Story by Mark Sissons
KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA — You travel far to spend a long anticipated dream week at a fabulous ski resort only to discover certain aspects about it that just aren’t working for you. Maybe it’s the village vibe or the accommodation. Perhaps dining options are too limited. Or the terrain too challenging or too tame. But you stoically make do, putting up with these imperfections and returning home dissatisfied. It doesn’t have to be this way. And in the Okanagan Valley, it isn’t.
British Columbia’s wine country, which ranked 15th in the 2016 Vacay.ca Best Places to Visit in Canada, also serves up three vintage ski resorts in Sun Peaks, Silver Star and Big White. Each one can make for a memorable weeklong ski holiday. Taken together, they’re a terrific trio.
Less than an hour’s drive from Kamloops and the closest interior resort to Vancouver and Seattle, Sun Peaks is synonymous with Nancy Greene, the iconic Winter Olympian turned senator who still patrols the runs here when she’s not negotiating Ottawa’s notorious bumps. This ever expanding four-season resort recently opened over 500 acres of new terrain and two new alpine zones, making it now officially Canada’s second-largest ski area, trailing only Whistler in size. At 4,270 acres of inbounds terrain offering plenty of steep and deep powder turns, Sun Peaks is bigger than Banff, Lake Louise and Revelstoke.
Skiing Thrills in the Okanagan
While Sun Peaks boasts 2,000-plus hours of sunshine each year, Silver Star, BC’s third-largest ski area, situated just 20 minutes by car from Vernon, can brag about its legendary Dark Side. A vertiginous playground of super steep fall lines, monster moguls, abrupt troughs and thigh-high, untracked pillowy white stuff, the extensive Putnam Creek area draws advanced skiers and boarders looking for serious downhill thrills. Featuring 13 double‐black‐diamond runs blanketed by more than 700 centimetres annually of the finest champagne powder and comfortable daytime temperatures averaging minus‐5 Celsius degrees (23 Fahrenheit), it’s cold enough to keep the snow light and fluffy, yet perfect for skiing.
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After testing their mettle on Putnam Creek’s steep chutes and pillow lines, many seasoned skiers opt to explore the more than 100 kilometres of Nordic trails that make up the recently combined Silver Star-Sovereign Lake cross‐country ski area. A favourite of Canadian Olympic champions Chandra Crawford and Becky Scott, Canada’s largest daily groomed cross‐country trail network regularly hosts national team athletes from around the world as they train and prepare for international competition.
Silver Star’s My1Pass, Canada’s first all‐inclusive lift ticket and season pass, offers easy access to both Nordic and alpine playgrounds, along with 16 kilometres of marked snowshoe trails. Silver Star also recently became the first Canadian resort to join the Powder Alliance, an exclusive collection of resorts renowned for offering some of the best powder stashes in North America.
A self‐styled family‐friendly resort 56 kilometres from Kelowna, Big White features over 118 trails and annual snowfall of over seven metres. There’s plenty here to offer skiers of every skill level, as well as an excellent ski school with a very well regarded kids’ program. And with 15 dining and nightlife options, Big White’s compact mid‐mountain village will leave skiers well fuelled and primed for another full‐on day on the slopes.
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Getting There: Big White is 56 km (35 miles) southeast of Kelowna. You can fly into Kelowna International Airport and take a quick shuttle (55 minutes) to get you to the resort. Silver Star Mountain Resort is located 55 minutes north of Kelowna International Airport (YLW) and offers daily, one‐way or return, airport shuttle service for guests. Sun Peaks Resort is located in the interior of British Columbia, 45 minutes north of Kamloops.
A MAP SHOWING THE 3 RESORTS MENTIONED IN THE ARTICLE