Big White Ski Resort
Activities, Natural sights
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 third largest resort in British Columbia after Whistler-Blackcomb and Sun Peaks.
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. 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.
Big White opened in 1963 with one T-bar.
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 in 1997. The Snow Ghost Express (six person), which is adjacent to the Ridge Rocket, ended annoyingly long lineups when it opened in 2006.
Shred and Shred 2, are snowboarding movies starring Tom Green and Dave England were filmed at Silver Star and Big White.
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 is a tubing carpet lift (new for the 15/16 season). These lifts are capable of transporting 28,000 people per hour uphill. All feeder lifts now use RFID gate technology to scan guests for valid lift tickets and passes.
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 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.
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.
Big White opened the 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.
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.
Big White has over 101 qualified instructors, offering classes for all ages and all skill levels.
Big White is in the process of designing and submitting an updated Master Plan.
Activities include the Mega Snow Coaster, which was once the largest tubing park in North America, snowmobile tours, Kids snow mobile rides, sleigh riding, dog sleds, snowshoeing through Big White's beautiful trails, and ice skating on the Olympic sized outdoor rink with a scenic view. Big White also has a 60-foot ice climbing wall, catered to all ages and climbing levels. There is the Sno-Limo, a sort of a cross between a dog sled and a lazy-boy chair on skis, which is for anyone who does not ski or snowboard to still be on the hill with everyone else.
Big White offers a variety of tours such as Free Mountain Tours- providing the ins and outs of the best spots on the Mountain and shopping shuttles to Kelowna for groceries and other in town amenities. There are also Wine Tours to some of the Okanagan's most popular wineries, as well as tickets and a bus ride to and from The Kelowna Rockets WHL team.
A new summer hiking trail opened at Big White on July 19th 2014.
The resort also hosts a number of family aimed events such as carnival nights and Tim Hortons's Cruise the Blues.
Big White also has 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.
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.
Big White is located about a one-hour drive outside Kelowna, and features a quaint on-mountain village. Several shops such as Dizzy’s ski shop, The Village Rider, Ski Dazzle, and the New Loose MooseEmporium Candy Shop are located in the Village Centre Mall and around the village. A few more are in Happy Valley at the bottom of the gondola.
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.
On March 6, 2010, a snowboarder from Vancouver, Canada, was killed after striking an obstacle near the Falcon Chair. A doctor, who was skiing close by, attended to the injured man almost immediately, but the man was already deceased.
On March 13, 2011, an Ontario man was spotted upside-down in a tree well on one of the runs. The man was airlifted to Kelowna General Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
On January 8, 2013, Nickolas Voyer-Taylor, a snowboarder from Winnipeg, Canada, died of hypothermia after being retrieved from a creek bed near Sapphire Glades at the Big White Resort. He was found seriously injured, partially submerged in water and buried in snow.