Sun Peaks Resort

Best Day Ever: Insiders’ Guide to BC Skiing

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A perfect ski day at home for globetrotting pro skier Christina Lustenberger starts with early-ups at Revelstoke Mountain Resort. Lustenberger likes to soar through a morning of big mountain lift laps before shifting gears and skinning out into the backcountry with well-prepared friends. “The nice thing about Revelstoke is that you can ski the untracked powder on piste and then, if you’ve planned ahead and brought your alpine touring gear, you can push a little further and get a backcountry walk and turns in the afternoon,” the 35-year-old former Olympian says.

But during her years racing World Cup, a perfect ski day at home centred on family time with her parents at Panorama Mountain Resort—and top-to-bottom g-force runs on “perfect corduroy.” An après-ski favorite? Reserving Panorama’s Summit Hut for dinner followed by an experts-only ski down the mountain. “You get to watch the sun go down and the alpenglow,” Lustenberger explains. Then everyone gathers around big, communal tables near the cabin’s wood-burning stove for fondue. “Afterwards, you get to ski down in last light or with a headlamp, bellies full.”

These are two very different perfect ski days—but BC’s big array of ski and snowboard destinations are as diverse as the province’s many mountain ranges, and the experiences they offer are as varied as the many snow-lovers who call BC’s mountains home. We asked a bunch of those snow-lovers—including past Olympians and future ones, ski movie action heroes and wine country sommeliers, globe-trotting titans of business and helicopter-riding backcountry ski guides—to describe what they love about their home mountains of Big White, Fernie, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, Sun Peaks, Whistler, and Whitewater. Here’s what they had to say.

Rick Duha at Big White Resort

Big White: Slopeside Everything + Family Fun

Located in BC’s Okanagan wine country, near Kelowna International AirportBig White is all about ski-in, ski-out. Its swift lift system, consistent snow quality, and lively on-mountain village (with diversions like gourmet tapas, outdoor skating, and an ice climbing tower) make it popular with families. Also awesome, says Poplar Grove Winery’s Michael Ziff, 54, is Big White’s lack of crowds. “I can do a few laps on my favourite chairlift before anybody else shows up,” Ziff says

For Rick Duha, 59, an international businessman who has skied the globe, the best Big White days centre on family and friends. The mountain’s layout, he explains, enables skiers and boarders of different ability levels to ride lifts together yet descend on terrain ideal for each, from cruisy boulevards to hidden pockets of expert tree skiing.

“If it’s a really beautiful day, we’ll pack a lunch, walk up to Moonlight Bowl above the Gem Lake Express, and eat lunch there overlooking the backside of the mountain, which is absolutely stunning.” After more skiing comes shinny on the skating rink and a horse-drawn sleigh to dinner. “It’s the best all-around ski experience anywhere in the world.”

Emily Brydon at Fernie Alpine Resort

Fernie: Rocky Mountain Soul

In southeastern BC’s majestic Canadian Rockies, Fernie Alpine Resort’s powder bowls and ski-in lodgings stand just seven minutes from historic downtown Fernie’s chefs, brewers, artisans, and entrepreneurs. It’s a cool, distinctive mix—yet an unpretentious one, because Fernie is both a mountain lover’s heaven (rich in fat biking, Nordic skiing, snow-cat skiing, and more) and a working coal town.

Emily Brydon, 39, grew up in Fernie then went on to race in three Olympic Games and more than 200 World Cup events (where she landed nine podiums). Now an MBA working in global mergers and acquisitions, Brydon skis every day when she’s at home. “There’s nothing quite like Fernie powder,” she says. She often starts on Snake Ridge then works back toward Fernie Alpine’s midline. “You don’t have to hike that far, and you get some really gnarly, fun, diverse terrain.”

Afterward she likes to refuel at Big Bang Bagels before snowshoeing. “Growing up, Fernie was very much a coal town,” Brydon says. “Now you have all these cool amenities because the community took the opportunity to grow and evolve. The story that I think is amazing is that the soul and heart of the community is the same. It hasn’t lost its spirit on the way.”

Jeff Gertsch | Cole Pellerin

Kicking Horse: Majestic Vistas + Bronco Steeps

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort sits atop eastern BC’s majestic Purcell Mountains like a crown jewel. Known for its uncrowded bowl skiing, jaw-drop vistas, champagne snow, and vertiginous steeps, the mountain delivers its sprawl of adventurous terrain with a low-key vibe and just a few lifts. At the base, a slopeside mini-village supplies the essentials alongside ski-in lodgings ranging from studio condos to luxury homes. Twenty minutes away by car is the unpretentious town of Golden, the gateway to five National Parks (and a couple of very fun après-ski bars).

Jeff Gertsch, 39, is the lead guide at Purcell Heli-Skiing (now part of CMH Heli-Skiing). On his rare winter days off, Gertsch skis Kicking Horse. “The mountain provides an awesome challenge,” he says. “I’ve been known to be the kid in the line-up at first light, sipping coffee with my buddies, waiting to be the first one on the gondola.”

Once lifts start moving, he burns through lap after lap down the chutes of Bowl Over and CPR Ridge, moving further outward as patrol opens each successive zone of KHMR’s big, complex terrain. But even a pro has his limit: “You get 10 laps of skiing the Horse and you’re feeling pretty knackered.” He finishes his day with a cold pint atop the mountain at Eagle’s Eye. “It’s world class.”

Chris Pawlitsky | Hywel Williams

Revelstoke: The Heart of BC Skiing

The little City of Revelstoke tucks between the Monashees and Selkirks in the very heart of BC. Its 100-year-old downtown—the hub of Canadian helicopter skiing—stands just 10 minutes from the slopeside sleeps and high-speed lifts of Revelstoke Mountain Resort, known for its frequent snowstorms, thigh-burning pitch, and abundant tree skiing. These days, both town and mountain are humming with youthful powder mania and a surge of entrepreneurial innovation. Expect hip coffee culture in the morning, quality craft cocktails at night, all-Canadian diversions like five-pin bowling and Revelstoke Grizzlies hockey games.

Chris Pawlitsky, 52, is a born-and-raised local who used to guide cat-skiing and currently works for Canadian Pacific Railroad. His best days start with Nine Inch Nails blaring on the stereo while he crushes a Red Bull and drives to the mountain wearing his ski boots. His mission: Ski nonstop top-to-bottom lift laps on North America’s biggest top-to-bottom mountain all day, hewing close to the fall line and riffling through Revy’s big, deep trees.

Pawlitsky can log 16,764 vertical metres (55,000 vertical feet) in a single day, and tallies more than one million per year. But his devotion is about more than quantity. “If you’re in the right place at the right time, it’s like heli-skiing,” he says. “I tell my wife that was the best day ever at least 10 times a year!”

Sun Peaks Resort | Ruben Krabbe

Sun Peaks: Blue Skies + Room to Move

At BC’s second-largest ski area, three forested ski peaks encircle a snowy ski-through village, with slopeside lodgings dappled throughout. Just over four hours by car from Vancouver, at the juncture of the Cariboo and Monashee mountains, Sun Peaks is both a destination resort and a close-knit year-round community, with a focus on all-ages outdoor recreation.

“It’s a lot like skiing Colorado in terms of the quality of the snow,” says Elli Terwiel, 30, who grew up at Sun Peaks, raced World Cup, and competed at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. “We get really dry champagne powder or incredibly blue sunny days.” Either way, Terwiel (now a structural engineer in Berkeley, California) likes to ski the entire sprawl, from combed groomers to steep bump runs to glades tucked between trails.

But for 14-year-old Luc Dallaire, an up-and-coming competitive freestyle skier, it’s all about getting air—some 200 times a day—to perfect his grabs and switch tricks. “What I love about Sun Peaks is that the terrain park goes top to bottom,” Dallaire says. “It runs under the chairlift the whole way, on Sundance, so it’s like a show on the way up and you get to be the show on the way down.”

Whistler Blackcomb |Blake Jorgenson

Whistler: Skier’s Mountain + Global Village

These days, North America’s biggest, most diverse, and most visited mountain resort is many things to many people: A place to eat, party, relax, shop, get steeped in art and culture, or simply get wowed by majestic views. But at its essence, Whistler remains one of the world’s most exceptional places to snowboard and ski. “It makes you a better skier,” says Robbie Dixon, 34, a home-grown Olympian who competed on the world stage in downhill and super-g from 2006 to 2014. These days, Dixon creates custom itineraries for his Ski with an Olympian clients as he guides them around Whistler Blackcomb’s 3,307 hectares (8,171 acres) and 16 alpine bowls. “Whether it’s a pow day, a sunny day, a foggy day, or a storm day, there are always good zones to ski.”

When not on the job, Dixon has his own itinerary: On big powder days, he and his pals meet at Creekside Gondola by 6:30 a.m. “We like to be the first ones.” They fuel up with coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Dusty’s Backside until the lifts start running at 8:15 or 8:30—then ski hard, lap after lap, snorkelling through powder until the Peak Chair closes in the afternoon. Afterwards, they head to Dusty’s for “high fives and tall tales of the day.” Bottom line: “It’s an incredible place to be.”

Whitewater Ski Resort | Ryan Flett

Whitewater: Athletic Skiing + Delicious Eats

Whitewater is a day ski area that attracts destination visitors from around the world. They come for the frequent dumps of lofty snow, easygoing yet ski-obsessed vibe, and rock-and-roll tree skiing. Many, especially Scandinavians, come for the ready access to the surrounding backcountry. Located in southcentral BC’s Selkirk Mountains, Whitewater also has the advantage of being less than 30 minutes from the historic little city of Nelson, where the food and drink scene—including Cantina del Centro, Yum Son, Pitchfork, and a pack of craft breweries—draws return visitors again and again.

Sam Kuch, 21, is a newly minted ski movie star and the hottest commodity in freeskiing. Nicknamed “The Kootenay Kid,” the Nelson and Whitewater local does things like point his skis down a spatula-wide space between trees before vaulting over a cliff, flipping and spinning, landing on another spatula-sized spot, then doing more of the same—all with effortless, centred form and an easy, happy smile.

At home, his best days start with coffee from Nelson’s Oso Negro before warm-up laps on Whitewater’s Summit Chair. Then he starts walking uphill. “That’s where Whitewater really shines,” Kuch says. “We have such easy access to the slackcountry from the chairlift. It’s a short, 20-minute hike to world-class terrain in the alpine.” Afterwards Kuch refuels at the day lodge’s acclaimed Fresh Tracks Cafe, rejuvenates at the Nelson rec centre pool, grabs a pint at Backroads Brewing—and gets ready to do it all again tomorrow.

Header image: Sun Peaks Resort | Ryan Creary

Header video: Big White Ski Resort

Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Andrew Strain


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