Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Champagne-Powder in Big White, Kelowna, British Columbia

When I visited the resort town of Big White, just 60 km out of Kelowna, at the end of November, early December, I found already 3 feet of snow.  Both, me and my dog wished we had snow shoes with us, as we sunk several times into the deep snow trying to make a shortcut to another road.  Right now the top levels have risen to almost 7 feet of snow (over 2 meters).  The location of this resort is outstanding, the views are stunning and you have sun almost all day long and on most days you can see the panorama of mountains and hills for hundreds of miles.  Several days a week you can even ski at night from 4pm to 8pm.
During my whole stay I did not experience any waiting times at the ski lifts, in fact only approx. 20 percent of the ski lifts were used, almost entirely by young Aussies who seem to man the whole resort workforce.  They are very friendly, upbeat and an awesome bunch of youngsters and students who work in the resort during the season from mid November to the end of April.  On their days off or after shifts they can ski for free as much as they want.  

What You Need to Know about Big White

1. Big White is for Winter Sport. Period.

The resort town is in a very remote area, no villages around and no grown infrastructure.  I could count the number of houses I have seen in the last 40 kilometers on one hand... The population in and around Big White consists of 60 people, however with visitors it grows to 22,000 during the Christmas and New Year's high season.  Don't compare it with Breckenridge in Colorado, Whistler near Vancouver, BC or any of the ski towns in Europe: Big White is marvelous and a perfect place for skiers and snowboarders, but that's it.
Barely any apres-ski activities, other than going out for an evening dinner or some music entertainment. Concerts, a library, movies, shopping malls etc. are absent.  No critique here, just to let you know what to expect - and to let you know that snow and skiing are the big thing here - not partying.  

2. Transportation is Solely by Car or Bus. 
There is a shuttle bus from Kelowna's airport to the resort - in my eyes the safest way to get there.  
Even though the resort is only 60 kilometer from Kelowna and its international airport, the drive can be tough, and it is for sure longer than an hour, it took me more than two hours!  I was lucky to make it without winter tires / snow chains, as I drove very carefully and slow. The road will be plowed, but not salted. My drive was both ways during the week, so not any traffic to speak of.  The road is very winding and in parts pretty steep.  Should you have an accident on the road or on the ski hill or any health condition: Transportation to the Kelowna hospital is via the only connecting road.  No helipad available at the resort!  When you travel by air to Kelowna, don't spend any money for a rental car.  You don't need it in Big White as the lifts start directly in town.  The roads are very narrow and there are no parking spaces unless you have one in your own vacation rental place.

3. Shopping and Groceries.
My camera quit on me at the last hour of my stay. For the way back and until I could purchase a new one, I wanted to buy a small digital camera.  No luck, to buy a camera, nor can you find batteries, memory sticks etc. 
I asked a local security guide and I went to all six shops in Big White. Yes, six is the total amount of stores there, where you can buy anything at all and only in one you can purchase groceries (at inflated prices, but somehow: everything needs to be extra-delivered to this high-altitude place).
When renting a vacation apartment in Big White 
organize your purchases before you travel up - and even if you are in one of the very few hotels and don't want to eat in restaurants three times a day, or if you are on a special diet.  Better don't forget anything!  If you arrive at Kelowna airport, take a taxi to the nearest grocery store or Costco in the city and stock up for the whole time of your stay.  Not only food, but drinks, water, milk and everything else you might need - before you enter your shuttle bus to Big White.

Still a Fantastic Place to Spend Your Ski Vacation!
I haven't seen better snow anywhere else! Really!  And I have been skiing the Rockies and the Alpes in Europe! "Champagne Powder" as the snow is called, falls in huge amounts every year in this vast acreage for skiers, snowboarders, nordic fans, skaters and sun lovers.

Make sure not to miss the 
Free Mountain Tours: Local "Snow Hosts" will show you the best ski and snowboarding spots on Big White with a Complimentary Mountain Tour.  This tour will open your eyes to the locals’ favourite ski and snowboard runs, providing you with the ins and outs of Big White Resorts.  Guided cross-country skiing tours are offered Thursday to Sunday to introduce you to the 9 miles / 14 km of nordic trails

Lots of Praise for Big White:
Big White, 40 miles / 60 kilometers from Kelowna in British Columbia was named one of the Top Ski Resorts from a world-renowned German resort test portal.  After an assessment using 18 stringent criteria, the site Skiresort.info awarded Big White 4.3 out of a possible five stars.  Canada's largest, totally ski-in ski-out resort village Big White was also awarded North America’s #1 Family Resort. 
Did I mention the wonderful clear and clean air?  Coming from the city it was such a treat to smell this fresh and unpolluted air.  I am looking forward to the next ski and snow vacation in Big White!  Maybe even this spring when they offer specials after the Easter Holidays.