Continuing my series on ski resorts in BC this week I am profiling the Big White Ski Resort.
Being relatively unknown, this resort tends to lack the crowds that can hinder a day’s riding. Big White not only has the crowd control problem under control, it also hits the mark in terms of quality trails and backcountry terrain.
Couple that with great parks & pipes and something for the beginner rider and Big White presents itself as a great all rounder of a ski resort.
Big White’s Mountain Stats
It’s not called BIG White for no reason. With a resort area of 7,355 acres (2,765 acres patrolled, 905 acres groomed), it certainly fits in the big category. The terrain is accessed by 16 lifts (11 chairs).
|Big White Mountain Stats
|Resort Elevation: 2319m (7,606ft)
|Vertical Drop: 777m (2550ft)
|Ride-able area: 2,765 acres
|No. of Lifts: 16 (11 chairs)
|No. of trails: 118
|21 (18%) Beginner (Green)
|64 (54%) Intermediate (Blue)
|26 (22%) Advanced (Black Diamond)
|7 (6%) Expert (Dbl Black Diamond)
|No. of parks: 2 + pipe & boarderx
|Night Riding: Yes – 38 acres!
With plenty of trails for everyone from beginner to advanced the on piste spectrum is sure to keep everyone happy here.
Add to that a massive backcountry area, plenty of trees, natural jumps and crowd free slopes and this sounds like a mountain that free-riders will pretty quickly become obsessed with.
Big White is equipped with Western Canada’s largest night riding area – 38 acres. 2 lifts are open during night riding which is open Tuesday to Saturday during the season. The Terrain parks are also lit up from Thursday to Saturday.
Night lift passes are available for a really reasonable price and gets you access from 3:30pm to 8pm. Day passes may not be the cheapest in the world but those night passes are great value for the largest night-riding area in Western Canada and the largest night time vertical drop in North America!
The Terrain Parks
Big White also has 3 Terrain Parks – though it only has one name it is technically three parks side by side by side.
The first park (or first lane of the park) has the large to x-large jumps and features for the more expert park riders amongst us. The 2nd lane has medium to large jumps and features and the third lane has small to medium jumps and features for the beginner park rider.
The resort also has a boarder-cross course and a half pipe.
Usual opening date
Big White usually opens around late November to early December.
Past 6 years opening dates:
2010/2011 Season: November 25, 2010
2011/2012 Season: December 1, 2011
2012/2013 Season: November 29, 2012
2013/2014 Season: November 16, 2013
2014/2015 Season: November 29, 2014
2015/2016 Season: November 13, 2015
Usual closing date
Big White usually closes around mid April.
Past 5 years closing dates:
2010/2011 Season: April 11, 2011
2011/2012 Season: April 15, 2012
2012/2013 Season: April 15, 2013
2013/2014 Season: April 13, 2014
2014/2015 Season: April 11, 2015
Opening hours are from 8:45am to 8:00pm for those lifts that are open for night-riding. The other lifts close 3:30pm or 4pm.
How to Get There
The closest town to Big White is Kelowna (56km).
Driving: According to the google map directions it will take around an hour to drive from Kelowna. It was about 1hr 15 minutes for us but we were staying in West Kelowna which is a bit further away. It can apparently take as little as 40 minutes if you’re on the East side of Kelowna.
It’s pretty easy to find with just one major turn-off. Basically drive down Highway 97 until you get to highway 33. Take a right on Highway 33 and continue until you hit Big White Road. Take a left onto Big White Road and continue for 24km and your there. Easy!
Getting to Kelowna: From Vancouver it’s about a 4 hour drive to Kelowna according to Google Maps. From there another hour to Big White so if you’re travelling from Vancouver you’ll definitely need accommodation – no day trips here!
It took us around 4.5 hours and we only made one stop in Hope. So allow for up to 5 hours in the Winter.
You can also fly. It takes around 50mins to 1 hour to fly from Vancouver. You can also fly directly from various other locations around Canada and the US.
By Bus: Big White operates express buses from Kelowna, Mission, Glenmore & Winfield on the Weekends. They run on weekdays too in Holiday periods.
You can also get buses from Vancouver or Seattle and packages that include lift tickets.
Where to Stay
Checkout the link below to learn more about Big White’s accommodation.
My Big White Experience
The Big White ski resort lives up to its name. It’s both Big and White.
With on mountain accommodation capacity of 17,000 and a lift capacity of 21,000 people per hour this is one of the larger resorts going around in BC. Whilst the acreage of terrain isn’t the largest in BC it’s still plenty big and there is a decent vertical drop.
And White? Well at least when I was up there it was crazy white. They’d already had 2.3 metres (91 inches) by boxing day! Whilst this is more than normal, the snowfall here is pretty consistent. Even in the 2014/15 season where snow was scarce on the west coast in North America, Big White still had plenty of the white stuff.
Big. White. Charming
Despite its size Big White manages to retain its charm. I was very surprised to learn that Big White is still family owned – and it shows in its lack of that cold corporation feel.
The village is beautiful and there’s a really friendly feel.
And that friendly feel is also very family friendly. They advertise themselves as Canada’s Favourite Family Resort. Now whilst I certainly haven’t been to every resort in Canada it certainly did live up to that billing.
As we arrived in the Happy Valley car park there were a number of kids setting up a game of hockey on the ice skating pond (which is free by the way – you just have to hire your skates if you don’t have your own).
And the skating pond is just one of the many activities to keep the kids occupied (if they’re not riding or skiing with you).
I was in Kelowna with my parents, girlfriend and my 6 week old baby when I visited Big White and they all came along for the day. Now whilst my baby was too young for anything yet, the many cafés and restaurants on offer were very accommodating for kids.
And my Father really enjoyed the snow shoeing on offer.
And outside of that there’s also dog sledding, taboganning, sleigh riding, and many other ways to keep entertained.
But enough about that, let’s talk about the riding on offer.
From the happy valley car park I made my way up the gondola to the main village. There I met with the snow host that I had organized. Now, you might think I had arranged this specially or that this cost me an arm and a leg?
No way – this is a free service and available to everyone! – more on that below……
From the limited time I had to explore the terrain my host showed me the eastern side of the mountain. And I wasn’t disappointed. The day was low visibility higher up but the snow was amazing and we went through some sweet terrain – and it cleared up as we got lower and between the trees.
Out east, accessed by the Black Forest Express and Bullet Express lifts, there are some great tree runs, moguls and steeps as well as some gentler, wide open runs.
And those runs are surprisingly unpopulated. I was there on Boxing Day, which was also a Saturday – and the village was buzzing with people, it was a busy day.
But the slopes were far from crowded. At one point we hit a small queue at one of the lifts (about a 10 minute wait) but this is apparently more than normal – and every other lift we hit we either rode straight on or only had a couple of groups in front. And this was one of the busiest days of the year!
The Best Kept Secret
Big White offers free snow hosts. These guys and girls are volunteers but are full of awesome info and can take you around and show you where to go to find some great terrain to suit your preferences.
The hosting starts at 10:30am every morning and generally speaking you are split into groups based on your ability level. I was lucky enough to have my own host but typically they would get a few each day.
This isn’t an advertised service but it’s an awesome one. It’s especially good if you are up there by yourself.
All the staff I dealt with were super-friendly which made for a very welcoming environment.
Overall I had a great experience at Big White – in terms of the services, the village, the staff and the terrain. I look forward to getting back there to explore this awesome mountain further!
What’s Your Verdict on Big White’s Snowboarding?
Sounds like a sweet mountain to me? What do you think? Leave a comment below and let us know your experience of the Big White resort if you’ve had the pleasure to explore it.