All You Need to Know About Okanagan Ski Resorts

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on Feb 7, 17 • by • with No Comments

All You Need to Know About Okanagan Ski Resorts

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Ski resorts in the Okanagan are rightfully famous for their light, dry champagne powder. All five of the Okanagan ski resorts receive around approximately 600-700cm of the beautiful stuff every year. If you’re heading to the Okanagan but not sure where to go, here’s some pointers on the best of each to help make your decision (or you could just visit them all).

Big White BC gondola

Baldy Mountain Resort

Founded in 1968, Baldy is an institution amongst Okanagan ski resorts. Purchased by new owners in 2016 after a few uncertain years, Baldy has been injected with new life including a retro twist. The new ownership is embracing new investment while celebrating the modest hill’s history and retaining the friendly local vibe.

Baldy may be the smallest Okanagan ski resort but there is plenty of powder to go around here. In fact, mid-week skiing here is a bit like having your own resort. Even at the weekends, line-ups are rare. The resort offers a fairly even mix of beginner, intermediate and expert runs – great if you’re not really into the whole “steep ‘n’ deep” like me!

Top reasons to go:

No lift lines, best poutine in BC, free Magic Carpet rides for beginners, real local feel, $200 season passes, highest base altitude of any resort in Canada (1719m/5650ft)

Quick stats:

Lifts: 4 total – 2 chairs, 1 T-Bar, 1 Magic Carpet
Runs: 30 total – 27% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 33% Expert
On-hill accommodation: Privately owned cabins to rent
Food: Day lodge bar/cafe
Non-downhill activities: Nordic skiing, fat bikes, snowshoeing, frisbee golf, tobogganing
Cost: $

snow-ghosts-baldy-mountain-oliver-bc

baldy-mountain-views-oliver-bc-snowboarding

Apex Mountain Resort

Another Okanagan ski resort with a long history, Apex is something of a hidden gem. With such a large amount of challenging black runs, this resort’s atmosphere remains surprisingly low-key and relaxed. For those not seeking such steep terrain, there are some great runs accessible via the slower and lower Stock’s Chair (personal favourite – Stagecoach).

Even on weekends it never feels too crowded at Apex. Lift lines are five minutes at a maximum and once at the top, people spread fairly evenly throughout the mountain. On powder days, it is still possible to get fresh tracks late in the day on most runs.

Top reasons to go:

High percentage of difficult runs, quiet, great views of the Cascade Mountains, easy drive from Penticton, fun ice skating loop

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Quick stats:

Lifts: 4 total – 2 Chairs, 1 T-Bar, 1 Magic Carpet
Runs: 73 – 16% Beginner, 24% Intermediate, 49% Expert, 11% Extreme
On-hill accommodation: Hotel, condos, cabins, backpackers hostel
Food: Bistro, Cafeteria and bar/restaurant
Non-downhill activities: Tubing, snowshoeing, fat bikes, ice skating rink, ice skating loop, nordic skiing at nearby Nickel Plate Centre
Cost: $$

top of triple stocks chair apex feb 3

ridge run apex feb 3

Big White Ski Resort

If you’re looking for an Okanagan ski resort with plenty to do from sunrise to sunset, Big White is the place for you. This is the type of mountain where you can still be discovering new areas and runs after a whole week of skiing. Over half of all runs are intermediate level which means the resort is particularly popular with families. Head over to the Blackforest Express for some particularly cruisy blues.

Big White is the perfect place for a getaway with non-skiers too as there are so many alternative downhill activities. Ice climbing is one of Big White’s more unusual options plus sleigh rides, snowshoeing, dog sledding and skating on Canada’s highest rink. The nightlife at Big White is the busiest of all the Okanagan ski resorts.

Top reasons to go:

Family friendly facilities, lots of different areas to ski, large walkable village, wide choice of apres-ski, many non-skiing activities

Quick stats:

Lifts: 14 – 1 Gondola, 11 Chairs, 1 T-Bar, 2 Magic Carpets
Runs: 118 – 18% Beginner, 54% Intermediate, 22% Expert, 6% Extreme
On-hill accommodation: Hotels, condos, chalets/cabins, backpackers hostel
Food: Many options in Village Centre and at four Day Lodges around resort
Non-downhill activities: Snowshoeing, tubing, dog sledding, sleigh rides, ice climbing, day spa, ice skating, nordic skiing, snowmobiling tours and more
Cost: $$$

Big White BC village

Big White ski rink BC sunset (2)

Silver Star

A short and easy drive from Vernon, Silver Star is a fairly large BC resort that still manages to feel fairly compact. With a high percentage of intermediate and expert/extreme runs, there is plenty to challenge any skier or boarder here. On a personal note, we found the mountain to be better suited to skiers rather than snowboarders. Don’t take it as gospel though as it is only a viewpoint from one day on the mountain.

Silver Star’s village is conveniently mid-mountain and provides lots of apres ski activities such as tubing and ice skating. Some would call the colourful village buildings quaint, others a little garish. While the village does have lots of eating and shopping options, it does lack the nightlife that is present in some of the other larger Okanagan ski resorts.

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Top reasons to go:

Uncrowded backside of mountain, longer ski days (all lifts open before 9am), extensive nordic skiing area, distinctive and walkable village, easy short drive from Vernon

Quick stats:

Lifts: 8 total – 6 Chairs, 1 T-Bar, 3 Magic Carpet
Runs: 132 – 15% Beginner, 40% Intermediate, 35% Expert, 10% Extreme
On-hill accommodation: Hotels, condos, chalets/cabins
Food: Many options in main village
Non-downhill activities: Nordic skiing, tubing, ice skating, fat bikes, sleigh rides, snowmobiling tours
Cost: $$$

Silver-Star-view-Vernon-BC-skiing-1024x768

Silver Star village BC (2)

Sun Peaks

Sun Peaks is Canada’s second largest ski area after Whistler-Blackcomb and is consequently the most expensive Okanagan ski resort. Very popular with families, over half of all runs are of the intermediate level. Sun Peaks offers an interesting mix of groomers, glades and open bowls. For more advanced skiers looking for something more, there is heli-skiing available direct from the resort.

A more manageable version of Whistler-Blackcomb, Sun Peaks is big enough to keep most people busy for a week or more. Like Big White, there are plenty of alternative downhill activities to do ranging from nordic skiing and ice fishing to groomer rides and a day spa.

Top reasons to go:

High percentage of intermediate runs, European-style ski village, family friendly facilities, wide choice of apres-ski, many non-skiing activities

Quick stats:

Lifts: 13 total – 6 Chairs, 1 T-Bar, 2 Platters, 2 Magic Carpets
Runs: 136 – 10% Beginner, 58% Intermediate, 26% Expert, 6% Extreme
On-hill accommodation: Hotels, condos, chalets/cabins, backpacker hostel
Food: Wide range of food options in village plus one mid-mountain restaurant
Non-downhill activities: Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, tubing, snow bikes, dog sledding, ice fishing, groomer rides, ice skating, day spa, Segway tours and more
Cost: $$$

sun-peaks-chairlift-village-view-ski-resortSun Peaks photos by Ruth Hartnup with Creative Commons License

sun-peaks-ski-resort-okanagan-village

I’d love to know which of these Okanagan ski resorts you pick for your trip! Let me know in the comments below

all-you-need-to-know-about-okanagan-ski-resorts-2

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