Big White Ski Resort may get slightly overshadowed by the other popular resort in British Columbia: Whistler Blackcomb. But it has so much to offer families, budget skiers and snowboarders, and people wanting to do more than just ski. Here are 10 things to know before you go to Big White.
Ski Canada magazine named Big White the Best Family Resort in 2016. With over 80 percent of the village’s accommodation offering ski in, ski out convenience, it wins points for effortlessness. The village also has many family-friendly restaurants, a lot of activities for kids, and excellent day and night daycare options so that parents can have a holiday too.
Find Big White 56 kilometers (35 miles) southeast of Kelowna, which is the biggest city in the Okanagan region. Kelowna has an international airport, and there are shuttles from the airport to take you directly to Big White. There’s also the option of car rentals, with various parking facilities on the mountain. Another option is staying in Kelowna and taking an express bus to Big White.
Although most people come to Big White to either ski or snowboard, the ski resort has so much more to offer visitors. For instance, there’s a day spa on the mountain and mobile massage service for when you need some pampering. Other activities to choose from include horse-drawn sleigh rides, dog sledding, ice climbing, ice skating, snowmobiling (kids included), tubing and fat biking.
Big White’s village, fortunately, has many restaurants, cafés, and bars for every occasion. Snowshoe Sam’s Pub was named the number one après-ski spot in North America. Moose Lounge is very family-friendly, with free hot chocolate for kids every afternoon. Meanwhile, Globe Café and Tapas Bar serves Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, and The Blarney Stone Irish Tavern is all about traditional Irish fare. There’s also a full-service grocery, deli and liquor store on the mountain.
Big White Ski Resort offers visitors two different tours direct from the village. The first option is a six-hour wine tour, which takes visitors to five wineries, which equals approximately 16 tastings. Lunch is not included, but the tour stops at either Summerhill or Quails Gate Winery. The second option is seeing a Kelowna Rockets ice hockey game, with direct transfers to the game and back to Big White. These tours are a great initiative, so take advantage.
Yes, Big White is a skiing destination and a popular one at that. But you can also visit the village and mountain in the summertime. The most popular activity is hiking the mountain’s trails, which blossom with wildflowers once the snow melts. The best hike will take you from the village to Rhonda Lake and back. Another activity to enjoy/endure in the summertime is a Mudd, Sweat and Tears event.
Big White actually has the largest night skiing area in Western Canada. The resort turns the lights on the Bullet Express and Plaza Chair, giving skiers and snowboarders access to 2,569 meters (8,429 feet) of terrain, which includes the longest vertical drop (596 meters or 1,955 feet) out of every night skiing resort in North America. Big White recommends dressing warmly as the temperature does drop once night hits. They also suggest arriving early and being wary of road conditions. The resort does offer night daycare options for parents wanting to night ski too.
There are ways to make Big White work for you and your budget. Primarily, skiing in the offseason is beneficial as the resort does discount lift passes, offers more packaged deals and hosts cheap events (like $10 Friday nights). Peak season is around Christmas and Thanksgiving, so skiing later in the season in spring does bring costs down. Thanks to its proximity to Kelowna, budget travelers may find it less expensive to stay in the town and shuttle up the mountain daily too.
Big White does get colder than its British Columbian counterpart, Whistler. So it’s imperative you pack good layers for hitting the slopes. A thick, waterproof jacket is a must, as well as zipped waterproof pants that will easily zip over your snow boots. Your first layer should definitely be a shirt made from moisture-wicking material so that you don’t get a chill when you sweat coming down the mountain. Other things to bring include goggles, a beanie/toque and wool socks.
Tipping 15 to 20 percent for every meal and drink in Big White’s village is expected and welcomed by the servers. Most people say that if you tip less than 15 percent, you were not satisfied with the service you received. A lot of the hospitality workers at Big White are seasonal and international, from Australia and Europe.