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BC/Alberta ski resort for Christmas break

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hi guys, I have been a member of other various ski forums in the past, but this is the one that keeps popping up as I do my googling - so I figured I should just join and ask my question directly. Any help is appreciated :)

 

I am looking for a good ski resort to go to approx Dec 27-Jan 2 this year. Unfortunately my only time off this winter is Christmas break, so I'm trying to find a good ski hill to avoid crowds as much as possible during that period.

 

Requirements:

- I would like to be out West, but stay in Canada (i.e. Alberta or BC) as I have never been out before.

- Not overly crowded - this is subjective, I have skied/snowboarded many times at Tremblant during Christmas or March break and dealt with it fine. So basically it would be nice to have waits <10mins for the lifts and not be dodging people the whole time going down the hill.

- For ski conditions powder is great, but I'm from out East so I don't expect it! I love black (and blue) groomers, and my dad is not a fan of moguls or hills that don't do much grooming.

- I prefer well-defined narrow-ish trails surrounded by trees - I know this sounds like a weird thing to include. Basically I hate bowl skiing (sorry) and never knowing "where the runs are" on the map. My last big trip was to Utah, and I loved Snowbasin and especially Solitude. I hated the back face of Snowbird. Actually, finding somewhere like Solitude in BC/Alberta would be ideal.

- It would be nice if there was a slopeside village or nearby town. My mom will probably come with us, and she's not much of a skier. She likes nice shops, restaurants, hotels to stay busy during the day.

 

Vertical matters less to me, not used to the giant mountains anyway so am expecting some thigh burn no matter what haha.

 

Nice to have:

- Short drive from a bigger airport to avoid lots of winter driving (or multiple layovers coming from Ontario)

- Ski in/ski out

 

I have never been to Whistler and have wanted to go for years, but I feel like Christmas break probably isn't the best time? What would lift lines be like, and how crowded would the hill be? I know my mom would love the village. Would it be the same with Lake Louise? I was also looking in to Big White (foggy?), Sun Peaks, Panorama. Any other suggestions?

 

If you actually read all that, thank you very much :)

post #2 of 17

Welcome to EpicSki!  I think you are correct that Whistler would be pretty busy during the winter holidays.  I haven't been there but if you didn't like Mineral Basin at Snowbird, then Lake Louise may not be the best choice.  Although the scenery is much prettier in the Canadian Rockies and Banff is a much nicer town than SLC.  Is slope side lodging important since your mother is not going to ski that much?

 

Perhaps @DanoT can stop by with comments about your other ideas.

post #3 of 17
Red Mountain has great trees, ski in/out and a nice town. Snow can be a problem.
If you are coming from the US, book Southwest into GEG. Then cancel if conditions look poor.
post #4 of 17
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies!

Slope side lodging would be nice, but a town a short drive away that we could stay at would work too (along the lines of Banff/Lake Louise). Basically I juat don't want my dad and I to take the car to the ski hill and leave her alone in a hotel in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do haha.

I will look up Red Mountain. We are coming from Ontario actually.
post #5 of 17
Sun Peaks fits your requirements perfectly, although that depends on whether the Kamloops airport qualifies as a big enough airport.

Silver Star is another.
post #6 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by DesiredUsername View Post

Sun Peaks fits your requirements perfectly, although that depends on whether the Kamloops airport qualifies as a big enough airport.

Silver Star is another.

 

Silver Star and Sun Peaks are for sure the two top picks based on the OPs requirements.

 

Reading my unofficial guide to Sun Peaks linked below should be a help. It includes a list of non-skiing activities as does the SP website. If interested in dog sledding during Xmas Holidays I would suggest booking in advance.

 

Xmas will be busy but not crowded with most lift lines being less than 10 minutes and if the line is slightly longer than 10 min. at the peak times, then going into the singles line remedies that problem.

 

Sun Peaks has a limited amount of snow making but between that and their on going summer grooming they are able to do a better job of mitigating slow starts to the winter than most other areas. I was up at SP in August and machine cutting of weeds and grass was well under way as where crews cutting small conifers on runs with chainsaws and clippers. Stumps and most rocks have long since been removed. They are also busy cutting some new black diamond runs. Because of all the summer run grooming at SP they can operate with a base that is 50cm thinner than other areas an still have equal or better coverage, so it is one of B.C.s better early season choices.

 

Stay away from areas that are close to Vancouver and Calgary to avoid crowds. That includes Panorama, Fernie, and Banff which get most of their skiers from Calgary. Whistler isn't really a village it is a small city with 62K beds. IMO Banff and Whistler both ski better in April due to better weather and smaller crowds at that time of year and cheaper prices as well.

 

Big White's well deserved nickname is Big Whiteout. A comparison between Big White and Sun Peaks would include the fact that Big White has approx. 15k beds on mountain and Sun Peaks has 7k beds. Kelowna (pop. 190K) is 45 min from Big White, while Kamloops (pop. 90k) is 45 min from Sun Peaks. Sun Peaks has a newer better laid out village (tons of ski in/out) than Big White and BW is more of a party mountain. Vernon (pop. 40k) is 20 min from Silver Star so on a powder morning it is real easy for a lot of skiers to show up for a couple hours, ski off the powder and then go home. Silver Star's advantage is that if on a budget you can stay in a cheap motel in Vernon and only be 20 min. from the skiing.

 

Sun Peaks has award winning grooming (in fairness so does Silver Star) and they regularly groom several black diamond runs. Not just the grooming but the dry snow pack in general will impress you if you have never been out west as both Silver Star and Sun Peaks have some of the lightest, driest snow  anywhere. We call it ego snow and your mom will be impressed at how easy it skis.

 

If you decide on Sun Peaks, PM me when you arrive or drop by Elevation Ski and Bike shop in the lower level of the Sun Peaks Grand hotel where I work part time and if i can fit it in I can tour you around the mountain. I am an old guy but a decent skier. There are also free Sun Host tours twice daily as well as free "Ski with Olympic Champion Nancy Greene" tours.

 

Hope this helps.

 

Edit: As far as crowds on the runs, Sun Peaks is huge (4200 acres) so skiers get really spread out. The exception is the 5 Mile run which has a number of runs that feed onto it. Most runs, even at Xmas will be mostly empty.

post #7 of 17

I agree that the Okanogan area (also Sun Peaks) is a good place to concentrate on.  Silver Star has been mentioned, but not much detail has been offered.  It's my favorite of the Okanogan resorts.

 

There is little terrain in the open bowl category, it's mostly trails through the trees, some of them (on the back side) are quite steep and challenging, though at Christmas time there may not be enough coverage for these to be open.  The front side, and some of the back, is open groomers for all abilities.  This is a big mountain for the lift capacity, so even on a busy day once you leave the top people spread way out and you can feel like you're all alone. There also is a lot of cross country skiing available as well. 

 

Silver Star has good on hill lodging, most of it is ski in-out and there is a small village. The resort is about 20K from the closest town which is Vernon (pop. 40,000).  I once timed myself from my lodging in town to the time I was sitting on the chairlift; it took 20 minutes.  Since Vernon and the rest of the Okangogan is a summer resort area there is lots of inexpensive lodging in town; they're begging for people in the winter.  You don't need reservations except at the resort.

 

Kelowna airport is quite close and has direct flights to and from Eastern Canada.  There are shuttles from the airport to the ski resorts.

 

Other resorts are within reasonable driving distance of Vernon.  You could make a day trip to Big White, Apex, Sun Peaks, or Revelstoke if you are so inclined during your stay.  They're all in the 2 hour or so range with Big White the closest and Apex the farthest.


Edited by Posaune - 9/21/15 at 9:30am
post #8 of 17

Here's a link to a trip report I did two years ago to Sun Peaks, including pics and vid so you get a sense of the place.   

 

http://www.epicski.com/t/124336/tr-sun-peaks-dec-23-25-2013

 

 

I haven't been to Silver Star yet, but hopefully this year.  

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 

Wow, thank you very much everyone! :)

 

DanoT and DesiredUsername - your Sun Peaks reviews were both excellent, super helpful! I didn't even realize Whistler was open into April, does that happen every year? In that case we could do our family trip then (my mom would love Whistler village), and my dad and I could go together for the Christmas trip.

 

Posaune - nice to have another option mentioned, I added Silver Star to my shortlist.

 

It really does sound like Sun Peaks would be a good fit. The only downside seems to be no powder, but that is far from guaranteed no matter where I go, so I feel like it's hard to even plan for it. If I was really set on getting powder I would plan to do some backcountry snowboarding or something (or go back to Solitude for their backtracks tour, which was amazing!). Last year I went on a quick trip to Stowe and ended up having a crazy powder day there after an insane storm overnight, I was still finding powder at the end of the day. So you never know!

 

I'm going to look up flights and village amenities and see if it would work.

 

Thanks again for all the replies - this is so much more helpful than reading generic reviews or going on to resort websites!

post #10 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by silverwhale View Post
 

Wow, thank you very much everyone! :)

 

DanoT and DesiredUsername - your Sun Peaks reviews were both excellent, super helpful! I didn't even realize Whistler was open into April, does that happen every year? In that case we could do our family trip then (my mom would love Whistler village), and my dad and I could go together for the Christmas trip.

 

Posaune - nice to have another option mentioned, I added Silver Star to my shortlist.

 

It really does sound like Sun Peaks would be a good fit. The only downside seems to be no powder, but that is far from guaranteed no matter where I go, so I feel like it's hard to even plan for it. If I was really set on getting powder I would plan to do some backcountry snowboarding or something (or go back to Solitude for their backtracks tour, which was amazing!). Last year I went on a quick trip to Stowe and ended up having a crazy powder day there after an insane storm overnight, I was still finding powder at the end of the day. So you never know!

 

I'm going to look up flights and village amenities and see if it would work.

 

Thanks again for all the replies - this is so much more helpful than reading generic reviews or going on to resort websites!

Saving the family trip for spring break is an excellent idea.

post #11 of 17

Yes Whistler is always open in April and most years the rest of the resorts in BC close down in early April for lack of people not lack of snow.

 

Last April I had 2 days at Whistler, both ankle to boot top deep snow on the upper mountain and then downloading from mid mountain at the end of the day. Lots of gear on sale at 20-30% off and I also found a Helly Hanson shell jacket and an Armada Gore-tex shell for half off.

Better chance of some sunny days in spring as well.

post #12 of 17

Isn't Ontario spring break in March not April?

post #13 of 17
Thread Starter 

Yes, it's Feb/March in Ontario. I'm not off then but could maybe get some time off in early-mid April for a trip.

post #14 of 17

Early - mid April is about the time of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (formerly Telus) which is a hoot.  If you happen to be there at the time understand that there is lots of partying in the main village, so depending on your tolerance for loud crowds you may want to consider staying outside of Whistler Village.  There will be lots of accommodations available at that time of year.

 

I've had many wonderful days of skiing at WB in April.  It can be the best time of year.

post #15 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Posaune View Post
 

Early - mid April is about the time of the World Ski and Snowboard Festival (formerly Telus) which is a hoot.  If you happen to be there at the time understand that there is lots of partying in the main village, so depending on your tolerance for loud crowds you may want to consider staying outside of Whistler Village.  There will be lots of accommodations available at that time of year.

 

I've had many wonderful days of skiing at WB in April.  It can be the best time of year.

 

They also have the free demo tents set up outside the Whistler Roundhouse in the upper mountain during that weekend or is it the whole week that the festival is on?

post #16 of 17

The big demo event  is on the weekend the festival starts, ends the following weekend.  

Most major players plus a lot of smaller companies have the next years models available for free demo.

But every day  until late season there are still demo huts on hills,  Decent selection of current product but far fewer independents.

I have never paid attention to the snow boards but seems to be a large selection of them too.

post #17 of 17

Tried everything from the salt water to the flats....Whistler to Calgary

Down to a couple for 'family' Big  White, Silver Star, and Sun Peaks..

If the snow falls, Silver is great...w/o fresh it is the worst. The lake effect

for B White is the same as Buffalo NY winter...only if you're skiing in it,

youi're blind. Sun Peaks ( which won us over ) has the best shot at

delivering the goods. Voted the best or next to it for Best grooming Canada,

and 2nd largest area in Canada so even with a Xmas crowd, you don't

stand with 2000 Asians at the bottom of Blk / Whistler ....Not being rude,

but if you are flying out of Tokyo, the best and closest is WB and so

about 1/3rd are ....... BTW if the stay at the hotel people want a real

shot at 'something to do', you can ski downtown Vancouver at Grouse or Cypress,

Seymore and the non skiers can have a world class city for 30% off USD

shopping...just barely 2 cents worth and admitted bias...

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