or Connect
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Bucket List Trip to Western Canada Resorts
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Bucket List Trip to Western Canada Resorts

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

We are in the early stages of planning a trip from mid Feb to mid-late march 2016. We will have a rental car and just the two of us. We could book town lodgings in several areas for a few days at a time, but with conditions not known in advance, there is the risk of missing out on the best. If we don't book lodgings and /or packages in advance, how common is it that everything gets booked out or we pay over the top premiums? Thinking of all areas between Vancouver and Banff incl Whitefish. Cheers.

post #2 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baldrick View Post
 

  If we don't book lodgings and /or packages in advance, how common is it that everything gets booked out or we pay over the top premiums? Thinking of all areas between Vancouver and Banff incl Whitefish. Cheers.

 

I don't think it's that common to be 100% booked.   You may not get your first choice, but you'll find something.  I think the tradeoff is well worth the flexiblilty.

post #3 of 38

Don't worry about lodging in the Okanogan area.  This is a region that has a big summer crowd due to the many large lakes, so during the winter the hotel/motel sector is looking hard for business.  There are always lots of rooms available.  This includes Apex, Big White, and Silver Star, all worth a visit.

post #4 of 38
Whitefish has moved to Canada? I knew we had the best bar in Canada, but not that we'd been transported..

Anyway, as long as you're not here during Family Week/Presidents Week, I don't think you'll need reservations. Most people stay in town, not at the mountain. Worst case, you're driving up from Kalispell, but that's closer than other ski area's "closest town". (Not as wonderful as Whitefish, though.). :-)
post #5 of 38

The only areas you might have some trouble with just showing up are Revelstoke Fernie and Banff. But only on Friday or Saturday nights. A lot of weekenders from Alberta go to all three places. Castle also does not have much in the area. Either a bit of a morning drive or book something in advance  

 

Generally with a car its fairly easy to find economical rooms within short drives of hills in B.C.

However on hill rooms are more expensive if you just show up and want a single night. They prefer advance booking for multiple days to give the best rates.  

post #6 of 38

If the OP is looking for really cheap accommodation, Revelstoke has a hostel in town, Castle has a hostel on the hill, Sun Peaks has a ski in/out hostel. Silver Star is about 20 minutes from the small city (pop. 40k) of Vernon with lots of inexpensive motels. Whitewater is about 20 minutes from Nelson where there are some cheap accommodation choices.

post #7 of 38

I don't think the hotels in Nelson are fully booked in the winter very often, but since I live here, I don't really have to know. Nelson has quite a few choices for a small town, ranging from tacky, to haunted, to midrange.

 

Whitewater has no lodging on the mountain.

 

The towns nearest Red are Rossland and Trail. Red has lodging on the mountain, but I don't know the usual occupancy levels. Since Red can handle more people than Whitewater, and the towns are even smaller than Nelson, I suppose it may be more likely they'll be full. There appear to be a number of, um, "budget" places along the highway east of Trail.

 

You really shouldn't come all the way from NZ without at least considering some cat skiing. The well-known places that only do full weeks will already be booked for next season. There are several near Nelson that do day trips, and with a little luck you could pick up a single day standby seat. Expect to pay in the range of CA$400-500. It may be possible to find something for less, but I wouldn't count on it.

post #8 of 38

If you fly into Vancouver and you're thinking of crossing into the US to ski in Whitefish, you might want make Mt. Baker your first stop.  It's about an hour from the main highway (1) east out of Vancouver.  If you do that you can stay in Chilliwak or Hope (back in B.C.) after your day of skiing and you're right on your way to the Powder Highway, close enough to get in some turns at Sun Peaks the next day if you get going early.

post #9 of 38

Now is the time of year that season passes are on sale so the OP might want to consider it. Most of the resorts in BC, some in Alberta and Washington have a reciprocal arrangement with each other so that pass holders of one mountain get 25% off day tickets at the others. The exceptions are Whistler, Fernie, Kimberly, Kicking Horse and Lake Louise who don't participate. However a season pass at Sun Peaks ($749CDN before June 30) also gets you 50% off day lift tickets at Whistler as well as the other previously mentioned discounts at other resorts.

 

Another pass to consider is the Mountain Collective Pass. Although mostly involving US resorts, the MCP also includes Whistler and Banff. It is currently $369US and gets you 2 "free" days at each resort plus an extra day at a MCP resort of your choosing. Subsequent day tickets are 50% off.

post #10 of 38

How many days do you have? This is what I would do if I had two weeks

 

Trip #1

 

Day 1 and 2: Whistler

Day 3 and 4: Sun Peaks

Day 5 Big White

Day 6: Silver Star

Day 7 and 8: Revelstoke 

Day 9 and 10: Kicking Horse

Day 11: Panorama

Day 12-14: Lake Louise and Sunshine Village

 

There are many other trips possible

post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunValleySteve View Post
 

How many days do you have? This is what I would do if I had two weeks

 

Trip #1

 

Day 1 and 2: Whistler

Day 3 and 4: Sun Peaks

Day 5 Big White

Day 6: Silver Star

Day 7 and 8: Revelstoke 

Day 9 and 10: Kicking Horse

Day 11: Panorama

Day 12-14: Lake Louise and Sunshine Village

 

There are many other trips possible


He said mid February to Late March in the OP, much more time than you have outlined.

post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
 


He said mid February to Late March in the OP, much more time than you have outlined.

 That is why I suggested buying a season pass during the sales that are happening now. Worry about accommodation later.

post #13 of 38

While you are in Banff you might hit Nakiska too It's the site of the 88 Olympics and only about 40 mins from down the road.

post #14 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunValleySteve View Post
 

How many days do you have? This is what I would do if I had two weeks

 

Trip #1

 

Day 1 and 2: Whistler

Day 3 and 4: Sun Peaks

Day 5 Big White

Day 6: Silver Star

Day 7 and 8: Revelstoke 

Day 9 and 10: Kicking Horse

Day 11: Panorama

Day 12-14: Lake Louise and Sunshine Village

 

There are many other trips possible

I, personnally would take some of those areas off the list, and add others.  If it were me, Sun Peaks, Big White, Sunshine and Panorama would be taken off your list.  Fernie, Whitewater and Red Mountain would be added.  

 

But then, it depends on what the OP is looking for.  In a nutshell, here is what I think the low and high points of each area are:

 

WB:  Highs:  Huge, varied,

        Lows:  crowded; iffy conditions at lower elevations.

 

Sun Peaks:  Highs:  Good and reasonably affordable slope side lodging.  Lots of intermediate terrain.

 

                   Lows:  Lots of intermediate terrain.  Lack of sustained steeps.  Not much real alpine terrain.  No big dumps.

 

 

Big White:  See Sun Peaks, with added fog.

 

Silver Star:  Never been there

 

Revelstoke:  Highs:  Huge vertical.  Abundant and reliable snow cover.  Cheap lodging in town.  Steep from top to bottom.  Uncrowded.

                   Lows:  Alpine terrain requires a hike.  Lower mountain may get rain from time to time.

 

KH:   Highs:  Huge.  Steep.  Lots of alpine terrain.

        Lows:  Limited cruising terrain and groomers.

 

Panorama:  See Sun Peaks, but with less snow.

 

Lake Louise:  Highs:  Varied.  Steep.  Good alpine terrain.  Great views.

                    Lows:  Does not get big dumps, but keeps snow well.

 

Sunshine Village:  See Sun Peaks, but with better views, actual alpine terrain and more snow.  Can be crowded.

 

Red:  Highs:  Great tree skiing.  Uncrowded. Steep.  Good nearby cat skiing.  Uncrowded.

 

         Lows:  Few on mountain lodging options.  

 

Whitewater:  Highs:   Alta North!   Lots of snow.  Limited grooming.

                   Lows:  Not truly a resort.  Limited grooming.

 

Fernie:  Highs:  Large.  Steep.  Lots of alpine terrain.  Usually gets lots of snow (This year was an exception, as I found out in person)

             Lows:  Low base altitude is prone to get rain.


Edited by Pacobillie - 5/15/15 at 9:15am
post #15 of 38

continuing the above (and only for those not mentioned and not including out of boundary terrain )

 

Coast 

Mt Baker - usually lots of snow -  short runs but good variety. con: temp is usually just + or minus freezing by a few degrees no accomadation closer than 1/2 hour in glacier where you might find a private cabin to rent 

Cypress pretty much same snow and evevation as Baker crowed local Vancouver hill but has some decent skiing  mid week

Grouse spectacular views short runs. Get off the hill before schools out even mid week 

Manning Park - very limited terrain old lifts family hill

 

Okanogan 

Silver Star - similar lodging on hill as BW Sun Peaks but local town is closer 20 min. More "steeps" on putnam side, Best of the Okanogan hills

                  cons -intermediate and advanced skiers might prefer different chairs. 

Apex - similar lodging on hill same as BW Sun Peaks (but less after hours activity) plenty of steep bumps no crowds ever..2nd best of the Okanogan hills 35 min to town

                  cons traversing out and back repeatly to best runs and again intermediate and advanced might prefer different chairs 

 

Banff region

Norquay - if you like bumps, good work out while in Banff

Nakiska - never skiied there 

Fortress -never skiied there 

 

Columbia valley enroute to S.E of province .

Panorama actually has some decent skiing but you need 3 chairs to lap it 

Fairmont: for those who prefer to make 2 runs then relax in luxury also never skied there 

Kimberley - Alberta family condo destination some decent runs but not equal to others in region

 

 

S.E corner  

Fernie nice alpine. Town is close usually plenty of snow but at base can get freeze thaw and rain

Castle -almost private mid week - steep chutes great fall line skiing, drift in fill powder is common

           but the wind is in your face, and often wind delays or closures 2 old slow lifts required each run forthe  best skiing      

Whitefish- nice town not a steep hill but has variety and usually decent snow. not much actual alpine 

                 

 

no hills out here are perfect but if you follow the conditions most will give a good days skiing.

post #16 of 38

Can someone comment on Schweitzer and we will have the whole region covered?  

 

Schweitzer, just like Whitefish, is located in "Greater Canada"!  Is it not?

post #17 of 38
I've never been to Schweitzer, but that's because it's too "ditto" to spend four hours driving there for me. Slightly lower, which in marginal winters can make a HUGE difference. On the flip side, they have more north facing terrain. So, if they get it, they should keep it better, but if it's two degrees warmer, we'll get snow, they'll get rain. Picking one or the other based on the snow reports at the time makes the most sense, although from a driving route, one might be preferable.

Both get fog. Both are largely crowd free.
post #18 of 38

The one thing that sets western Canada skiing (including Whitefish and Schweitzer) off from the rest of North America is a noticeable lack of crowds for the resorts that are too far from Vancouver or Calgary for day skiing. Once the Xmas season is over and in some cases even during the Xmas holidays it is no longer skiers per acre it is acres per skier. Having an entire run to yourself is not unusual. Lift capacity is over built.

post #19 of 38

Decent summaries above.  Schweitzer and Whitefish are quite similar IMHO.  Tons of acreage, very quiet midweek, Schweitzer will be busier on the weekends as it's an easy daytrip from Spokane.  Neither has as much expert terrain as their Canadian counterparts on the other side of the border, Red and Fernie. All 4 of these large areas near the border are renowned for tree skiing, which is a good thing since they all get a lot of overcast, fog and flat light.  Fernie has about a 25% snowfall edge over the other 3 that average about 300 inches.  Whitefish has a modest altitude edge over the other 3 and thus gets less trashed when it rains. Castle has an even bigger temperature/altitude/rain avoidance edge though it gets somewhat less snow.  But during this past extreme season all of these places got a lot of rain and had poor seasons. Whitewater is smaller than the 5 areas above but gets more snow than Fernie, has a higher base elevation and overall the most reliable lift served snow in western Canada.

 

I am in this region every year during the second half of February, and in general the areas I discuss above are the ones I like best.  This year I bypassed all of them due to crappy conditions to ski higher altitude places with more north exposure to mimimize rain effect and melt/frozen snow.   All of the comments in other posts about Panorama are true, but it had the best overall conditions I saw in western Canada in late February 2015.

 

So rule number 1 is DO NOT book any non-refundable lodging now.  We also happened to be at Whistler April 2-6.  In late February/early March the reports were so bad I cancelled my hotel reservation March 15 when I could get a full refund.  It snowed a meter in late March and I made a new hotel reservation on March 31 for a lower rate than the old one.  Banff/Lake Louise is like the Okanagan, highly skewed to summer tourism, so no problem there either finding reasonable last minute ski season lodging (I did that too on the February trip).

 

For the second half of March you need to be more concerned about high altitude/north exposure than how much snow the ski areas get.  Lake Louise, Sunshine, Kicking Horse and Panorama are good by that criteria.  So is the Whistler/Blackcomb alpine, which is where you will be doing most of your skiing if you're advanced or expert.   We were quite pleased with the skiing at Whistler April 2-6 (TR's and pics here: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=3) despite the melted-out lower slopes, and the other 2 times I've been there in late March/early April it was much better and open top-to-bottom.   The late February TR's from interior Canada and Montana are here: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards/viewforum.php?f=3&start=50 .

 

So if you want to ski the Okanagan areas, Revelstoke or the areas near the border I discussed in the first paragraph, lean towards the earlier half of your trip, before spring conditions are more likely later on (Apex is the only one of those places predominantly north facing).  Logistics will be easiest if you can fly into Vancouver and out of Calgary, putting Banff at the end of the trip.  You might pay a big one-way car rental charge for that, and while a roundtrip from Vancouver is a huge amount of driving, the OP does have 5-6 weeks to do it.

 

Quote:
You really shouldn't come all the way from NZ without at least considering some cat skiing. The well-known places that only do full weeks will already be booked for next season. There are several near Nelson that do day trips, and with a little luck you could pick up a single day standby seat. Expect to pay in the range of CA$400-500. It may be possible to find something for less, but I wouldn't count on it.

Cat skiing is the centerpiece of my annual trips, but it's at a remote lodge reserved a year ahead (Mustang Powder).  I would be careful about booking daytrip cat skiing far in advance, as not all of those places are in the optimal locations I would recommend for an advance commitment.   K3 and Valhalla are the ones near high snowfall locations I know about.  Otherwise I would take my chances on a last minute standby once you are there and know the conditions are worth the expense.

 

As in many of these inquiries, the OP has not stated an ability range/terrain preference.  I and other respondents have assumed an advanced/expert orientation due to the travel distance and length of proposed trip.

post #20 of 38
Thread Starter 

Thank you everyone! We appreciate your thoughtful and informative replies. It has given us plenty to think about and use in our planning. Yes we are in the advanced bracket so you have pretty well nailed it as to our preferences.

 

Regarding tree skiing, we have heard a few horror stories about tree wells etc, but believe we will be missing out on a lot of enjoyable skiing if we avoid it altogether. We will do some homework on tree ski threads.

 

Thanks again and enjoy your summer!

 

Kind Regards

 

Mr & Mrs Baldrick

post #21 of 38
It's "a cunning plan," @Baldrick. smile.gif
post #22 of 38
In regards to tree wells, STICK TOGETHER. DON'T meet at the lift. Within "run through the crotch deep snow uphill in ski boots" distance. The problem is mostly in the best snow conditions, light fluff that will fall in on top of you, NOT cement. Look for tracks where others have gone, even if there is some snowfall since then. It'll be more compacted there. Don't hug the trees, keep away from them. And if you fall in, don't panic, stop and think it out.
post #23 of 38
Thread Starter 

Could I put a tail on it and call it a weasel?

post #24 of 38
Thread Starter 

Thank you sibhusky

post #25 of 38
Thread Starter 

Update - Airfares purchased and now looking to arrange a rental car or small SUV. It seems to be hard to find a rental car co. that will promise snow tyres or allow us to use snow chains. But it also seems to be law to use one or the other on some or all roads/highways when the snow is serious enough that you require assistance with traction. Is this surprising to anyone? Is there a silver bullet we can use?  Or even a straight talking rental company?

 

Thanks for any and all suggestions

 

Local news is that we have had the best start to a ski season for a few years -  Mid and north Canterbury clubs all have good snow cover - there have been several southerly storms come through in the last few weeks - at home it's 160m elevation and we have had several snowfalls this year. As the winter progresses to spring our local areas should get even more depth in the storms. 

post #26 of 38

I have always managed with a car on my western trips.  Go midsize as generally it has better safety features-traction control, stability.

 

I have bought chains and used them and bought them not used them and returned them-Walmart.  Try to limit the time you drive with chains-plan ahead.  Buy and use the rubber bungie cords and stop and check after half mile for proper fit until you get the hang of it.

post #27 of 38
Thread Starter 

OK, car sorted, now looking at extra baggage charges for skis and wondering if maybe renting would be a better idea. We are picking up and returning the car at Vancouver so could possibly rent skis there - has anyone got suggestions for where in Vancouver to enquire about hire skis?

post #28 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Baldrick View Post
 

OK, car sorted, now looking at extra baggage charges for skis and wondering if maybe renting would be a better idea. We are picking up and returning the car at Vancouver so could possibly rent skis there - has anyone got suggestions for where in Vancouver to enquire about hire skis?


Those baggage charges would need to be pretty steep to be more than a 1.5 month rental charge for a pair of decent skis. (He says with no research done.)

post #29 of 38
Thread Starter 

Ah well, we have actually cut down this leg of our trip to 3 or 4 weeks. The extra baggage charges are very steep, and we're still finding out some of the detail around them, so trying to get a feel for rental costs. I do suspect your are likely correct though, even at 3 - 4 weeks. Cheers

post #30 of 38

One option for rental might be to see what price a season rental would be. Demo skis at Red (a couple of years ago) and Fernie (last season) was C$50 to C$57 per day, plus tax - so factoring in exchange rate it is not cheap. Another option might be to buy past season gear on sale when you get there and then take it to a consignment store when you get back to Vancouver.

 

If the snow is good, make sure that you factor in some time at Red - and do the full day ShredRed guide option through ski school (it was about C$200 for both of us for the whole day) - red is beyond great when the snow is good, but the good stuff is not obvious (it has a band of rock ringing it (and an abandoned mine in the middle of the ski area) and as much signage as a Canterbury club field which makes navigation adventurous). The vibe is club field with chairlifts and masses of terrain.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Resorts, Conditions & Travel
EpicSki › The Barking Bear Forums › Mountain/Resort Related Forums › Resorts, Conditions & Travel › Bucket List Trip to Western Canada Resorts