March 20, 2018
Sometimes in life, we just need a new perspective. That’s exactly what you’ll get exploring BC’s scenery and wildlife from the water—not to mention some…
By Destination British Columbia November 16, 2017 #php comments_number('0 Comment', '1 Comment', '% Comments'); ?> #php echo wpb_get_post_views(get_the_ID()); ?>
If there are two things you need to know about a BC ski vacation, they are: British Columbia is one of the top places in the world to ski, and BC is massive. We’re talking 13 major resorts and an additional 22 community ski areas, plus a staggering amount of terrain tenured for heli- and cat-skiing … spread out over an area that is nearly 23 times the size of Switzerland. All this space means that there are some significant distances to travel, but don’t sweat it—we’ve got you covered.
BC’s international airports are within close proximity of the snow, and there are a host of regional airports you can connect to from within the province to get to your final destination faster. Car rentals are available from most airports, and many of the resorts offer airport shuttles.
We have broken the province’s resorts into four geographic areas: the Coast, the Interior, the Powder Highway, and Northern BC. Here is a how-to guide to get you to your chosen resort—and on the slopes—as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Skiing within view of the ocean is one of the things that sets the BC ski experience apart. Want to ski on an island? Vancouver Island is home to Mount Washington Alpine Resort, about 45 minutes from regional airports in both the Comox Valley and Campbell River, both accessible via a connecting flight from the Vancouver International Airport. Rent a car, or arrange shuttle service from the airport to the resort.
Want to ski the number one resort in North America? Whistler Blackcomb is approximately 2.5 hours by car from the Vancouver’s airport via the stunning Sea-to-Sky Highway. Rent a car at the airport or, if you’d rather leave the driving to someone else and just enjoy the views, consider a range of alternatives including buses, limos, ride shares, and even helicopter transfers.
If your need for powder is too great to wait the 2.5 hours to Whistler, consider one of Vancouver‘s North Shore mountains, Cypress Mountain Resort, Grouse Mountain, and Mt Seymour. Drive the 60-90 minutes from YVR, or take a shuttle—Cypress Coach Lines and the Mt. Seymour Shuttle Bus have a number of pick-up locations between the airport and the mountain, and all three are accessible via public transportation from the airport.
Travelling with kids? Some of the best family-friendly resorts are found in BC’s interior, and as a rule they are buried in soft powder. Kelowna International Airport is the main air access point, and several nearby resorts operate shuttles from here. The airport has daily direct service from cities including Seattle, Toronto, and Calgary. The closest resort is Big White Ski Resort, home to the country’s biggest ski-in/ski-out village. A shuttle from the airport has to be booked at least 72 hours in advance, or rent a car and get there in about an hour.
Also accessible by shuttle from the Kelowna airport are SilverStar Mountain Resort in Vernon and Sun Peaks Resort in Kamloops. SilverStar is about an hour northeast of Kelowna, and has the unique advantage of a lift ticket that includes unlimited access to 55 kilometres (34 miles) of Nordic trails, snowshoe trails, the resort’s tube park, ice skating, and fat bike trails. Sun Peaks Resort offers a huge range of activities for families, including horse-drawn carriage rides, snowmobiling, and dogsledding. The shuttle from the Kelowna airport takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes, but shuttle service is also available from the smaller Kamloops Airport 50 minutes from the resort.
To ski at Apex Mountain Resort southwest of Penticton, you can fly to Kelowna and drive the 1 hour 45 minutes to the resort, or fly into the Penticton Regional Airport and rent a car for the 40-minute drive to Apex. The resort does operate a Snow Bus from Penticton, but it doesn’t pick up at the airport.
As its name suggests, the Powder Highway is the place to go for exceptional snow, and lots of it. This route boasts the world’s highest concentration of ski experiences—resort-based, backcountry, cat-, heli-, and Nordic—alongside funky mountain towns. A handful of natural hot springs are also nearby.
Gateway airports to this area are the Calgary International Airport in neighbouring Alberta, and the Spokane International Airport in Washington State. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort just west of Golden offers big vertical and great après, and is accessible from Calgary via a shuttle that runs twice weekly, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Scenery along the 3.5-hour drive through the Rocky Mountains will make the time pass quickly. Farther south, Panorama Mountain Resort with its outdoor slopeside hot pools—the biggest in the country—is most commonly accessed through Calgary. A twice-daily shuttle service runs upon request and takes about four hours. The Canadian Rockies International Airport in Cranbrook is a little closer. Pick up a rental car and get there in about two hours.
Wednesday to Sunday you can book a shuttle to Fernie Alpine Resort from the airport in Calgary, or fly to Cranbrook, rent a car, and arrive at the resort in about an hour. The resort enjoys an average of 11 metres (37 feet) of snow each year, and the laid-back town of Fernie is charming. Some time to explore here is a must. Families will love the welcoming vibe at Kimberley Alpine Resort, located less than 30 minutes from the airport in Cranbrook. Shuttles are available from both Cranbrook and Calgary airports.
RED Mountain Resort and Whitewater Ski Resort in the Kootenays are best accessed from Spokane, Washington. Daily shuttle service is available to both resorts, with RED about a three-hour trip and Nelson another hour. Skiers and boarders love the authentic experience at RED, a resort known for its tree skiing and uncrowded slopes. Nelson is a picture-perfect town with a thriving arts community, and Whitewater is celebrated for its deep, dry powder.
The Powder Highway is also home to the highest vertical in North America at Revelstoke Mountain Resort, Canada’s newest resort. The Stoke Shuttle runs daily from the Kelowna International Airport, roughly a three-hour trip. You can also shuttle from Calgary in five to six hours. Want a far more direct route? Pacific Coastal Airlines operates a direct charter flight from Vancouver to Revelstoke three to four times a week through the winter. Leave Vancouver’s South Terminal and be in Revy in an hour.
For a ski vacation that is off the beaten path, consider heading north. Waaaaaay north. Resorts in Northern BC come with fresh tracks aplenty and it can feel like you have the mountain all to yourself. This massive, remote landscape is also home to some of the biggest tenured heli- and cat-ski areas in the world.
Prince George, the biggest city in the north, is close to two ski hills: Tabor Mountain Ski Resort and Purden Ski Village. Connect to the Prince George Airport through Vancouver, and drive your rental car 20 minutes to Tabor, or 50 minutes to Purden.
Further west, Hudson Bay Mountain in Smithers and Shames Mountain in Terrace promise deep powder, pristine wilderness, friendly locals, and virtually nonexistent lift lines. Get on the mountain quickly by flying into the Northwest Regional Airport, which services Terrace, or the Smithers Regional Airport and renting a car.
Alpine resorts are bordered by uncontrolled wilderness areas. Respect the boundary lines and don’t ski out of bounds. Make sure you know the Alpine Responsibility Code and learn about the danger of tree wells. AdventureSmart is a great resource to help you get informed before heading outdoors.
Featured image: Whistler Blackcomb. Photo: Randy Lincks
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