It’s little wonder that Big White is so popular with Aussies. My wife and I had been lucky enough to ski Big White in 2004, and it has a soft spot in my heart. It was my first experience of tree skiing, dog sledding and North American powder. – by Dave Windsor
Nothing much has changed, Big White continues to deliver the goods, though the village seemed bigger and there is certainly more accommodation on the mountain. However, like elsewhere in interior BC, you don’t feel the crowds. The fact it’s so huge here clearly helps.
With 15 lifts, including a six and quad running parallel from the Ridge Day Lodge, its lift capacity of 28,000 skiers per hour means I spend more time on snow and no time in queues.
I hook up with Bill Star and his group of 10 at the tail end of their Master’s Week. Big White’s famous for being family friendly, but they also cater for more seasoned veterans (50+ or thereabouts), with a week long program of lessons, lunch, beers and camaraderie.
“It’s such a terrific week,” says Terry from Prince George, BC, “I’m an instructor, and I’m very impressed with how it’s run, and overly impressed with Bill.”
“Big White have developed the STARS teaching philosophy,” explains Bill, “that’s the Student Centred, Tactical & Technical, Active, Result Oriented, and Simple approach.”
Aussies on the program are loving it.
“With our Perisher season pass we could have skied free at any of the other resorts that Vail own” says Alison Willis from Jindabyne, “but we come here because we’ve done this Masters Week and Masters Monday for years, and we’ve met heaps of really nice people, both Canadian and Australian, and we’ve now got friends here, so for us it’s more important to go to a resort where we can ski with friends.”
“There’s lots of challenging skiing here” husband Arthur adds, “you can find any level that you want. We’ve been in bumps and steeps, we’ve skied in the trees and fresh powder snow, you’re not going to get much better than this.”
Adult fun continues into the evening at the annual ‘Big Whites’ wine night. Thirty one producers from across BC tempt me with Sav Blanc, Chardy, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Grigio. They didn’t have to twist my arm. It’s a follow up event to the two night Big Reds, held at the start of the season. If you’re planning a trip either makes for a tasty add on.
For dinner, we head down to the Kettle Valley Steakhouse. A cleansing Los Muertos Cerveza Negra from Bad Tattoo brewery gets us in the mood for a feast with a shared platter of house cured meats, artisan crafted cheeses, wagyu carpaccio; followed by a medium rare 28 day dry aged New York striploin and bottle of 2013 Hester Creek ‘The Judge’ Cab Franc, Cab Sav, Merlot. And for the brave, hungry and slightly mad, their signature dish is the 50 ounce (1.4 kg) ‘Tomahawk’, with a side of fat chips of course.
More snow overnight (again) has me up at sparrows eager to hit it. I ski out the back door of the delightful Sundance Lodge down to the Bullet Express quad – no queues of course – and hook up with from Big White and Dougal Wood from Snowcapped, Australia. The three of us are excited by the momentary lack of vis caused by the falling snow, and the occasional break in the sky revealing the blue heavens above.
Rob re-acquaints me with the memorable trees. A decade ago I was struggling in them and all I could focus on was not hitting them. This time round I was astounded by their depth and breadth. Following Rob pop in and out of the Black Forest trees as he traversed the mountain was both an eye opener and leg burner. We’d leave a run, scoot through the trees, arrive at an adjacent run, scoot through more trees, hit another run, trees/piste, trees/piste, and on and on. Same could be said mid-mountain in the Enchanted Forest, Powder Glades and Paradise Glades. Interior BC tree skiing is simply outstanding.
Heading up the Snow Ghost Express six-pack our ears prick up at the sound of avi-bombs exploding.
“Let’s head over to The Cliff” Rob sagely suggests.
So up the Alpine T-Bar we go, for a little shuffle to the 2,319m summit. The Cliff Chair was turning for the first time in a couple of days, so the accumulation promised to be plentiful. As good fortune would have it we bump into Kris ‘Juice’ Hawryluik, BWs head ski patroller, just as he’s assessing Parachute Bowl and decides to drop the rope.
“We’ll just pop down here and meet over there” instructs Juice. Rob smiles broadly, “Follow the leader boys!”
We drop off a ledge and traverse a hundred metres or so and perch ourselves on a 45° incline. I get why it’s called Parachute Bowl, too bad I don’t have one! I convince myself to drop in. Turn one is a fright, two’s a relief, three, four, five and six are pure pleasure. Finding my rhythm in the knee to thigh deep freshies make the skiing a breeze. We head up again and head left off the chair and ride Pegasus for more steep and deep just as the sun breaks through and we cut across to Camel Back and head towards the Easter Chutes. Skiing steeps in an open bowl is one thing, doing it in a tangle of trees is another, and Easter Chutes get the better of me as the tight technical descent has me pivoting, assessing, stalling and hoping for the exit, and lunch.
After lunch at Happy Valley Lodge we head over to the virtually empty 2.5km Gem Lake Express. Up around Sun Rype Bowl the famous snow ghosts are silent sentinels atop the hill. Hitting blacks and dark blues on the way down, with the occasional foray into the woods, I ask Rob, “You sure that Big White isn’t bigger than the official acreage?”
“I don’t know how they measure these things Dave. All I know is that we got a lot” he shrugs in response.
A lot of big skiing, great food and light snow. And if that’s not enough, that evening Dougal and I head out for one last hurrah on an hour long Outback Snowmobile Tour. Astride an Arctic Cat Lynx 2000 I push my carbon footprint to the metal and speed off behind the leader of our gang, Emils Baumanis from Melbourne. Pure Acceleration, who rips through the soft snow. We race into Big White’s backcountry trails for an hour of power, reaching speeds of up to 50kph. We’re told to look out for critters, snow shoers and other snowmobilers. We encounter none of the above, but cop a picture perfect view of Big White in all her glory as the sky clears and the setting suns breaks through.
Snow More Big White
Getting to Big White: easiest is fly Air Canada to Kelowna then it’s a 50 minutes shuttle 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.bigwhite.com BC/Canada info www.hellobc.com www.canada.travel