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Your Guide to British Columbia’s Best Ski Resorts

Big White

When It Comes to Skiing and Snowboarding, British Columbia has an embarrassment of riches – here’s my guide to best resorts and hills in the province!

In This Ski & Snowboard Article You Will Discover:

  • Where to Find the Best Ski Resorts in Canada
  • What To Expect from Each Mountain
  • Critical Data: Runs, Vertical Drop, Chairlifts & More

Mount Washington

Vancouver Island’s premiere ski resort is just a stone’s throw from the Comox airport. With accommodation for up to 3,500 people on-site, an average annual snowfall of 900 centimetres and six chairlifts and three tows that can haul 12,200 riders per hour, this really is a first-class destination. If snowboarding is your thing, hit one of the two terrain parks or the meticulously maintained halfpipe. Nordic skiers or snowshoers will also find paradise, with 55 km of cross-country trails and 20 km for shoeing. Before the mountain opens in December, you can enjoy the bike trails too, or simply hike and take in the view. www.mountwashington.ca

Mount Seymour

One of three popular North Shore mountains, located just a half-hour from downtown Vancouver, Mount Seymour is a very accessible and fun place to ski or snowboard. A family-oriented hill, there are many youth programs and ski schools. Snowboarders especially like Seymour, due to its three terrain parks and in-ground halfpipe; keep an eye out for the Seymour Freeride Team, they’ll be the ones catching the biggest air. Seymour towers 1,265 metres above the ocean, and offers a 330-metre vertical drop, and is serviced by five chairlifts. www. mountseymour.com

Cypress Mountain

After Cypress Mountain, another North Vancouver hill, was selected as the exclusive site of the Olympic Snowboarding and Freestyle Skiing competitions during the 2010 Winter Olympic games, it received some fantastic upgrades. Cypress is the tallest and biggest of the North Shore mountains, and this has made it one of the most popular in the Lower Mainland. With 101 hectares of terrain, an average snowfall of 520 centimetres, 36 marked trails, a terrain park and halfpipe and night skiing, Cypress is a busy place. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are also both popular on this mountain. www.cypressmountain.com

Grouse Mountain

A Vancouver landmark on the North Shore, the lights of Grouse Mountain are a familiar sight from downtown. Grouse features 25 marked runs (with night skiing), six lifts, a 370-metre vertical drop and 86 hectares of terrain. Snowshoers love the 10 km of trails, and there’s even a 2,400 square-metre ice skating pond. During December, Christmas-themed events dominate the slopes of Grouse. Great hikes and bikes are found in the fall months too; such as the famous Grouse Grind, a hike that rises 853 vertical metres in only 2.9 km of trail. On-mountain amenities include fine dining, a coffee shop, ski schools, rentals and more. www.grousemountain.com

Whistler/Blackcomb

BC’s big boys; considered two of the best ski mountains on the face of the Earth, these mountains attract the snow hungry from all corners of the world. One look at the numbers, and it’s easy to see why: between the two mountains (which are connected by the exciting new Peak2Peak Gondola), there are more than 2,832 skiable hectares, over 200 marked trails plus 12 alpine bowls and three glaciers, 38 lifts, over nine metres of snow- fall per year and a lift capacity of over 65,000 riders per hour. Wow. This future Olympic site also has some of the best parks and halfpipes in North America. If the skiing and snowboarding isn’t enough, come to Whistler/Blackcomb during the fall and enjoy an amazing mountain bike park, outstanding hikes and extreme thrills like bungee jumping and zip-lining. And then there’s the village — home to 10,000 people, it is one of the premiere tourist towns in North America, home of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and a perfect vacation destination. www.whistlerblackcomb.com

Big White Ski Resort

A short drive from Kelowna, Big White is — big. Known for its abundance of champagne powder, Big White gets an average annual snowfall of 750 centimetres on its 2,880-hectare resort area (1,064 of which are patrolled). Twenty-five km of trails — one of which is 7.2-km long — and 13 and lifts servicing 23,400 riders per hour are just a couple of reasons why Big White is one of BC’s must-visit mountains. Apres ski is great too, as this mountain has the largest ski-in-ski-out village in Canada, with multiple hotels, restaurants and bars. A few years ago, the resort got $127.9 million worth of upgrades, including a new terrain park and new chairlift. www.bigwhite.com

Silver Star Mountain Resort

North of Kelowna, near Vernon, is Silver Star Mountain Resort, often called “the best little mountain in BC.” It’s not a hokey operation though: more than 1,000 hectares of uncrowded terrain serviced by 12 lifts accessing 107 marked trails ensures great skiing and snowboarding. Don’t forget the 700-plus centimetres of snowfall that piles up on Silver Star each year. Boarders will like the two halfpipes — one of which is lit for night riding, plus the terrain park. www.skisilverstar.com

Sun Peaks

A short, 45-minute drive from Kamloops lies the multiple-award winning resort of Sun Peaks. And awards aren’t the only thing multiple about this place — how about multiple peaks? Actually three mountains grouped together, Sun Peaks offers terrain to suit any rider, with a large, vibrant village in the centre. Eleven lifts servicing an 881-metre vertical drop covered by an average of 559 centimetres of white stuff per year, Sun Peaks has the largest ski area in the Interior of BC. Before the snow falls in winter, head there for great golf, hiking and mountain biking as well. www.sunpeaksresort.com/

Shames Mountain

About 35 km from Terrace, in BC’s Coast Mountains, sits Shames, a little-known ski hill that gets amazing snow. How much annual snowfall? Try 1,200 centimetres; yes, that’s 40 feet! Three lifts access 54 hectares of marked trails, with a vertical drop of 488 metres, but that’s only half the story. Experienced skiers head to the backcountry, where 3,150 untouched hectares of pristine powder await; just make sure you have the skills, as it is totally unpatrolled and unmonitored once you’re out of bounds. Expect uncrowded beauty at Shames — and there’s no shame in that. www.shamesmountain.com

Hudson Bay Mountain

Easily accessible from the town of Smithers, this mountain is renowned by those in-the-know for having deep, light powder all season long. Enjoying an average annual snowfall of over 500 centimetres, this 35-run mountain has a 533-metre vertical drop and three chairlifts. Another location off the beaten path (read: affordable) Hudson Bay Mountain has a nice on-site lodge for accommodation, or you can choose to sleep in Smithers. www.hudsonbaymountain.com

Whitewater Winter Resort

Nestled away in the cozy community of Nelson, in British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains, Whitewater Winter Resort boasts 2,000-plus metres of elevation, 478 hectares of skiable terrain, a 396-metre vertical drop and two chairlifts. But those stats don’t tell the real story: the real story is the deep, fluffy Kootenay Mountain powder skiers and riders will find themselves practically buried in. Whitewater is also known for its steep, challenging terrain – with 40 per cent of their runs classified as “expert.” However, as with every ski resort, beginners and intermediates will find many of the 46 groomed runs to their liking. Tickets are $57 for an adult. www.skiwhitewater.com

Kicking Horse Resort

Kicking Horse is a true beast of a mountain (and a beauty too!). It boasts a huge 1,260 metres of vertical and summits at a near-oxygen depleting 2,450 metres. One-hundred-and-six runs snake down the side of this massive massif, with 45 per cent of the classified as “advanced.” (Don’t worry, there’s plenty of easy stuff, too.) This mountain sees up to 700 centimetres of annual snowfall, yes, that’s almost 25 feet, and services its vast terrain with five modern ski lifts. The town of Golden, nearby, is a full service village with all the amenities one would expect. www.kickinghorseresort.com

Red Mountain

Located in the quaint, funky town of Rossland, British Columbia, Red Mountain is off the radar for most skiers — and the locals prefer it that way. Why? Because they want to keep the mountain’s 1,685 lift-serviced acres, 890-metre vertical drop, 88 runs and six chairlifts to themselves, so they can shred the 750 centimetres of annual snowfall from sun up to sun down, free from long lines. What this means to the visitor is that you can do lap after lap of Red’s challenging and exciting terrain without the maddening crowds found in some Olympic-sized venues. Beyond the hill, you’ll love Rossland, a true original BC mountain town with great accommodation, restaurants and friendly locals. www.redresort.com

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

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