There’s a bunch of resorts around the world that punch way above their weight, and Silver Star is one of the best of them – a Canadian gem offering amazing ski in/ski out value, great snow and genuinely mixed terrain to suit your level.
Travel Editor Dave Windsor hit it as stop 2 on his #BigfatBCroadie adventure.
The village is a multi-coloured snow globe that’s come to life. Brightly painted buildings, reminiscent of a 1900’s mining town, are as pretty as a picture, especially at night with its 21st century LED light display. If Walt Disney were to design a ski resort, this’d be it. Inviting, quaint, colourful and quirky.
Rather than sitting in the valley floor, Silver Star is a true ski-in, ski-out village centred mid-mountain at 1,609m, with 306m above it and 454m below it.
It’s hard to say how big or how much skiing there’s to be had in these parts and I couldn’t quite get a feel for its size from the ticket office.
I grab a three day pass, clip in and rocket down Blast Off to the Comet Six Pack Express with local telemarker and CSIA hall of famer, Guy Paulson.
It soon becomes apparent that there’s so much more mountain than initially meets the eye.
It’s little wonder that Silver Star is the third biggest resort in BC (behind Whistler and Sun Peaks). The 105km of combined cross country trails between Silver Star and neighbour Sovereign Lakes Nordic Centre make it Canada’s largest daily groomed cross country area too.
I concentrate day one my efforts on the ‘Front Side’, lapping beautiful blues feeding into the Comet Express. They’re fast, undulating, open, yet sometimes tight. Fabulous cover and lack of people encourage speed.
Silver Woods magical gladed area is the best beginner/intermediate tree terrain I’ve ever shredded. Mind you, the untracked fresh helps. The boreal forest trees in Robin’s Hood, Sherwood Forest, Baker’s Acres, Silver Meadows and Trinity Trees are generously spaced out, with a gentle blue pitch, devoid of traffic, that feed into the Silver Woods Express. Three, four, five laps later my confidence is sky high, legs are aching, tummy’s rumbling & satisfaction level is 10 out of 10.
Evening comes early, but that doesn’t mean the fun ends. After a soak in the hot tub, and quick nanny nap, I head down to Pinheads bowling alley. It was league night, so the other three lanes where packed with locals. Ten frames, two beers and a couple of strikes later I hoe into a Big Lebowski Hot Dog, fries and more beer. This is the life. Outside on Brewers Pond a pickup ice hockey game is being played as couples do laps hand in hand, and kids race like demons past their parents on this hectare sized frozen waterhole.
Next day I hook up with legendary Silver Star Snow Sports School Director Norman Kreutz. Since ’85 he’s been skiing here and was recently inducted into the Canadian Ski Instructors Alliance (CSIA) Hall of Fame. Norman and Guy are two five resident hall of famers here. Norman takes me up and over the summit at 1,915m and introduces me to Silver Star’s ‘Back Side’, the 1,900 acre Putnam Creek area.
“In 1990 we opened the back side and it really changed the entire feel of the mountain” he explains. “The front side is really beautiful, wide open, kind of cruisy skiing, but what we lacked a little bit was that black diamond, double black diamond type of skiing. We have a little bit of it on the front side, but boy, the back side is now known throughout Canada (and elsewhere – lots of Aussies love this place, staying for weeks at a time) as some of the best skiing anywhere.”
It’s true. The front is a sprawling racetrack and forest of greens and blues, with a fair share of punchy blacks off the top and around the Attridge area. The back is a masterpiece of single & double diamond beasts that are not for the faint hearted. The appropriately named Powder Gulch Express pleasantly transport the brave through 561 vertical metres. By my count, the trip down is a choice of 27 blacks, 15 doubles, 8 blues and a long circuitous green, Aunt Gladys, to nurse those curious, yet cautious, souls that come over to merely take a look.
It was -5° and 24cm of fresh had fallen in the past 24 hours so I was frothing to get amongst it.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed and knackered by the double blacks spilling off left and right, like the monsters Gowabunga, Free Fall and Aabye Road (named after local legend Dag Aabye, 007 skiing stunt double for Roger Moore). It’s easy to fall in love with the technical descents of White Elephant, Holy Smoke and Zypper. Even the blues are frighteningly fast and fun. For mine, the best way down was through the black diamond trees skier’s right off Sunny Ridge. From Northern Lights down to Blue Moon this stash of pow laden woods was a veritable snowtopia of awesomeness, almost to the point of exhausting addiction.
With timber in my veins, for the trip back to the Village I opted to follow my nose through the delightfully wooded Deer Park.
Trees, trees and more trees, lumberjack nirvana.
Another evening, another hot tub and another adventure. This time Pedal and Pints. The pints sound appealing, the pedal sounds like work. Work it was, for two hours our fired up group of five, led by Simon and Brad, zig-zagged through 10kms of tight forest trails and cat tracks on finely tuned fat bikes. The traction was surprisingly sticky as I used a lot of back brake on the suicide single tracks and slid ‘round the corners. Although I bit the snow a couple of times, and pushed rather than rode up the hills, it was a real laugh. It took me back to BMX bandit days. The adrenalin pumped all the way to the Red Antler pub, pale ales and elk burger rewarding finish to another terrific day.
Silver Star was a revelation. For so long I’d chatted with their reps at the Snow Travel Expos and collected their stickers and brochures. To finally ski here far exceeded my expectations
I mentioned to Guy Silver Star’s ski in ski out convenience is hard to beat. “Ski-in, ski-out is one thing, but what’d you think about heli-in, heli-out?” he says, explaining regularly pick up from the resort, and take day trips to their secret stashes in the Monashee Mountains. He promises to “see what I can do” for me..
Silver Star info & links
Getting to Silver Star – Air Canada to Kelowna, 45 minuts from Silver Star www.aircanada.com
Packages www.mogulski.com.au www.travelandco.com.au www.travelplan.com.au www.mysnow.com.au www.snowcapped.com.au
Resort www.skisilverstar.com BC/Canada info www.hellobc.com www.canada.travel
Heliski / Heliboard www.kingfisherheliskiing.com