Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna, BC is known for its family-friendly atmosphere and wide array of rideable terrain. There’s a green run out of every lift, endless intersecting blue runs and an entire bowl of double blacks. To go along with its wide variety of ski runs, the mountain also experiences a multitude of weather conditions. While it’s most often possible to ride anywhere on the hill no matter the weather, knowing the best places to ride has helped me get the best day on the slopes possible, snow or shine!
On days when it’s its actively snowing and providing at least a bit of powder base, head west to Powder and Falcon Chairs and the Gem Lake Express. While the tougher blue and black pistes are fairly tight, there are a wide variety of paths down the mountain and people disperse quickly. This means that when the powder’s falling, you’ll be gliding down fresh routes all day long.
While its popularity means it’s often more tracked over than the other pistes, Kalina’s Rainbow provides a great introduction to the Gem Lake area.
Moving eastward, the Snow Ghost and Ridge Rocket Express lifts offer the greatest variety of runs from scenic and wide open greens like Highway 33 to tight trees through the black diamond Piece of Cake. This means that these runs are great when you’re out with a big group who have different abilities. However, they’re also the first area to crowd over on weekend and despite the fact that the mountain’s lifts can move 28,000 bodies an hour, often see the longest lines. These lines usually lessen dramatically during weekdays though.
Continuing across the mountain to the Alpine T-Bar and Bullet Express puts riders in some of the most exposed terrain on the mountain. This means that during high winds, it’s the coldest place around. During low visibility, you’ll also find yourself riding blind. However, on “bluebird days” with high visibility and low winds, the view from the top of the T-Bar is otherworldly!
On bluebird days where I find myself looking for more of a challenge, cliff chair is the place to be. It’s got the shortest and steepest runs on the hill, so first-timers should wait until ideal conditions before attempting a descent. The beginning of the entire cliff bowl begins with riders throwing themselves off a vertical descent and on my first attempt down, I found myself celebrating the simple fact that I had survived.
When I’m craving a trip down some halfpipes or a bordercross tracks, the Telus Park Chair is the place to be. Being a season-aire, I’d often wait until night riding opens up after 5pm to venture out. Something about the dark sky and bright lights just makes everything about the park come to life, plus most of the day trippers have taken off at this point, meaning the crowds lessen significantly.
Finally, the eastern-most point of the mountain on the Black Forest Express is a favourite place for intermediate skiers with tons of fast blue runs. In addition, while the west side of the hill tends to suffer during icy conditions, I’ve found that since the majority of Black Forest’s runs are groomed, the area becomes even more fun to speed down in icy conditions.