The mountains of BC: A ski and snowboard paradise
Skiing and snowboarding are almost inherent to life in British Columbia. Nights and weekends are spent on the mountains, looking for fresh pow and revisiting favorite runs. For many locals, winter really can’t come soon enough.
Thirteen world-class resorts, nearly unlimited backcountry, and unreal snowfalls combine to make BC one of the true North American ski and snowboard hubs. Whether you want to relax with a few easy runs before enjoying the après ski, or you’re after the toughest double black diamonds and the biggest vertical drops, you’ll find what you’re after here.
Here’s a look at some of British Columbia’s ski and snowboard highlights.
Skiing via Vancouver
Three ski hills sit within 30 minutes of downtown Vancouver, and you can actually see them all from within the city itself. Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour all have verticals of at least a thousand feet (Cypress Mountain is the largest of the bunch at over 1900 feet) and showcase fabulous views of the city, especially after dark when all three light up runs for night skiing. These are all great options if you only have a day or two to spend in Vancouver, but are eager to hit the slopes.
For those with a bit more time in BC, there’s Whistler Blackcomb.
In 2010, the eyes of the world turned to Whistler Blackcomb as an official venue of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. While the games have come and gone, everything else is still here!
Only a two-hour scenic drive from Vancouver, Whistler Blackcomb is consistently rated the top ski and snowboard resort in North America. Sitting right next to each other you have two mountains absolutely covered in ski and snowboard runs for all skill levels, from glacier riding to bunny hills. Runs lead right into the heart of Whistler Village, where the many bars and restaurants are perfect for the ever-popular après-ski. The ski season at Whistler Blackcomb is also one of the longest in North America, running from late November to early May, with glacier skiing on Blackcomb available until late July. The term “must-visit” was invented for this resort.
Riding the Interior
As you head east through the British Columbia Interior, with Vancouver in your rearview mirror, there are a number of really incredible ski resorts to explore.
The Thompson Okanagan region, in south-central BC, is home to high altitudes and a dry climate that gives rise to some of North America's fluffiest snow, known locally as “champagne powder.” The region’s resorts are blessed with long verticals, varied terrain, and are generally uncrowded. Here are a few of your options:
- Near Kamloops, Sun Peaks Resort brings a choice of three mountains and an intimate, winter wonderland-like ski-in/ski-out village — not to mention 126 named trails (including two alpine bowls), plus 18 miles of groomed and track-set Nordic trails.
- Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna, is the second largest ski resort in BC and has been in the business for more than 50 years. The resort is home to 16 lifts and 119 trails, with over 2, 700 acres of skiable terrain.
- Nearby Silver Star Mountain Resort mixes it up with gentle slopes, 130 groomed runs and challenging off-piste terrain.
From the Okanagan we move into the Kootenay Rockies, which boast some of the longest continuous runs on the continent. Connected by the Powder Highway, the southeastern corner of BC features a concentrated nest of winter resorts and backcountry lodges. Here are a few popular choices:
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort makes good use of one of the snowiest, most legendary regions in BC: the Selkirk Mountain Range. Revelstoke is the only resort in the world to offer lift, cat-skiing (Revelstoke Cat Skiing), heli-skiing (Selkirk Tangiers Heli Skiing) and backcountry skiing from one village base.
- Fernie Alpine Resort is famous for its five alpine bowls, which fill with powder snow each winter. In addition to the bowls, the resort features 142 ski runs — the most in the Canadian Rockies.
- Close to the BC/Alberta border, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is a favored resort for die-hard skiers and boarders, thanks to over 2, 700 hectares of terrain and one of the longest verticals in North America.
Making fresh tracks in the backcountry
Great resorts are one thing, but if you’ve done it all on skis and are looking for a fresh adventure, BC has tons of backcountry options thanks to its big snowfalls and huge mountains. From Northern BC to Vancouver Island, Whistler to the Okanagan, there’s an untouched line just calling your name.
When it comes to backcountry, most people end up climbing up slopes to really earn that run back down. There are, however, a few other options, including the slightly more luxurious heli-skiing. Why walk when you can fly, right?
Another option is staying in one of the many backcountry lodges and huts, which provide shelter for multi-day trips and allow you to take your time and savor the experience.
Whatever means of exploring you choose, you’re going to want to connect with a backcountry ski guide who knows where to find the hidden stashes of powder, secret glades and the best views.