A Braveskimom.com interview with Heather Gardiner, a mom and lifelong skier.
One resort. This winter. Your choice.
Big White, BC, Canada
Why Big White?
It’s the resort closest to my home, so it makes sense. I do love the varied terrain, the programs for kids, and the relaxed vibe of the resort. I definitely recommend Big White to visitors.
What makes Big White good for families?
Big White has a great ski school and varied terrain. I also like that the beginner area is located away from the main hill, so absolute beginners don’t need to worry about sharing the slopes as they learn.
Other amenities include: a terrain park, ice climbing wall, tubing, cross-country and snow shoe trails, and evening activities for visitors that stay up on the mountain.
This mountain has something for everyone.
Anything you’d improve upon?
The new pass system still needs a bit of improvement to speed flow through the gates and to control the masses in the lift line (occasionally we’ve become briefly separated from our daughter in the merge chaos).
I’d love to see some additional assistance from the lift crew when getting on and off the gondola – although it’s just a small “people mover” type, I’ve seen moms (and dads) travelling with multiple kids struggle to get everyone on and off the gondola.
I think as well providing more information as opposed to less is always a great thing – my best example of this is when I had visitors from out-of-town sign their kids up for lessons. The crew checking the kids in were super friendly, but a little less than forthcoming with information – especially when it came to knowing exactly where the kids should meet the ski instructors!
What “secrets” are you willing to share?
On days when the clouds roll in, and the visibility is poor, head over to Black Forest. The runs are shorter but this area always seems to have better visibility than the rest of the hill. Big White is also building a brand new day lodge at the base of Black Forest so it will be a great spot for a warm up or coffee break as well.
My other secret is that when you are looking for a quick breakfast or just a coffee/hot chocolate, skip the packed line at Beanos on the main floor of Village Centre (main day lodge) and head down stairs to the Underground Bakery. No lines downstairs, more selection of treats to eat and almost always free tables at which to sit and enjoy. The Underground Cafe also sells fresh bread, quick lunches, and does pizza in the afternoon and evening.
Any advice for families coming to Big White?
If you are staying up at Big White in a condo and planning to prepare some of your meals, be sure to stop in Kelowna on your way up to the hill to stock up on groceries. The market at Big White is quite small and has limited supplies.
Be aware that there will be days where the visibility is not the best. Be sure to bring your low-light goggle lenses!
Be prepared to explore! There are so many areas and lifts on this hill that you really need to get away from the main three lifts (Bullet, Ridge Rocket, Snow Ghost) to get the best skiing!
Try to be there for a Cruz the Blues weekend. Pick up a passport at Village Centre and spend the weekend collecting stamps on the blue runs. Sunday afternoon bring your passport to the Happy Valley day lodge, pick up your free t-shirt and celebrate your success!
How about dining?
Underground Cafe is a regular stop for us, we’ve all picked up cafeteria style lunch at the market, and enjoyed a beer and burger at The Blarney Stone. Next year we’re going to be sure to have lunch at The Globe and try their table top s’mores!
And what about lodging?
It looks pretty amazing and is ski-in/ski-out for the most part. I haven’t had a chance to stay yet, but there are a variety of choices for families.
What makes Big White unique?
I think Big White’s location makes it unique. Situated about an hour from Kelowna, you can almost see the seasons change as you drive up to Big White.
Kelowna is located on Lake Okanagan and is typically dry and warm (for Canadian winters anyway) making it possible to ski and golf in the same day, or even ski and boat – although we didn’t get a chance to test that out this year!
Big White is also a popular location for Australians to visit over their summer school holidays so occasionally when standing in the lift line it can be rare to hear anything other than an Aussie accent!
Your favorite Big White memory?
My favorite memory so far is watching my nine-year-old fly by me on a perfectly groomed blue run, no one around us at all, so we could be as free as we wanted – lots of big turns, and getting in those glorious first tracks along the sides of the run where the snow had been left untouched.
Any tips for other skiing families?
Actually, I’ve written about packing for ski trips. You can find this article right here.
What is your favorite thing about family skiing?
The time together as a family, and the chance to just talk on the chairlifts up the mountain – no cellphones, TVs, or other distractions!
The Brave Ski Mom Adds…
Thank you so much Heather! Big White has been on our list and I love your insider tips. We’ll be making use of them someday when we visit!
Big White is a large resort with 15 lifts, 2765 patrolled acres (1/3 groomed, 2/3 glades) and western Canada’s largest resort night skiing.
In addition to skiing, Heather writes about exploring the Okanagan Valley in Beautiful British Columbia, focusing on local activities, wineries, and places to explore. Her blog is ShiftMama.
She also writes about helping kids learn to love the outdoors and develop leadership skills with the Girl Guides of Canada.
Heather adds that she and her husband met while working at a ski hill – so the mountains have a special place in their hearts!
More British Columbia:
- British Columbia’s Family Paradise: Silver Star Mountain Resort, January 27, 2014.
- Heli Skiing…Falling…And Getting Up Again, January 15, 2014.
- Revelstoke Mountain Resort: For Families Who Live to Ski and More, March 3, 2014.
- Why My Family Loves to Ski Whistler, British Columbia, November 14, 2012.
- Why My Family Loves to Ski Mount Washington, British Columbia, March 29, 2012.
- Why My Family Loves Skiing at Silver Star Mountain Resort, British Columbia, April 13, 2011.
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