Big White Ski Resort, or simply Big White, is a ski resort located 56 km (35 mi) southeast of Kelowna in the Southern Interior of British Columbia.
Big White is located in the Okanagan Valley region of British Columbia, in Canada. The mountain summit is at 2,319 m (7,608 ft) with a vertical drop of 777 m (2,549 ft), served by 16 lifts. The mountain receives 750 cm of annual snowfall. It has 2,765 acres (11 km²) of patrolled area of a total of 7,355 acres (30 km²) skiable. With 38 acres of night skiing, Big White has western Canada's largest resort night skiing area. It has a central village which comprises accommodation, eateries, bars and shops. The village is 1,755 m (5,758 ft) above sea level. Big White Mountain is one of the highest peaks in the southern Monashees, with over 100 marked runs.
A purpose built ski village in the heart of Canada's British Columbia province, Big White is a totally ski-in/ski-out wintersports destination. In addition to the doorstep skiing all facilities of the modern resort are within walking distance. As with many North American ski resorts the vertical drops are relatively short, but the efficient lift system gets you up the mountain quickly.
Big White is located in the Monashee mountain range in Canada's Okanagan. This area of lakes and rolling hills is famous locally for mild temperatures, ice wine and champagne powder. Snowfall is plentiful with historical records showing an average of 24 feet (7 metres) each winter.
Big White ski resort is ideal for families because it’s so easy to get around, and there are lots of family friendly activities and facilities such as the award winning Kid’s Centre.
This fabulous, picture-perfect, snow-sure resort benefits from extensive piste variety, immaculately groomed runs and this season will see the unveiling of Big White’s new, innovative 6 passenger chair lift, the ‘Snow Ghost Express’. So, Big White will now have 16 lifts, with an awesome uphill capacity of over 28,000 skiers per hour!
On ski holidays in Big White there is plenty of off-piste terrain to explore as well as the fantastic TELUS terrain-park with its 500ft long super-pipe, rails, jumps and boarder-cross course.
Ski holidays in Big White are a fantastic choice for family ski holidays. Big White’s ski school has an excellent reputation and offers a variety of lessons for both adults and children, including beginner programmes, cross country and performance skiing.
During ski holidays in Big White beginners will appreciate the great nursery slopes and the numerous long, easy runs to practise their new-found skills on.
Family and intermediate skiers are particularly well catered for during ski holidays in Big White. There are miles of immaculately groomed blue and green runs all over the mountain with a few easy black runs for the more experienced intermediate skiers.
For experts enjoying ski holidays in Big White there are plenty of opportunities to hurtle down thrilling black runs, with some seriously challenging black-diamond runs in the award-winning Cliff area of the mountain.
Big White has won numerous awards and accolades over the years, including Best Powder, Best Family Skiing and Best Grooming in 2006. Ski holidays in Big White are a superb choice for skiers and boarders of all abilities.
Ski Big White - Beginners
Absolute novices can ride the magic carpet down at Happy Valley. One pro of this area is that beginners can learn in peace in a dedicated novice area free of any hoons, and there are other activities to do there if a rest from skiing is required. The only minor downside is that the area is not near the main village and a gondola ride is required to get down there.
The next progression is a couple of gentle runs off the Plaza chair that conveniently drop down from the mid-mountain village, or the run down to Happy Valley. These too are largely just frequented by beginners.
Most of the other chair lifts have green runs that can be tackled by confident beginners who want to explore. These are a little steeper (e.g. Millie’s Mile is rather steep for a green run) and cross more challenging runs. The mega Ogo Slow run down to the Gem Lake chair requires mega stamina, and should not be attempted on a low-vis day, and don’t even think about going up the T-bar during the Big White Out or you may get too friendly with a snow ghost!
Big White Skiing - Intermediates
Big White is heaven on sticks or a snowboard for intermediates with 54% of trails being rated as blue, which includes lots of cruisers, some steep groomed runs, and nicely spaced glades. Big White caters perfectly to both low-end and strong intermediate riders, and scores full marks from us. The terrain for high end intermediates is perhaps a fraction better at Sun Peaks, but Big White is far superior to Silver Star where they don’t do enough grooming.
For the Family/Kids
Big White is an award winner when it comes to catering for the family (they score a best ski resort in Canada award from us for family friendliness). The dedicated beginners’ area is perfect, and lots of chairs have runs for differing levels so the family can remain in the near vicinity of each other.
Lots of beginners’ runs go straight past the Big White accommodations, which can be useful for keeping an eye on older children. The Hummingbird and Easy Street runs go straight past various lodges, and lots of green runs also go past accommodation in the heart of the village.
Night skiing is a great option for the family with a very large illuminated area of 15 hectares.
Terrain Park and Pipe
Big White has a large terrain park with three lanes of different sized jumps, rails and boxes for different abilities. The terrain park also has a standard half pipe depending on the amount of snow available, as well as a skier/boarder cross course which is super fun.
Advanced Skiing Big White
The statistic of 22% black terrain possibly underestimates the amount of Big White skiing for advanced riders because there are lots of off-piste nooks and crannies and trees to play amongst. Big White ski resort has numerous black ungroomed runs that quickly transform into moguls to exhaust your quads. “Shakey Knees” is very aptly named.
The Gem Lake area is the best spot for advanced riders to hang out, and there tends to be more powder here. Sun Rype bowl is a fun playground for powder hounds, especially on days of good visibility and after a big dump. Nothing’s particularly steep, but there’s lot of fun in amongst the snow ghosts such as between Black Bear and the chair lift, and there are fun little trees below the Falcon Chair that lead down to the Gem Lake Express.
Snowboard and Ski Big White for Experts
Big White only has a limited amount of terrain for experts, which is within the alpine bowl serviced by the Cliff chair lift. The degree of challenge is often dependent on the snow conditions, and if there are lots of death cookies, it may be best avoided.
The main degree of challenge lies in the entrance into the bowl and the size of the cornice or the number of exposed rocks. There is usually a relatively easy entrance in via the Camel’s Back run where you can traverse across into the trees for fresh dry powder. There might be a short herringbone to get to the chair lift.
Access to the bowl is also relatively easy via the Cliff run, or right next to the Cliff chair lift. Conversely the Parachute bowl on the skiers’ left has much more challenging entries which include cornices, chutes, rock bands and little cliffs (depending on the amount of snow cover).
Most of the bowl is considered in-bounds and is managed by ski patrol, however the bowl is quite steep and at risk of avalanching. Appropriate avalanche gear and precautions are recommended.
The Playground is also considered a double black run, but this trail is a waste of time unless there’s lots of snow cover or you have no respect for the base on your skis or snowboard.
Big White has a little bit of side-country to the skiers’ right of Kalina’s Rainbow which drops down to the Moonlight run. Other popular sidecountry is a hike to the skiers’ left along the reasonably flat ridge from the Cliff chair, with lines that head down to the chair lift.
Big White Snow
“It’s the Snow” is the motto of Big White and whilst it’s very good, I’m not sure if this is the strength they should be bragging about? Big White receives 7.5 metres of snowfall annually on average, with a tendency for consistent regular snowfalls, rather than big dumps. This is a decent amount of snowfall, but it’s slightly less than the average for a BC ski resort.
With regards to snow quality, visitors from Eastern Canada would be in heaven and definitely think that “it’s the snow” at Big White. The snow is reasonably dry and also far superior to the coastal powder at Whistler Blackcomb.
Big White Canada is also proud of their snow ghosts. Whilst these are visually impressive, the snow ghosts are really just indicative of moist and windy weather conditions that aren’t conducive to supreme powder conditions.
Big White ski resort needs a decent snow base to get started. Summer grooming has meant this isn’t such an issue on the groomed piste, but some of the other trails and the off-piste require plenty of snow cover. For example, the Falcon chair offers some of the best terrain on the hill, but it’s often the last to open due to inadequate snow.
Big White Weather
I don’t mind not getting a suntan or if I can’t see too well whilst I’m skiing if it’s dumping with snow, but at Big White it’s more often just foggy weather that creates visibility problems. Some harsh people unaffectionately call the ski resort “Big White Out” due to the common foggy conditions.
When the “Big White Out” hits, head for tree lined runs or glades where the visibility is generally OK. Nevertheless if you’re lucky enough to own multiple pairs of goggles, you might want to pack the ones suitable for flat light.
Due to its location, the temperatures are fairly reasonable. It’s warmer than the Rockies area, but colder than Whistler, and it feels quite nippy when you add the wind-chill factor, particularly over on the western side (e.g. Gem Lake chair) of the resort where it's often windy.
Big White Crowds
Big White is definitely not crowded like some of the big European ski resorts, Whistler, or the high profile Colorado ski resorts that get smashed with the crowds. However compared to some other BC ski resorts such as Revelstoke Ski Resort, Kicking Horse, or Whitewater, Big White has relatively high skier traffic, particularly on weekends (population of the Kelowna district is 180,000).
On weekdays there’s more skier traffic on the east side of the mountain, as many destination visitors like to ski here. The Gem Lake area is popular with the locals, so the crowds even up somewhat on weekends. Lift queues are rarely a problem, and generally you only have to wait a maximum of a couple of minutes to get on a chair.
Facilities & Activities
For such a large ski resort, the village is surprisingly on the small side and there are only a handful of shops and about 15 dining and drinking establishments. However the facilities are more than adequate to cover most ski holiday needs. The well developed amenities include day lodges, equipment rentals, child care, and a great ski school with a very strong kids’ program.
Evening entertainment is also provided for the kids and there are an abundance of family activities. These include ice skating, ice climbing, ice hockey, mega tubing, and mini snowmobiles for the kids. The resort also has regular family events such as carnival nights and fireworks.
Other Big White activities include cross country skiing, snow-shoeing, dog sledding, snowmobiling, or day spas for the ultimate in relaxation.