Travel: Big White
Big White, Canada
Date of travel: December 2018
Canada has a huge amount of resorts to offer and the one we are lucky enough to have roots in is called Big White. It is nestled in the Monashee mountains in BC and is a little gem. As is common in Canada, the altitudes aren't as high as in Europe so the resort is surrounded by trees, which means that back country is hella fun! What is also amazing and different to Europe, is that everything in resort boundaries is ski-able. This means, you can happily go off piste and not have to worry as the area would already be monitored for avalanches and is ski patrolled. (If you did't know, going off piste isn't technically allowed/monitored in Europe and if you're going to do it, it is at your own risk - so know your emergency numbers and be fully equipped). Just one of the few things that makes it worth heading over to Canada.
Big White has a low moisture content in the water, we were told the science behind it but to be honest I can't quite remember; what I do remember is it's something to do with being on the same coast as the deserts in America (i.e. California) but if you want real detail it's best to google it. Anyway the point of me telling you my non-fact is because that the snow in Big White, although is awful for snowball fights, is light and fluffy & hardly ever sticks. It has been donned "Champagne Powder". The perks being that if you find some unridden powder but you know it hasn't snowed for a couple days, likely hood is it'll still be nice & fluffy and not crunchy.
My last point that I think is worth mentioning is that even in peak season, the pistes are deserted (comparatively to Europe). Even when it does get busy i.e. around Christmas and New Years, the only noticeably busy time is the lift lines and restaurants; However, the organisation and politeness of the locals & workers is unlike anything I've ever seen. Everyone waits there turn & it's so orderly - something Europe really needs to get on board with. It is just so nice to have these huge pistes, lovely snow all to yourself so if that hasn't sold you lets get on with the rest of the review.
As you can see from the map above, Big White is HUGE, which means that there is something for everybody, beginner to expert. If you are lucky enough to just live in the area, there are 3 parking zones from which you can base yourself out of; Happy Valley Lodge, Gem Lake & The Black Forest. As we come from Europe, we of course stay in resort and from what I've seen, pretty much all of the accommodation is based around Village Centre down to Happy Valley.
Going back the the 3 zones, Gem Lake is the area on the left and as you can see has a lot runs of offer off of the Gem Express. It is definitely one of the harder areas so if it is your first time skiing, perhaps not where you should begin. Saying that if you are more confident there are some great runs over that side of the mountain. The runs are longer & a bit more challenging but if the conditions are good, it makes a good day snowboarding. Moving closer to the centre, you have the Powder Chair, which is a free riders haven. If the snow has fallen this is where you'll find us.
Happy Valley Lodge is definitely the beginners zone. There are some beautiful bunny slopes off of the gondola, which is perfect to start your journey. Once those are conquered there are loads of mellow to more challenging slopes and the best thing is that everything interconnects. Once you are on the mountain, you can really head anywhere. They also have a great park if you fancy a bit of freestyle!
Finally, The Black Forest is just beautiful. Not great if you want something very challenging but if you just want some fun mellow runs it is a good place to hang out! It also, in my opinion, has the best restaurant - great veggie options! (However the rest of our gang are pretty set on the Ridge Rocket).
The Village Centre is very aptly named as it really is the Centre of everything. It is where you check into accommodation, pick up rental gear or buy new stuff, get your souvenirs, alcohol, food shopping and then of course has a huge range of restaurants on offer. Everything from casual fast food to fine dining. If it is a busy time of year, booking could be required but most places are ready for walk-in. End of the day, the village pretty much has everything we've ever needed.
If you're staying for a longer period of time & want to experience more than the bubble on the mountain, there is a weekly bus trip down into Kelowna, which can be useful e.g. buying cheaper food & alcohol as it can be expensive/a small selection on the mountain.
As for eating during the day on the mountain, each zones main chairlift has a restaurant at the base but nothing to offer at the top of the slopes. That is something that Europe has done pretty well and I would say is better than Canada for is offering Aprés bars/cafes at the top of the slopes.
What is amazing about Big White is the other activities there are to do other than skiing & snowboarding. Down at Happy Valley Lodge there is tubing (hella fun!), an ice climbing wall, dog sled rides, snow shoeing & ice skating to just name a few! The resorts tagline is about being Canada's family resort so they have a lot to offer if you have children with you.
I can only talk from our experiences but flying in from Europe is expensive. It is one of the biggest downsides to Canada is that it is not a cheap holiday. Big White's nearest airport is Kelowna, and is well connected to the rest of Canada but you cannot fly directly there from Europe. For us we can fly connecting to Vancouver or Calgary to Kelowna then you can pay for a Big White shuttle to come pick you up/drop you off. If your flight times are irregular than you might need to pay for a private taxi.
I wouldn't recommend hiring a car unless 1. you are staying for a long stint of time (the season etc) or 2. you are road tripping/travelling around different resorts.
Even though it's not as convenient for us as going to mainland Europe, it is a fantastic experience and I know we'll be going back.
Here is a little recap video of our most recent trip:
I didn't realise I had so much to say about one resort but it does have a lot to offer so I hope you enjoyed my little "review" and can't wait for the next one! We are off to a new place in Austria very soon! Don't forget to sign up to our email list if you want updates to your inbox. Follow our Instagram for in-the-moment resort pictures & comment below let us know where you're going next!