There’s a simplicity to ski areas that operate T-bars, tow ropes, and two-person lifts—all hearkening back to skiing’s early days.
In BC, you don’t need a time machine to experience an old-school skiing vibe. Here, there are plenty of community ski areas in operation, all promising great options for the family. It’s affordable, too; tickets at these community hills are as low as $21.25 for a full day of skiing.
In Northern BC, you’re guaranteed massive mountain terrain, minus the crowds. Murray Ridge Ski Area, outside Fort St. James, is the perfect place to get in some turns. The hill is run by volunteers and is reputed to have North America’s longest t-bar, at 510 metres (1,675 feet) long. It’s also home to the Mount Everest Challenge, where participants sign up to ski a minimum of 18 runs (or 30,000 vertical feet) in one day.
Further west, near Terrace, is Shames Mountain, a place that is literally owned by the people. Run by My Mountain Co-Op, Canada’s first non-profit community ski co-operative, Shames was taken over by a group of dedicated skiers and community members to prevent its closure. An insightful move, as this slice of skiing paradise is backed by more than 2,833 hectares (7,000 acres) of backcountry terrain, and receives an average annual snowfall of 12 metres (39 feet).
In BC’s Kootenay Rockies, The Salmo Ski Hill is a 30-minute drive south of Nelson. Here, the tiny five-run operation is managed solely by volunteers. Friendly staff keep the lifts turning, and they offer both night skiing and a half pipe. North towards Revelstoke is the Summit Lake Ski and Snowboard Area. This hill packs a punch with alpine and cross-country skiing, a terrain park, tubing, and snowshoe trails. Bonus: it’s a family-friendly option that won’t break the bank.
Vancouver Island may not scream enormous mountains and heavy snowfall, but don’t be fooled: the lift-accessed vertical at Mount Cain is second only to Whistler Blackcomb, with 1,769 metres (5,803 feet) of downhill. Two T-bars and one handle-tow provide access to 21 runs and a bounty of backcountry terrain that is blessed with an average annual snowfall of 11 metres (38 feet).
For adventure and plenty of fresh air in the Okanagan, head to Baldy Mountain Resort. This little mountain near Osoyoos—known for fantastic glade skiing, and dry, light powder—re-opened to skiers in December 2016 after a series of closures between 2012 and 2015. Seniors score big here, thanks to $19 season passes. Welcome back, Baldy.
Near Vancouver, there are two community ski areas: Hemlock Resort offers night skiing and tubing, and on Friday nights, families of four can ski for $20; and Manning Park Resort, three hours east of Vancouver, promises alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, a tube park, and ice skating. Both resorts offer affordable options to get the kids outside during the winter months.
For a list of all BC ski areas and community ski hills, check out the BC ski map to plan your next trip.
Featured Image: Baldy Mountain Resort.
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