowna - 61 kilometers, Vancouver - 393 kilometers.
- Car hire options
- Ski/Board Shops
- Ski in Ski out
- Mega Snow Coaster
- BC's highest outdoor skating rink
- Big mountain.
- Snow that's as light as duck down.
- Well laid out (no long traverses).
- Plenty of fresh in the trees (we were skiing fresh stuff 5 days after it snowed last)
- Almost empty runs during the week
- A good family oriented resort
- One of the best bootfitters in the country
- One of the best kids programs in North America
- Earlybird Family season passes are exceptional value for money
- Evening entertainment for children is first class
- One of the few places in the world that has "SnowGhosts"
- Expensive Supermarkets, but certainly not even in the same league as "on mountain" shops in Australia.
- Not a lot of steep terrain, but enough to challenge all but the "hero" skier.
- Needs more than 150cm of snow to really get going, it used to be worse but summer grooming has improved things.
- Its nickname is Big Whiteout, as it has the reputation of attracting cloud.... but this depends on the time of year.
- Seems to need more snow to get up and running than other interior resorts.
- Does most things adequately, but nothing exceptionally well.
General Enquiries Phone: (250) 765-3101 Fax: (250) 491-6122 Email: email@example.com
Address: 5315 Big White Road Kelowna, BC Canada V1P 1P3
Kelowna Office Address: 1894 Ambrosi Road Kelowna, BC Canada V1Y 4R9 Phone: (250) 491-6262 Fax: (250) 491-6158
Central Reservations and Bookings Toll Free: 1-800-663-2772 Phone: (250) 765-8888 Fax: (250) 491-6164 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 5315 Big White Road Kelowna, BC Canada V1P 1P3
We flew in to Vancouver from Sydney with Air Canada and then used AirBC to get to Kelowna. We used the shuttle service (v. good service) from the airport but you can also hire a car through Budget (they have mountain pickup/dropoff.)
Popular options include flying in from Vancouver with numerous carriers including WestJet and Air Canada. Harmony Airways fly in weekly from Honolulu, which may be an option if travellers wish to break the holiday apart.
Kelowna Airport is approximately 15 minutes from downtown Kelowna, and around 60 minutes (depending on road conditions) to Big White. Big White itself is around 45-50 minutes from Kelowna.
Various operators run shuttles to/from the Airport, but the shuttle organised by Big White Central Reservations is highly recommended for frequency and ease. Even if accomodation is not arranged through the mountain, all travellers can call Central Reservations to book a place on the shuttle.
Okanagan Limousines are another option for getting up the hill. Good service & they run a couple of stretch Cadillacs & a stretch van that is fully decked out inside. Not a great difference in price from the shuttle & the bonus is that a booking with these guys means that you leave for the hill immediately. The Big White shuttle sometimes has to wait for others to arrive for the trip up which can lead to some frustrating delays.
Most taxi's will shuttle people up the hill if asked nicely..... it won't be cheap though !
Drivers up the hill should be aware that heavy traffic, including logging trucks, frequent the main highway up towards the ski resort. It's recommended that drivers stop at one of the service stations on Highway 33 and ask the attendant for updates if the weather is inclement. Once on Big White Road (off Hwy 33), first time drivers are highly recommended to take their time, as wind blowing water off streams near the base of the road can result in black ice.
Kelowna International Airport is serviced by many of the top Canadian airlines — Air Canada, Jazz, WestJet, Horizon Air (Alaska Airlines) and Regional 1 Airlines. These airlines are partnered with many international carriers and fly non-stop to Kelowna daily from Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Kamloops, Calgary, Edmonton, Lethbridge, Red Deer and Seattle. Airport hosts can be found in the arrivals lounge and are identifiable by their yellow vests. Daily frequent and efficient shuttle service is available between the resort and the airport. Big White and Silver Star are now the closest Western Canadian resorts to Toronto. WestJet offers 6 non-stop flights per week, as well as daily direct flights from Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver! Air Canada has just announced that effective October 29, 2006, all Air Canada and Air Canada Jazz flights in and out of Kelowna will convert to jet service (this has not been completely implemented as of Jan 2008 though ) which will eliminate any bag problems and cut flight times from Calgary and Vancouver down to 40 minutes! You could be skiing within an hour and a half of arrival!
Big White has a range of accommodation, almost all of which is ski in/out.
Stonebridge Lodge : One of the more upmarket accomodation choices. The self contained apartments are all well equiped and are of a good size. The real positive is the position, being absolutely ski ski out and only 2 or 3 minutes walk from all the main areas of the central resort. It is not the cheapest option but the 2 bedroom with den apartments can easily hold up to 7 in extreme comfort. Most units have good views and have outdoor spas. The complex has a gym and indoor/outdoor pool.
Sundance : Another well appointed accommodation option and particularly well suited to families. The complex has lots of activities for the kids and parents, a small cinema shows nightly movies, a games room with play station, air hockey, toys etc, a pool table in the sitting room, heated swimming pool with slide, hot tubs and gym. It is a ski in ski out facility located very close to the Bullet and Black Forest quad chairs. The main village centre is a fairly level 5 minute walk. Not as well positioned as Stonebridge but the in house facilities are better.
Trailside/Trailside Heights : Situated at a point farthest away from the Gondola in the lower village. You can comfortably ski in, but you are a 5 minute easy walk to a point where you can ski to the Gondola to ultimately access the main lifts. Mid range accomodation that is quite well appointed..... Typically, a 3 level townhouse style with mostly 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, full kitchen, laundry & some with hot tubs. All units have ski lockers & will have either a carport or single garage. Easy access to the on mountain shuttle.
Timbers : Virtually perfect location for the lower village. True ski in/ski out with Instant access to the Gondola & Happy Valley Day Lodge. High end accomodation, very high quality fittings & all the mod cons you can think of. All units have private balconies & 10 person hot tubs. The building has a well appointed games room for the kids & a full Gymnasium. Secure enrty via combination keypads to the building, rooms, ski locker room & underground parking. Range is from 2 bed apartments right through to the top floor penthouses with 4 bedrooms & separate nanny accomodation with private entrance.
South Point : Right next door to Timbers & offering the same high end standards. The complex does have a games room or gymnasium. Range of units from 2 br through to 4 br, most with private hot tubs, all with secure undercover parking.
Spyglass : On the opposite side of Timbers to South Point and again,.... high quality accomodation equal of any on mountain. Forms the "trio" of the best located units in the lower village.
Whitefoot Lodge : Centrally located in the village, this is by far the best position for overall access to everything. The downside is that the units there are very dated & somewhat basic. They are at the lower end of the expense scale though & therefore provide good value for money. There are communal hot tubs & a plunge pool in the building and undercover parking. Units range from "suite" style motel rooms through to 2 bedroom apartments with full kitchens, some with private balconies.
White Crystal Inn : Located right next to the top station of the Gondola in the village centre, offering mid range accomodation. Very few rooms have any kitchen facilities, but are quite well appointed in all other aspects. Downside can be with the bar in the building as it can get quite rowdy at night & noise travels all through the complex. The restaraunt in the building is quite good & will be covered in the dining section.
Many more accom reviews coming.
Off mountain accomodation is not recommended as the entire village of Big White is on the hill itself, which is approximately a 45-50 minute drive from the town of Kelowna. Visitors to Kelowna can visit the Tourism Kelowna Information Centre Website for more information.
2007-2008 Ski Season Lift Ticket Prices
1 Day Adult (Age 19-64): $68 Additional Days: $60 SAVE $8 per day! 1 Day Senior/Youth (Age 13-18, Age 65+): $56 Additional Days: $49 SAVE $7 per day 1 Day Child (Age 6-12): $33 Additional Days: $26 SAVE $7 per day 1 Day Toddler (Age 5-): FREE Additional Days: FREE
- THESE PRICES DO NOT INCLUDE GST
- ALL RATES ARE IN CANADIAN DOLLARS
- MULTI-DAY LIFT TICKETS FOR MORE THAN 5 DAYS ALLOW FOR ONE (1) DAY OFF
- ALL MULTI-DAY LIFT TICKETS LESS THAN 5 DAYS MUST BE USED CONSECUTIVELY
- YOU MAY NOT EXTEND MULTI-DAY PASSES AFTER THE ORIGINAL PURCHASE TIME
The group lessons suffer from lack of continuity of instructors, one day you can be busting through powder filled gullies and the next you are back doing linked turns down green runs.
The best way to avoid this is to consider private lessons. They are more expensive than group lessons but are worth every cent. We had a private instructor for our children for "morning" sessions for 4 days on each of our trips & we kept the same instructor for each trip..... The kids improved enormously from this. We also had a separate instructor for my wife & I as well and along with the "guided tour" of his "secret stashes" , our skiing also showed vast improvement.
Big White Ski School is one of the most child friendly ski schools in Canada. The base is in the centre of the village, and can be accessed easily by adults to drop and collect children. There is a large, purpose designed, facility that works extremely well.
The over 50's lessons are great value, (especially for a snowboarded I had a group of 1) 4 lessns for $140 (every Monday), or $41 for a single lesson, with a 3 course lunch included each day. Ldies have asimilar deal each Thursday.
Skiiers will be pleased with the wide range of skis available for hire, from beginner skis a wide variety of carve, freestyle and powder skis for enthusiasts.
Snowboarders are only offered a generic type of board, with "flip-up" style Flow bindings which are not recommended for advanced riders. Competent riders are advised to bring their own equipment or arrange hire in town.
The village can be seen as divided into two separate entities, although future construction between these two sites will blur this distinction. Both the main village and the "lower" area, known as Happy Valley, is serviced by the aforementioned shuttle and a gondola.
Most parking is available in the Happy Valley Parking Lot, with long term parking available in the same location. Smaller parking lots are found at the base of the Gem Lake Express chair, and the Black Forest Express chair. Many of the accommodations also provide parking spots for residents as well as stores having a limited amount of parking spots.
The on mountain photo company Quik Pics set themselves up all over the mountain to take your picture. Through the gates on a small race course (4 gates), over a small jump, group shots or whatever you like - they take multiple pictures per run/jump. At the end of the day you go to their office in the centre of the village and find your pictures and they put them in a folder for you for the duration of your stay. Each day you can have more photos taken and add them to your collection. Then, at the end of your stay they burn you a CD with ALL the pictures (plus some nice scenic shots they have) for $80 Can (as at Jan 2007) With four of us and only finding out about this the day before we left we still managed to get 200+ pictures and there will usually be some good ones in that many shots.
There is a large skating rink at the bottom of the Gondola.
Big White has a six lane tube park. The lanes are straight, with no banked turns. Some are steeper than others.
Dog sled tours, from a couple of hours to all day are available.
The kids can also go nuts on the mini snowmobiles down at Happy Valley on a dedicated circuit.
Back country snowmobile tours are also available for 2 hr, 4 hr & full day trips.
We did a trip down to the ice hockey this year. Great fun !!,.... all organised by the Activities desk, we just caught the coach down to Kelowna to see the local CHL "Rockets" play at Prospera Place. Amazingly fast game to watch live & we even got to see the mandatory fight!. Booking this in advance is recommended as the local crowd is very parochial & the place was packed to the rafers when we went..... great atmosphere !
There are quite a few nice places to eat and most have a great price range on the menu, so you can have that gourmet dinner you have been dreaming of, or just grab a hotdog. Our first choice was The White Crystal Inn in the sports bar.
There were plenty places to eat (while skiing) on the mountain with the Village mall offering a coffee shop, lolly shop and bakery.The bakery has great aussie style pies, and the chicken pies are nice and peppery! There was also the Ridge daylodge (bottom of Ridge Rocket) which was also good on the run along with the Westridge Warming Hut (bottom of Gem Lake). Last but not least is the Happy Valley Lodge (bottom of Happy Valley Gondola). This place was the home of Starbucks.
For eating out at night we ate at Snowshoe Sams, this seemed to be one of the cheaper places. The food was good and there was plenty of it! And you MUST have a Gun-barrel coffee!!!Dining at Kettle Valley Steakhouse (see thumbnail pic) (in the Happy Valley Daylodge) is superb. Great food and an enormous selection of fine local wines.
"The Underground" is a pizzeria located in the bakery in the VCM. Best Pizza we've ever had & they deliver anywhere on mountain.
Lunch on mountain is best down at Happy Valley. There is limited seating in the VCM & it gets crowded very quickly. The Cafeteria style servery at HV is very efficient & there is an ample supply of tables to sit at. If you want something "a little stronger" to drink with your lunch, the bar at HV is just a few steps away.
The Lolly shop has relocated to the downstairs shopfront of the Trappers Crossing building (just behind Snow Shoe Sams) & has an amazing range of sweets and treats.
This year (07/08) saw Carvers (at the Inn at Big White) with new owners. The menu was changed to an Indian base with great results. Fantastic food & the family that now run the show are very friendly. We ate there several times and met up with friends from on mountain a couple of times too. Finishing off the night with "fairy dust" cocktails at the bar in the restaraunt is highly recommended.
We were quite disappointed with the restaraunt at SnowShoe Sams this year. They did some things exceptionally well & others very poorly..... & they are now quite expensive compared with other places on the hill. ..... The Gun Barrel Coffee is still an absolute must though!
Papa Roasters is new for 07/08 too..... They have taken over from Franks Chinese Laundry. Good ribs, a hint of mediteranean tendancies & reasonable value. Not a "stand out" by any means, but worth the effort.
Bars & Entertainment
Snowshoe sams and Rackels seem to be the go. Snowshoes has all you can eat pasta on Mondays!
The bar at White Crystal is a popular choice too. Vincent (the owner) is quite a single malt fan & as such stocks a comprehensive range of top shelf malts.
The bar at Happy Valley Day Lodge is also very well attended. As well as being adjacent to the area where a lot of the family entertainment is held, John Boss belts out a good range of songs for the crowd 2 to 3 nights a week. The cafeteria being nice & close is handy for snacks during the evening.
Few shops, mainly souvenirs, but Ski Dazzle in the Village mall had it all. You could pick up all the items you left at home (including skis, boots, etc) The board shop also in the same location had everything a boarder could need. The bootfitter at Ski Dazzle is very good !
There are the "usual suspects" you'll find a virtually every ski resort.
Ski Dazzle is in the main level of the Village Centre mall & stocks a wide range of "everything you forgot", plus a range of souvineer clothing to suit everyone.
The board shop is located on the lower level of the same complex (near the Bakery) & offers all things dedicated to the boarder.
There is a souvineer shop opposite the board shop as well.
The bootfitters & ski shop is now in Michael J's old house just across from the Village Centre Mall (VCM). The bootfitters here are just fantastic & go to great lengths to ensure your new boots are as comfortable as possible. They are always willing to make continual adjustments & will adjust you old boots as well.... all part of the service.
The "Market at Big White" is where you'll pick up all your grocery needs. Reasonably well stocked with all the essential items, it also has a good deli & a decent sized freezer section. Daily fresh bread from the on mountain bakery is available here too. The Market also stocks a good range of beers, wines & spirits. As you'd expect from "on mountain" services, the prices are a touch expensive when compared to shopping down in Kelowna.
Big White has a General Practice and Sports Medicine Clinic at the Whitefoot Lodge. Prescriptions, braces and casting material are available on-site. Open 3:00pm - 6:00pm weekdays and available on weekends and after hours for emergencies. Service is covered if you have any provincial care card. Quebec residents must pay in advance and may submit for reimbursement later. Transportation also available for emergency transport to the the Kelowna General Hospital.
Degree of Difficulty
Big White gets a bit overexcited with its gradings. Mostly great cruising apart from the Cliff.
For people just learning how to ski or snowboard, there is also a magic carpet in Happy Valley.
Every chair provides access to groomed runs. Most of the groomed areas will be found coming off of the Ridge Rocket/Snow Ghost chairs. There is an average of 50 groomed runs per day.
Out of Bounds
There are several cross country trails of varying length and difficulty. Skiing through the pines on powder snow is a very different experience to XC in Australia.
Big White built a park for the 2004/2005 season named the Telus Park. The park has many features from small to extra large including two pipes, an Olympic standard snowcross, and various sized jumps, rails and boxes.
During bad conditions (dubbed "Big Whiteout"), the best terrain to visit is in the Black Forest area, which usually provides good visibility. This terrain is only accessible through driving, or traversing over through the bottom of the Telus Park.
Colder than the coast, warmer than the rockies. Temps from -4 to -13 during the day (add wind chill to that if it is windy). Has a propensity for cloud and flat light (as the mountain is stuck out on it's own - a bit like Buller). You don't get as many "big dumps", just regular 20-30cm snowfalls (which build up - so the locals say) and even more 5-10 cm dumps.
Big White opened in 1963 with two T-bars.
The Ridge Chair (double) opened in the early 70's. The Powder Chair (triple), The Easter Chair (triple), and the Village Chair (triple) opened thereafter. In the mid 80's the Easter Chair was moved to replace the bunny hill t-bar and was renamed the Village chair; the Village Chair became the Summit Chair. The Ridge Rocket Express (quad) replaced the double chair in 1989 and the Bullet Express replaced the Summit and Village chairs in 1991. The Alpine T-Bar was moved to its present location and extended around this time as well. The Falcon Chair, which was in fact the old Ridge Chair, opened up the west side of the hill in the mid-1990's. The Gem Lake Express (quad), which doubled the skiable era, opened around 2000. The Snow Ghost Express (six person), which is adjacent to the Ridge Rocket, ended annoyingly long lineups when in opened in 2006.
Replacement of the Powder Chair and the Alpine T-Bar are likely to come soon..... Plus much talked about access to the other side of the hill from the Falcon chair in the medium/long term future.
On Jan 6, 2008, Leigh Barnier, an Australian skier, was killed by an avalanche while skiing on an open, in bounds run on Parachute bowl in the Cliff area. Barnier was an employee at the time.