Big White Caters to Big Families

By Jane Cassie

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Big White had Canada's highest Olympic-size ice rink Photos by: Jane Cassie

“Are we there yet?” This commonly-heard kid quip pops into my mind, a repressed memory from days gone by when we travelled with our five children via minivan. It was before the era of iPods, built-in DVDs, and other mind-amusers, back to a time when rolling scenery was the main attraction and “20 Questions” helped stifle the whines. Was that really two decades ago? Although I’ve certainly adjusted to our empty nest, I’m hopeful that, one day, I’ll hear those inquisitive words again – from the mouths of wee grandkids. But who knows when that’ll happen – our next generation seems to be slow in coming!

“What’s our ETA to Big White, Mom,” our 30-plus daughter, Emily, asks while fiddling with her GPS. Before I have time to respond, her older brother pipes up, “My iPhone app says it’s just over five hours.” Things sure have changed! Yet, even though electronics now replace our wrinkled maps and we travel in a convoy instead of a cramped Dodge Caravan, there are two things I can still count on: whenever we plan a family holiday, all five offspring (and a few significant tag-alongs) are on board; and if it’s to a mountain resort that offers a line-up of winter wonders, they’re ecstatic!

Big White Ski Resort, just an hour’s drive from sunny Kelowna, appeases all of our vacationing whims. Snowmobiling, sleigh rides, snowshoeing –and, of course, those sensational slopes. Seven annual metres of champagne powder blanket this second largest BC ski resort and 118 runs funnel down to a village that boasts the most ski-in/ski-out lodging. Hotels, townhomes and condos dot the hillside and snuggle up to retail shops, restaurants, spas and specialty stores.

We’d been able to scout out the offerings ahead of time and through Central Reservations pre-book a couple of units at Sundance, one of the resort’s family-favourites.

“Sweet suite!” our youngest declares, after checking in and claiming his sleeping quarters. We all agree. The craftsman-style gems, decked out in cedar and stone boast all the primal perks – right down to the savvy kitchens that turn out to be budget pleasers when the hunger pangs strike. Snuggling up to the Bullet Chair, the slopes are just a glide away – an adventurous escape route that everyone looks forward to trying out.

But with little daylight left, we zero in on the family-filled action just footsteps away. As well as a Kids Zone for the young tykes, there’s a line-up for our adult brood. Two of our fitness buffs head for the workout room, where their treadmill session is topped off with a hot steam bath. A few others check out the mega screen in Sundance Theatre, then play billiards in a fireside lounge. As for the rest of us – we make a beeline for the outdoor pool, a popular aquatic spot that’s fed by water-sliders and hugged by two bubbly hot tubs.

“Our gang would have been leading the way down this glider a few years ago,” I say to my husband, Brent, while watching a few cherub faces submerge with a splash. There I go again, reminiscing of those kid-rearing days. It always seems to happen during these family getaways.  

Regardless of age, there’s plenty of slope-side action at this mountain resort to bring out our inner children. A free gondola later takes us down to Happy Valley, where we skate on Canada’s highest Olympic-size ice rink, watch climbers scale the 60-foot Ice Tower and form a human chain while sliding down the Mega Snow Coaster. This groomed tube park gets a blue ribbon for being Canada’s largest. It also provides us with some family bonding time. Literally!

Big White’s blessings continue to unfold the next morning when we wake to a dusting of virgin fresh beneath bluebird skies. To gain a better sense of this resort’s magnitude, we join up with Don, one of the resort’s complimentary Snow Hosts, who provides us with an extensive overview while leading the way. With 16 lifts, 2,765 skiable acres (1,147 hectares) and 25kms (15.5 miles) of Nordic trails, there’s a lot of groundwork to cover!

“Both this Ridge Rocket and adjacent Snow Ghost Express will take us above the tree line,” Don explains, as we amble onto the high-speed quad. “And from there, we’ll have lots of alpine terrain.”

We soon discover this knowledgeable guide is true to his word. The vast powder heavens are scored by a network of trails and dotted with winterized evergreens a.k.a. snow ghosts. And from every scenic perch that Don escorts us to, we’re given a run-down of our downhill options and a Monashee panorama.

One son, Shaun, breaks away from the group to ascend the T-bar where, from its 2,000-plus-metre summit, he has his choice of steeps and deeps. Two others go in a snaking descent through wooded glades to the base of Gem Lake Express. We’re surprised that our daughter, Emily, and her husband, Jeff, don’t tag along. Usually, these two hot-doggers are at the head of the pack, challenging everything from vertical chutes to mogul minefields. Instead, they join us slower pokes, and with Don in the lead, enjoy a number of laid-back groomers and corduroy cruisers.

That’s the great thing about Big White – all of the lifts offer an easy way out, so that a family like ours, with varying ages and ability, can enjoy skiing together. As well as being big in peaks and powder, it’s relaxed and uncluttered, much like that of a smaller resort. During our two days of downhill, there are no lengthy line-ups, no high-speed hot shots, and no need for crowd control – just that epic interior powder, topped off with personable and friendly service.

On the final night, we celebrate family togetherness over a fabulous meal, personally created and served by our eldest son and girlfriend. And though it’s perfectly paired with a fine Okanagan wine, Emily refrains from indulging. “We’d like to give a toast,” Jeff affirms, raising his glass. “Here’s to Big White and big families,” he continues, while smiling at his wife. “And here’s to grandchildren, one which is finally on the way.”

Big White also caters to seniors! In addition to season pass discounts, Club 65 entitles you to:
* FREE coffee at Happy Valley (one per day)
* FREE 50+ lesson (one per season)
* FREE High Performance rental (one per season)
* 5% discount on food at the Happy Valley Cafeteria
* One time $25 discount with a purchase of $100 or more at Ski Dazzle
* Monday’s Master’s Club

Big White Ski Resort
Phone: 250.765.3101
Central Reservations: 1.800.663.2772 or



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