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BC Powder Highway - Tips for the first timer

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 
What are the essential mountains to hit in a week?

What's your favoutire?

Favourite area?

Best runs (on/off)?

Where to stay?

Best spot for late season snow?

Other tips for a first timer?

Thanks - Ski Hard!

 
post #2 of 17

BC is too big to cover the essentials in a week. You could spend a week at Whistler and barely scratch the surface. I've done a loop from Vancouver hitting Apex, Whitewater, Fernie, Panorama, Sun Peaks and Whistler. I skipped Red and Kicking Horse because they were closed at the time. I received mixed reviews of Big White and chose to skip that. You could hit all of those in one week but the driving would be brutal. When I did my trip it was late season in a low snow year, but I got freshies throughout the trip pretty much everywhere except Whistler. My trip was two weeks long. I stayed extra days at the places that had the best snow on that trip (Fernie and Sun Peaks). I had no trouble finding places to stay by just winging it. My tip to you would be to start your first BC experience with a week long trip to Whistler.

post #3 of 17
 I have skied a lot of BC. The big-ish mountains I have missed are The Vancouver city hills, Sun Peaks, Apex, Kimberly and sadly...Revelstoke.

Red is my favorite.

I agree with The Rusty. A week is not enough time to see much of the province. I would recommend picking at most 3 resorts to explore. 

Maybe fly into Kelowna and Ski Silver Star (days 1 and 6), Revelstoke (2 and 5) and Kicking Horse (3 and 4).

Or Calgary and hit Sunshine, Lake Louise, and Kicking Horse
or  go south and hit Castle, Fernie and Whitefish (Calgary is probably the cheapest way, but there are airports in Cranbrook and Kallispell (or is it Whitefish) as well).

You could Fly to Spokane and hit Red and Whitewater (maybe something stateside as  well....)

Or Fly into vancouver and spend a week in whistler :)


Anyway, those are the resorts in that I like. I am not a fan of Panorama (Tayton Bowl is nice, but Pano makes Lake Louise look like Alta)
Big White (near Kelowna) has nice snow, but it is sort of flat.

I have included 3 Alberta hills for a reason. First, Castle is a great hill with some of the longest fall line skiing in Canada. Secondly, the Banff areas are great late season pics. In my opinion, there comes a time every year (usually between mid feb and mid march) where the skiing is better in Banff than lower lying BC hills.

I have also included some American hills because I think it makes more sense to include them on a circuit then spending all your time driving.
post #4 of 17
Do you mean right now, or in a good snow year? Right now many of the hills are in the throes of deep spring conditions (Louise, Revy, and presumably Panorama). Kicking Horse is OK, Big White has still been building base, and Sunshine is advertising spring conditions (six weeks early compared to other years). In an ideal year, I'd nominate the following hills for a quick one week circuit: Sunshine/Louise, Kicking Horse, Revy, Red Mtn., White Water, Fernie, Castle. That's seven days of skiing coming out from Calgary and returning. If you had a second week I'd add the big family hills (Sun Peaks, Silver Star, Big White) and Apex plus do both Sunshine and Louise for 12 ski days out of 14. Whistler is just a little too far out of the interior loops, but is well worth a multi-day trip in its own right. To do this properly I think you need at least three weeks since some of the resorts need two or three days to get a good feel and tour most of the mountain.
post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by gnjantzie View Post

Do you mean right now, or in a good snow year? Right now many of the hills are in the throes of deep spring conditions

Yeah...Castle has closed the chutes until we get warmer weather or new snow. :(
post #6 of 17
It would be helpful to know what kind of skiing you are looking for...  Each ski hill offers something different, and no one is more essential than the others in my opinion.

Right now the surface condition is spring-like pretty much everywhere in the interior BC ski resorts, and it does not look good for late season snow as temperature remains way above seasonal due to El Nino. If you really want to visit the area despite the condition, you might consider Revolstoke, Silver Star, Big White or Sun Peaks as they have good groomers. By the way, Red is free on March 15th!

If money is not a problem, snowcat or heli operations in the region can still be alright depending on your timing. Backcountry avalanche danger now is still very high but it can change any time.
post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 
Well I'm heading out for a couple weeks - March 25 thru April 8 - I'm probably going to take the golf clubs with me as well.

I'm starting out in the Kelowna area to visit some friends, but I'm not sure where to go after that.  I've been to the alberta hills and kicking horse.  I realize that the conditions are not going to be ideal - crossing my fingers - but thats when I can get out there this year.

I'm spending the second week in Vancouver and hitting up Whistler.

I'd love to get into the trees as much as possible and conditions allow.
post #8 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by snowpacker View Post

It would be helpful to know what kind of skiing you are looking for...  Each ski hill offers something different, and no one is more essential than the others in my opinion.

Right now the surface condition is spring-like pretty much everywhere in the interior BC ski resorts, and it does not look good for late season snow as temperature remains way above seasonal due to El Nino. If you really want to visit the area despite the condition, you might consider Revolstoke, Silver Star, Big White or Sun Peaks as they have good groomers. By the way, Red is free on March 15th!
 
Whitewater has significantly higher elevation at the bottom of the hill than most of the others, and off-piste is in reasonable condition, with around 200cm of settled base. Although the base has been about the same since January 1, small storms have kept replenishing the snow as it settles, and coverage is good. There is limited soft snow in-bounds, but probably more than most ski areas at this point. The cut runs are generally firm but well covered, whether or not they are groomed.

Although Whitewater is known for out-of-bounds skiing, it should be approached with great caution, knowledgeable companions, and full equipment for self-rescue. Significant weak layers exist within the snowpack right now, and avalanche risk is considerable.

A base of 250-300 cm is more normal for Whitewater at this time of year, so there is a lot of whining going on.
post #9 of 17
I'm assuming he can't mean this year, must be planning for next year.  In the unlikely event he means this year, leave out Whitefish.  The airport, by the way, is considered to be Kalispell.  The call letters used to be FCA, now GPI. 
post #10 of 17
Reliable season long skiing in B.C. starts at 4000 feet above sea level. This is very apparent this year as we have had the warmest winter in the 35 years that I have skied Sun Peaks. People arriving at SP are freaking out on the drive to the mountain as there is no snow at the lower elevations and then they round a corner and there is the Burfield chairlift at 3900 feet and lots of snow! Trouble is the foot of snow we got last week was pretty heavy by SP standards and the lower mountain double black diamonds are not great right now.

Some lower elevation resorts that I would avoid this year are: Revelstoke and Kicking Horse.
post #11 of 17
 Kicking Horse is between 3900 and 8000 feet.
post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
I know that I'm going to have to get lucky with the snow conditions this year.  It sounds like whitewater might be a good bet.  I'm planning on getting out next year as well.  I'd love to hear any comments that would apply to a good snow year as well.  Thanks for the tips!
post #13 of 17
Be sure to check out avalanche conditions at http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/bulletins/regions  if you are going anywhere out of bounds or into the backcountry. 

I was supposed to fly to BC today to ski tour in the Selkirks, but cancelled due to the high avy danger.  Crazy to head up there at the moment, especially when we've had more than 5' of snow over the last 10 days here in the Sierra.

Awe and fear inspiring gallery of recent avalanches in BC here:

http://www.avalanche.ca/cac/library/avalanche-image-galleries/feb-march-2010
post #14 of 17
teleski, ^ those pictures are sobering.  I take it the snowpack in the sierras is a bit more stable?
thanks,
JF
post #15 of 17
You can do a nice little tour of the interior from Kelowna.  Big White is about a 45 minute drive from Kelowna (maybe less?) and is a great mountain when the sun shines.  Check the weather - if it's calling for fog, steer clear as Big White Out isn't much fun under those conditions.  Silver Star is about an hour and a half North (20 minutes up from Vernon), and is a decent mountain (I see you're from Ontario - scratch that - an excellent mountain!  The headwalls are a treat - remember - it looks steep but out there, your skis actually have something to grab on to).  Silver Star gets loads of sunshine too.  Sun Peaks - is bigger and better than Silver Star and also lots of Sun.  

Whitewater is a bit of a hike as I recall (maybe 4-5 hours from Kelowna?), and in my opinion, unless you're going off-piste, the mountain will seem small.  BUT Nelson is about the cutest town I've ever been in - worth it just for that.  I believe that's where the movie Roxanne was filmed. 

Saving the best for last, Red Moutain is amazing.  And Rossland is a great town. Go there.  

I haven't skied Revelstoke but it's on the top of my list, and it's not that far away from Silver Star.  The other must ski hill in BC for me is Kicking Horse, but I think it would make for too much driving if you're going to fly into Kelowna - which I would recommend.  

The Alberta side of the mountains has great skiing, but there's a chance you'll hit really cold temps.  My view on that is if I want cold I can ski Tremblant; when I go to BC, I want reasonable temperatures.  Go interior.  

Unfortunately looks like not a great year this year, but there's perspective there.  I spent a season teaching at Silver Star, and I remember vividly one day during Ontario March Break:  Ride up the lift with a local family and they talk the whole way about how cold and icy it was; next Ride up the lift is with a family skiing there from Ontario and they talk about how warm it is and how great the snow is.  

Along those lines - at the visitor's centre in Nelson and the staff tells us to dress warm because it's going to be really cold tomorrow.  I say "how cold?".  She says "where are you from". I say "Ottawa".  She says, "You'll be fine - It's going to be -7". Perspective!

Have fun.  And if the skiing is bad, enjoy the wine!

Finally - here's a site with some info on all the BC resorts, along with base depth:
http://www.hellobc.com/en-CA/SightsActivitiesEvents/WinterActivities/Skiing(Downhill)/BritishColumbia.htm

Elsbeth
post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by evaino View Post


Finally - here's a site with some info on all the BC resorts, along with base depth:
http://www.hellobc.com/en-CA/SightsActivitiesEvents/WinterActivities/Skiing(Downhill)/BritishColumbia.htm

Elsbeth
Cypress has a 9 foot base? 

Maybe the spot where they dumped all the snow 
post #17 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by manchester81 View Post



Cypress has a 9 foot base? 

Maybe the spot where they dumped all the snow 
 

It's on the internet so it must be true. :)
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