The largest B.C. resort you’ve never heard of hides the goods on its double-black-studded backside.
By Tim Neville
The burn is real.
It’s a gunmetal day at SilverStar, the Monashee Mountains are a moody white, and for the past hour or so I’ve been chasing my partner down back-to-back runs. It’s our first day here one of British Columbia’s largest resorts, and there’s no easing into it. We swung wide out of the village of brightly painted shops and dropped into fast groomers before working our way over to the Comet six-pack for a ride up to the 1,915-metre summit. Big Dipper. Middle Dipper. Little Dipper: Heidi and I have been cranking the blues faster than Okeh Records.
But then the real skiing begins.
“Holy Smokes,” I say. That’s the name of a run as well as a reaction. Free Fall. Bon Diablo. Even the map looks a shade darker in that corner. I have to squint to see any blue at all.
We’d heard about SilverStar by word of mouth, which is the way you always hear about the sneaky gems that no one else seems to know about. Some friends of friends years earlier had ventured east out of Whistler looking for something different and drier and stumbled upon the resort, about 65 kilometres from the airport. Two things about the place really stuck out to them, they said: The black-diamonds on the backside and a bakery.
We laughed at the time, but when we arrived Heidi found the bakery almost immediately. You could put a pain au chocolat and a creamy cappuccino on the top of a ladder-less lift tower and she’d find a means to get them into her belly. That morning we’d wandered out of the Silver Creek Lodge, a spacious room with a small kitchen and gas fireplace, and sniffed our way to Bugaboos, a miracle of a pastry shop right off the resort’s main boardwalk. The whole resort has a frontier coloured-by-Crayola vibe of sorts, with lots of cheery blues and oranges and Victorian-esque storefronts with proud corbels under prouder roofs to shed the 700 centimetres of snow they get a year. Bugaboos has a European feel, and Heidi read off the names of the flakey offerings glimmering in the glass cases as if they were incantations. Cream puffs. Cinnabons. A Dutch something called a banketstaaf. The owner, Fred Berkers, hails from The Netherlands, after all, and has a portrait of Dutch royalty on the wall to prove it.
Jacked on coffee that could double as art—I mean the Bugaboo baristas have been known to pour milk into espresso to make it take the shape of a panda for goodness sakes—we clicked in, did our mach-30 frontside warm-ups, and then headed for SilverStar’s ample backside off Vance Creek, first on an extended blue called Eldorado. The run, the resort’s longest, gnaws at my quads for nearly 8 kilometres. About halfway down a traverse shoots off through the woods that leads to an unpatrolled backcountry area and a double-black called Alder Point. For now, though, we stick to the piste and land at the bottom of Putnam Creek, where we hop the Powder Gulch Express quad up for a ride up to Paradise Camp. I’m thankful for the eight-minute rest.
“C’mon, Neville,” Heidi says, handing me an almond bar she had stashed away from the bakery. “We’ve got das gnar to schralpen.”
We make the run before lunch arcing fast turns down Caliper Ridge, right under the lift, and then afterward we give Gowabunga a go, a double-black. It’s been a few days since the last storm, but the snow is chalky and soft and squeezes out a soft sigh as I rail my edges into it. The speed forces the air under my goggles and makes my eyes water.
That evening Heidi and I celebrate with cocktails and poutine done right—the curds must squeak, says I—at The Den, a cozy bistro with live music from time to time. From there we wander over to Long John’s, a rock-and-timber watering hole, for pasta and ribs and pints and, oh why not, a gooey mound of awesome lava cake, too.
A light snow falls overnight and into the morning, socking in the views. Heidi and I linger at the bakery a little longer than we did yesterday. Some locals tell us on days like this we should stick to the trees, which means we have plenty of options. We boot up and head out, a flakey bit of banketstaaf on reserve in my pocket.
Today’s mission begins with a drop right out of the village again, no lift ride required, a bonus of having a base exactly a mile above sea level. We head skier’s right of the Silver Woods Express and hit the nicely spaced pines in Robin’s Hood before drifting into the Sherwood Forest. From there we traverse far to skier’s left and ride the Schumann Summit Express to the top, a gondola that comes right out of the village. The backside calls, but this time we check out more glades in Deer Park, a black-diamond forest that leads to Lower Deer Park, another black-diamond forest, that spills into the Trinity Trees, a more forgiving glade. Heidi and I open the throttle and then make our way all the way back to the top.
By now my legs are pretty much cooked, but it’s nothing a bite of pastry can’t fix. The backside it is. We hit the top of Eldorado and jump onto the Alder Point traverse. There we dip into the backcountry area, keeping each other within eye and ear shot, though Alder Point, a double-black, has the best line we can find.
There’s still so much to ski here that we haven’t even touched, which is what you’d expect with nearly 1,336 hectares of terrain. There are the blacks off Attridge waiting in the wings, where a steep face falls off a ridge back to the village. Runs like Chute and Southern Cross, more blacks, go untested. We stay on the backside and test our stamina on Gong Show, where I cross my tips and tumble as advertised. Later, I’ll redeem myself in the Paradise Glades, where my turns feel snappy and crisp whipping around the trees.
On the last day we swap our fat boards for skinny ones and spend the day tooling around SilverStar’s 105 kilometres of cross-country trails. The whole layout feels so European, where you get to ride the lifts in your Nordic skis to access meandering, idyllic trails that bring you gradually back down. We skate our way out to the Chaptik Cabin and have a blast on the zigzags of Comin’ Round the Mountain Connector. We end the day with an easy glide to the Paradise Camp, a Wild West–looking joint, where we warm up with hot drinks. We ski right up to a bowling alley, the only ski-in/ski-out bowling alley that I know of, but, please, it’s bowling—and there’s more poutine and pastries to be had, not to mention fat biking and ice skating and a dinner tour sleigh ride out to a remote-feeling cabin called Wild Horseman’s, where I end up eating enough barbecue to fuel me for a month.
When we first arrived, a telemarker who spends 100 days a year ripping around this mountain told me on the lift that SilverStar isn’t a young person’s mountain. Looking at the map of all those blacks, that puzzled me. It turns out he meant that you don’t come here to party, but to ski. A lot. Hard. Fast. Day after day after day.
The best B.C. resort you’ve never heard of hides the goods on its double-black-studded backside. Located 55 minutes by car from Kelowna International Airport, it’s a worthy diversion—and a worthy destination all its own.