Big White Ski Resort

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Big White Ski Resort
The Gem Lake Express lift at Big White
The Gem Lake Express lift at Big White
Location Kootenay Boundary, British Columbia, Canada
Nearest city Kelowna (56 km)
Coordinates 49°43′19″N 118°55′44″W / 49.72194°N 118.92889°W / 49.72194; -118.92889 (Big White Ski Resort)
Top elevation 2,319 m (7,606 ft)
Base elevation 1,755 m (5,757 ft)
Skiable area 2,765 acres (11.2 km2)
Runs 118 Designated Trails
18% Beginner
54% Intermediate
22% Expert
6% Extreme
Longest run 7.2 km (4.5 miles)
Lift system 16 total (1 gondola, 5 high-speed chairs, 5 chairs, 3 ground/t-bar, 2 tubing)
Lift capacity 28,000 skiers/hr
Snowfall 750 cm (295 inches or 24.5 ft) average
Snowmaking Planned
Night skiing 0.15 km² (38 acres)
Web site http://www.bigwhite.com

Big White Ski Resort, or simply Big White, is a ski resort located 56 km (35 mi) southeast of Kelowna in the Southern Interior of British Columbia. Located on Big White Mountain, the highest summit in the Okanagan Highland, an upland area between the Monashee Mountains and the Okanagan Valley, it is the second largest resort in British Columbia after Whistler-Blackcomb.

The mountain summit is at 2,319 m (7,608 ft) with a vertical drop of 777 m (2,549 ft), serviced by 16 lifts. The mountain receives 750 cm of annual snowfall. It has 2,765 acres (11 km2) of overall skiable terrain.[1] With 38 acres (150,000 m2) of night skiing, Big White has western Canada's largest resort night skiing area. It has a central village classified as a designated place by Statistics Canada which comprises accommodation, eateries, bars and shops. The village is 1,755 m (5,758 ft) above sea level.

History[edit]

Big White opened in 1963 with two T-bars.

The Ridge Chair (double) opened in the early 1970s. The Powder Chair (triple), The Easter Chair (triple), and the Village Chair (triple) opened thereafter. In the mid 1980s the Easter Chair was moved to replace the bunny hill t-bar and was renamed the Village chair; the Village Chair became the Summit Chair. The Ridge Rocket Express (quad) replaced the double chair in 1989 and the Bullet Express replaced the Summit and Village chairs in 1991. The Alpine T-Bar was moved to its present location and extended around this time as well. The Falcon Chair, which was in fact the old Ridge Chair, opened up the west side of the hill in 1992. The Gem Lake Express (quad), which doubled the skiable era, opened around 1996. The Snow Ghost Express (six person), which is adjacent to the Ridge Rocket, ended annoyingly long lineups when it opened in 2006.

Replacement of the Powder Chair and the Alpine T-Bar are likely to come soon.

Shred and Shred 2, are snowboarding movies starring Tom Green and Dave England were filmed at Silver Star and Big White.[2]

Skiing terrain[edit]

Big White has a total of 118 "designated" trails and 27 unnamed trails. 18% of these trails are beginner, 56% intermediate and the remaining 26% are classed as expert. The wooded areas between trails are all open, and can offer a variety of ungroomed snow and widely varied terrain.

Big White currently has one 8-passenger high speed gondola, one 6-passenger high speed chair (new for the 06/07 season), four 4-passenger high speed chairs, one 4-passenger "beginner chair", one 3-passenger chair, three 2-passenger chairs (including the Telus park chairlift), one T-bar, one children’s and one adult's magic carpet. There are also two tubing lifts. These lifts are capable of transporting 28,000 people per hour uphill.

East side[edit]

The eastern side of Big White is where the majority of lifts are located. The runs on this side are usually shorter and more crowded than those found over on the Gem Lake side. The most advanced runs are located on this side underneath the Cliff chair. The Cliff Chair closed during the 2008 season, pending an investigation by avalanche experts after the Parachute Bowl slipped in January 2008.

There is one high-speed detachable 6-seater chair (Snow Ghost Express), three high-speed detachable quad chairs (Ridge Rocket, Bullet, and Black Forest), one triple chairlift (Powder Chair), two double chairlifts (Cliff and Telus Park), and a single T-bar, the Alpine T-bar.

The Ridge Rocket chair has a small lodge at its base, and the base of the Bullet chair is very near the main village. The new 6-seater lift (the Snow Ghost Express) was built for the 2006-2007 season parallel to Ridge Rocket Express to reduce lift lines.

Gem Lake[edit]

Gem Lake is located on the western side of Big White and is served by the Gem Lake high-speed detachable quad chair. The Falcon and Powder Chairs, two and three person lifts respectively, are nearby. The Gem Lake lift is often windier than the east side lifts, but offers the largest single-lift vertical drop at the hill at 710 m. It has a lodge known as the Westridge Warming Hut complete with washrooms, coffee shop, ticket sales and large parking lot at its base; the base of the Gem Lake Express is quite distant from the Village area. Traditionally tourists tend to ski more on the east side while locals from Kelowna and other nearby towns will ski Gem Lake more than tourists. The addition of several new groomed blue and green runs at Gem Lake have allowed this area to be much more family friendly to the beginner / intermediate skier or rider.

East Peak[edit]

The ski resort is expected to unveil plans in the near future that call for the addition of 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of skiable area on the East Peak. This new area will be mainly intermediate and advanced terrain and the expansion will be on land leased from the province.

Also included in the plans are a second base area, a new residential area and a golf course.[3]

Panorama from near the top of the Falcon Chair

Terrain Park[edit]

Big White recently built a Telus Park in the 2004/2005 season. It features a standard sized half-pipe along with a skier/border cross course and beginner through to advanced rails and jumps. The park is separated into two sides; one has larger jumps, rails, and boxes, and the other has smaller features, the border cross and a half-pipe. Big White is also exclusive to a snow-cross run identical to the one at the Olympics.

Nordic trails[edit]

Big White has 25 km of Nordic trails. You can snow-shoe and dog-sled as well as cross-country ski on the cross-country trails. A small number of them also have snowmobiles. There is one warming hut on the trail.

Ski and Snowboard School[edit]

Big White has over 101 qualified instructors, offering classes for all ages and all skill levels.[citation needed]

Ski & Board School Programs[edit]

  • Beginner Programs
  • Certification Programs
  • Group Programs
  • Community Programs
  • Nordic Coaching
  • Private Coaching
  • Ski & Board Weeks
  • Weekend Programs
  • Racing Programs
  • Teen Programs

Kids' Center Programs[edit]

  • After Dark
  • Ski Cubs Full Day Ski Program
  • Ski Cubs Half Day Program
  • Mom & Me, Dad & Me Are Skiing
  • Snowriders Full Day Ski & Boarding Program
  • Snowriders Half Day Ski & Boarding Program
  • Private & Semi-Private Coaching
  • Adopt an Instructor
  • TELUS Flight School & Heavy Metal Shop

Master Plan[edit]

Big White has created a master plan to become a major world class destination resort.[4] Included in the plans are the following things:

  • Addition of 17 ski lifts;
  • 1,051 hectares more skiable terrain (14% beginner, 47% intermediate, 39% expert);
  • Addition of 3,320 hectares of controlled recreation areas;
  • Adding 13,240 people/day to its comfortable carrying capacity;
  • Adding 20,425 people/day to its balanced resort capacity;
  • Addition of 53 km of Nordic Skiing Trails;
  • Addition of 2 golf courses;
  • Addition of an 80 hectare Mountain Bike park;
  • Addition of 317,620 sq ft (29,508 m2). of commercial space;
  • Addition of snow making machines for an earlier season start;
  • Addition of zip lines; and
  • Addition of a water park

These additions are expected to start following the close of the 2009/2010 season.

Services[edit]

Activities[edit]

Activities include the Mega Snow Coaster, which was once the largest tubing park in North America, snowmobile tours, sleigh riding, dog sleds, snowshoeing, and ice skating.

A new activity in 2006-2007 season is the Sno-Limo, a sort of a cross between a dog sled and a lazy-boy chair on skis.

The resort also hosts a number of family aimed events (Big White was awarded North America's best family resort in 2003 by The Good Skiing and Boarding Guide 2003) such as carnival nights and Tim Hortons's Cruise the Blues.

New during the 2008-2009 season are the Snow Adventure ski and snowboard improvement courses hosted by Snow Adventure in collaboration with the Big White Ski and Board School. There are various courses available including learn-to-ride courses, off-piste specific courses, a 3 week master-the-mountain course as well as ladies' and men's improvement weeks.

Accommodations[edit]

There are currently four village condo hotels, 25 condo or town house complexes, 244 vacation homes and one ski in/ski out hostel. Vacation property rental companies manage many of the properties in Big White. The village area includes 18 restaurants, cafés and delis, as well as a small grocery store and liquor store.

Retail[edit]

Big White is located about a one hour drive outside Kelowna, and features a smaller village than resorts like Whistler. Big White has a limited number of on mountain shops. Several shops are located in the Village Centre Mall and around the village. A few more are in Happy Valley at the bottom of the gondola. An internet cafe is located in Trappers Crossing near the Village Centre Mall.

A shopping bus is available and takes riders to Orchard Park shopping mall in Kelowna for the day.

Deaths[edit]

On January 6, 2008, Leigh Barnier, an Australian skier, was killed by an avalanche while skiing on an open, in bounds run. Barnier was an employee at the time; however, he was not on shift.[5]

Gallery[edit]

Awards[edit]

Taken from the Big White website

  • The Best Ski Area 2004 - Okanagan Life Magazine
Winner of numerous Ski Canada awards including
  • Best New Chair (Cliff) 2005
  • Best New Terrain Park (Telus Park) 2005
  • Best Intermediate Terrain (Gem Lake) 2005
  • New Accommodation (Grizzly Lodge) 2003
  • Best Ski Bar - Snowshoe Sam's 2003
  • Earliest Opening 2002
  • Largest Base Expansion (Happy Valley Day Lodge) 2001
  • Best Glades West – Big White Thunder and Black Bear
  • Best Ski Resort Features for Kids (Big White Kid's Centre) 1999
  • Best Grooming 1999
  • Best On-Mountain Ski Bar (Raakels) 1999
  • Best Weather 1998
  • Best Renovated Skiers’ Hotel 1998
  • Best Ski Area Child Care (Big White Kid’s Centre) 1998
Okanagan Life Magazine
  • Best Ski Area, 2004, 2003, 2001, 1999, 1998, & 1997
  • Best Place for Adult Fun, 2002, 2001 & 2000
  • Best Place for Family Fun, 2002 & 2000
The Good Skiing and Boarding Guide 2003
  • North America’s Best Family Ski Resort

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

  • bigwhite.com, Big White Ski Resort Website
  • Bigwhitemtnchamber.com, Big White Chamber of Commerce
  • RDKB.com, Regional District of Kootenay Boundary - this is the quasi-municipal administrative area covering Big White