Know Before You Go:

Find current travel restrictions, wildfire info, and other key resources. Learn more

CLOSE

Viewing Media Room|Visit HelloBC

Pro Skiers Stan Rey and Kelsey Serwa Go Deep:
A Road Trip to BC’s Must-Ski Resorts

Share  Facebook Twitter Pinterest | Print Your browser does not support SVG.
Featured Image: Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Dave Heath

Do you want to use this story in your publication?

Work With Us

 A British Columbia ski couple are your guides to a truly Canadian road trip.

Kelsey Serwa and Stan Rey know a thing or two about skiing. Growing up in British Columbia ski-town racing programs, both hit the big-time on the Canadian National Ski Cross Team to travel the world chasing snow and neck-metal before settling together on the West Coast. They’ve skied almost every place you can imagine—and many you can’t. Their ski pedigrees are impeccable.

Raised in Kelowna in the heart of Okanagan wine country, Kelsey was 2011 FIS World Champion and a two-time Winter X Games winner before scoring a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and gold at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Born in Crans-Montana, Switzerland, Stan’s family had ski-racing and Olympic appearances in their blood before moving him to Whistler at age seven. Alpine racing under coaches like World Cup-legend Rob Boyd, Stan gravitated to Ski Cross, making a name as a national champ and Winter X Games competitor before turning to freeskiing.

These are serious chops for a pair who remain fun-seeking and funny, with a love of skiing and appreciation for its history and culture. In this time of stepping back into the light for us all, there’s nothing they’d recommend more than a multi-day, multi-area ski trip through the wide-open spaces of BC’s mountains. Their picks? Big White, Fernie, Kicking Horse, Revelstoke, SilverStar, Sun Peaks, and Whistler. “You can tackle a few for a short trip, but if you want to hit all seven you’ll need two weeks,” says Stan. “Either way, give yourself a couple of days at each because you won’t see everything you want in a few hours of skiing.”

Beyond world-renowned skiing and powder, driving through BC is an attraction unto itself.

“The geography changes radically over a relatively short distance—and yet it’s all incredibly picturesque,” says Kelsey of the postcard scenery.

And it’s not just landforms that change; a ski road trip in BC delivers an experience of both mountains and culture like you’ve never imagined.

Chairlift at Big White Ski Resort | Blake Jorgenson

BIG WHITE

Big White Ski Resort outside of Kelowna is Canadian family-owned and operated with a reputation for value, views, and wrestling snow from every passing cloud. It’s also Kelsey’s home mountain, and she has vivid memories of chasing her older siblings through its famous snow-ghost glades. “My parents felt very comfortable just letting us go explore there,” she says.

That’s saying something for a mountain of 7,355 acres. But Big White’s enchantments extend beyond its size and famous Okanagan Champagne Powder. It also has a tube park, sleigh rides, skating rink, and a great night scene. “We used to go to Snowshoe Sam’s just for dessert—us kids would share cherries jubilee while our parents would indulge in Gunbarrel coffees,” recalls Kelsey. “And I remember the rustic feel, all the kitsch on the walls.”

Kelsey saves her biggest praise for the way the mountain is laid out: “It’s still the truest ski-in/ski-out resort I know,” she says.

The resort is home to Canada’s second-largest lifting system with the capacity to move nearly 29,000 skiers and snowboarders up the mountain every hour. Translation? Less time in the lift lines and more time enjoying all that the resort has to offer, including the Okanagan-friendly wine lists at mountain restaurants such as 6 Degrees Bistro, The BullWheel, Globe, and Kettle Valley Steakhouse (all recommended by Kelsey).

Stan’s Big White memories revolve around a couple of life-altering visits—winning a Nor Am Ski Cross, and getting married in the daylodge. “Actually,” corrects Kelsey, “we got married outside and had the reception in the daylodge.” What Stan does seem to remember correctly is the mountain’s family friendliness and “huge amount of beginner and intermediate terrain.”

Credit the original developers with that foresight, which, it turns out, include Kelsey’s grandfather, Cliff Serwa. He cleared the road to the mountain, then started the actual resort with his partner and good friend, Doug Mervin. During the town’s annual Kelowna-to-Big White bike ride (L’Alpe de Grand Blanc), the couple has had a chance to hear some of her grandfather’s stories about the resort’s history. “Some of them are pretty funny,” enthuses Stan. “Like, if they ran into a big rock they’d just go to the hardware store, buy some dynamite, drill holes in the rock, and blow it up.”

Like many BC ski areas, Big White got its start from do-it-yourselfers with a passion for sliding on snow—a vibe that has survived the test of time.

Fernie Alpine Resort Village at night | Dave Heath

FERNIE

Stan also raced at Fernie Alpine Resort as a kid and remembers falling in love with the terrain on a powder day.

“Each of the five alpine bowls are kind of their own little world. You can’t see them all from the bottom so you don’t really know what they’re like until you’re up there. Skiing the trees is awesome, there are so many little chutes and terrain pockets.”

Tucked into the alabaster ramparts of the Lizard Range in the eastern Kootenays, Fernie is a mountain for those seeking alpine adventure—but one that still caters to all levels and brings the off-piste vibe as well.

 

“There’s a fun après scene at The Griz Bar, in an old-school lodge that’s been there forever, but the town itself is small enough to have that same authentic feeling,” says Stan, who is also a fan of BC towns like Fernie each having their own brewery.

Kelsey lived in Fernie for a summer of training while on the Alpine National Development Team. “It felt small and quaint, with a super-supportive, athletic population.”

People live in Fernie for the lifestyle, and it shows—a slice of alpine life they’re happy to share with visitors.

Enjoying deep powder turns at Kicking Horse | Origin/Destination Canada/ Kari Medig

KICKING HORSE

“After we skied Kicking Horse I immediately wondered why I hadn’t been there before. It’s so well-situated,” Stan enthuses.

Well situated, indeed. Draped across the eastern slope of the Purcells, with views west to the mighty Selkirks and east to the Rockies taking in no less than five national parks, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is nothing short of spectacular.

The sharp, rock-riddled peaks lining the horizon channel the French Alps—which give the award-winning Eagle’s Eye Restaurant atop legendary CPR ridge the best view from a bar stool in all of Canada.

People don’t ski Kicking Horse for the same ol’ same ol’. An annual stop on the Freeride World Tour, they instead come for hike-to peaks, massive bowls, heart-stopping chutes, and Jekyll-and-Hyde ridges—wind-buffed on one side, snow-loaded on the other. The fact that neither Stan nor Kelsey had skied there before only fueled the adventure.

Arriving two days after a storm that had closed marquee Fuez Bowl, the pair caught its opening to ski deep powder on steep, big-mountain terrain. “It all felt very safe with no big exposures,” recalls Kelsey. “The long groomers were also great—steep and challenging. I had a blast ripping them.”

It seems fair to say they discovered why so many first-time Kicking Horse visitors are blown away.

Tree skiing in Revelstoke | Ryan Creary

REVELSTOKE

Revelstoke Mountain Resort is another stop that immediately makes first-timers wonder how they’ve overlooked it. Reading about the resort’s North America-leading 1,713-metre (5,620-foot) vertical alone opens eyes, but of course seeing is believing.

Having skied there as a kid when it was a single T-bar hill called Mt. Mackenzie, Stan can’t hold back about the new incarnation he’s become familiar with. “It’s awesome—some of my best tree-skiing laps ever and outstanding side-country.”

Stan also competed in his first freeskiing contest at RMR. “I crashed on all four runs but still had a blast,” he reminisces.

“Well, you did win a custom-made axe for ‘Gnarliest Moment’,” adds Kelsey. “It’s hanging on our wall now but at the time you used it to cut up a five-foot Subway sandwich.”

Kelsey’s take on RMR is true to her racer core: “With such huge vertical, the best challenge is to go top to bottom without a break.”

Stan also appreciates how the town’s old brick buildings channel the feel of a mining-logging centre. Fun fact: With the waning of extraction industries, Revelstoke has transformed into the hub of a different resource universe—BC’s world-renowned powder industry of backcountry touring, cat- and heli-skiing operations, several of which have offices in town and can be booked right at the mountain.

Chalets at SilverStar Mountain Resort with the Monashee Mountains in the distance | Andrew Strain

SILVERSTAR

Just up the road from Kelowna and Big White is Vernon, home to SilverStar Mountain Resort. When Kelsey was young, there was always deliberation over which of the two mountains skiers would chase Okanagan powder on after a storm. “There’s very cool skiing in the backside Putnam Creek area. Really good, steep, black-diamond terrain and lots of it. There are also rustic little shacks all over the place with wood-burning stoves—and I always liked how colourful the village is.”

SilverStar’s multi-coloured theme village is indeed a perennial draw, and, like Big White, compact, with stores, restaurants, and activities all a snowball’s throw from each other.

“There’s such a concentration of things to do,” says Stan. “I remember playing hockey at night on the outdoor rink there. It’s also got a great terrain park, which pumps out a lot of ski and snowboard freeriders alike.”

But SilverStar’s biggest claim to fame is snow quality. The village sits at 1,600 metres  (5,200 feet) and draws 700 cm (23 ft) of annual snowfall, which allows the mountain to operate without snowmaking. Reliable snow also draws cross-country aficionados to the 105 km (65 mi) of trails shared between SilverStar and adjacent Sovereign Lake that together comprise Canada’s largest groomed-daily network.

 

Strolling through the village at Sun Peaks | Origin/ Destination Canada/ Kari Medig

SUN PEAKS

Sun Peaks stands proud as Canada’s second-largest ski area. Spread over three unique terrain pods, it can feel like you’re in a totally different location depending what mountain you’re on. “Some runs are like secret-garden glades, but you’re not dodging trees because they’re wide enough to do big, arcing GS turns,” says Kelsey. “The main groomers are also excellent and set on good terrain.”

As a frequently visiting racer, Stan spent a fair amount of time freeskiing Sun Peaks with his teammates, enjoying wide-open runs with big rollers and gap jumps.

Kelsey sees the village as “a little bit like Europe—with family owned boutique shops and lots of cool local art.” She also recalls that when Canadian Olympic doyenne Nancy Greene Raine was on what became her adopted home mountain, the resort would hang a sign at the base stating “Nancy is Skiing Today.” “It meant you could go meet up with her,” says Kelsey. “How cool was that?” (Note: Nancy lives here year round and can be found on the slopes most days.)

Facing west, day’s end at Sun Peaks is awash in golden light. “We had great après at Mantles Restaurant & Lounge in the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel—warm olives, fresh bread, and a charcuterie platter with a good view of the mountain and unbelievable sunset,” says Kelsey.

As we all know, a good sunset is the best sendoff ever.

Whistler Blackcomb | Blake Jorgenson

WHISTLER BLACKCOMB

“I’ve travelled everywhere to ski and bike, but if you take both into consideration, I’d say Whistler is still the greatest resort on the planet to live in,” says Stan.

That might be a bit of home-town braggadocio, but a global fleet of ski magazines seem to agree. With two mountains, each larger than most ski areas, Whistler Blackcomb’s 8,000-plus acres of alpine bowls, glaciers, trees, and 200 cut runs deliver a similar sentiment to visitors. Not to mention the almost city-like options for food and entertainment.

“As an outsider I was immediately impressed with all the outdoor festivals, events, and quality food experiences,” says Kelsey. “Culturally and sport-wise, there’s always something going on.”

Certainly as a hub of the North American freeski galaxy, the sport’s future is always on display here. “Sometimes I’m asked to go out with a group of young freeskiers, and they’re so skilled I wonder why they want to ski with me,” says Stan.

“Ah, because that’s the beauty—the poetry—of sport,” chimes in Kelsey. “You’re playing your role of inspiring the next generation.”

That much is true. And as a kid Stan has more than enough stories of meeting his ski heroes on the mountain. “When I was 14, I met [late freestyle superstar] JP Auclair in a lift-line and he invited me to ski Spanky’s Ladder with him and a friend. You never forget something like that.”

Summarizing the Whistler vibe, Stan shares the story of a schoolteacher who was also on the board of Avalanche Canada. During big snow cycles he’d often tell the class he had a board meeting next morning and that they’d have a substitute. One time after a big dump, Stan and some friends skipped school to honour the town’s unspoken “20-centimetre rule.” On the mountain they ran into the teacher and immediately asked, ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in a meeting?’ To which he responded with a smile: ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in school?’”

Despite 10 years here, Kelsey still claims the epiphanies of a wide-eyed visitor: “There are still things I haven’t skied here. It’s endless—a lifetime’s worth of exploration.”

If there’s a lifetime’s worth of exploration at just one BC resort, imagine visiting seven.

 

 

Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Andrew Strain

WINTER DEALS IN BC

Explore the latest special offers and deals for winter activities and skiing in British Columbia.

View Deals

EXPLORE BC'S SKI MAP

Discover ski resorts around British Columbia.

View Map
#explorebc

See what's happening now with these recent posts.

Do you want to use this story in your publication?

Work With Us