COVID-19:

All non-essential travel into, out of, and around BC should be avoided. Learn more

CLOSE

Road Trip: Ski BC's Big Mountains This Winter

Share  Facebook Twitter | Print Your browser does not support SVG.
Skiing through powder at Whitewater Ski Resort in the Kootenay Rockies

Seven BC ski destinations. Five mountain ranges. 2,600 kilometres. 21 days.

My husband and I love skiing the big mountains of BC—the rush of the steeps and the joy of fresh powder, the jaw-drop landscapes, and the groovy mountain towns. And we need a real getaway, a forget-about-the-daily-grind adventure. But our dog, Truman, is aging and we want him by our side. So I come up with plan: We’ll road trip to all our favourite big mountains in BC, but this time we’ll do it in an RV, with our best friend by our side.

I map it out: We will wind our way from Whistler to Revelstoke to Kicking Horse. Glide down the magnificent Columbia River Valley to Panorama and Fernie. Mosey through the Kootenay Rockies to RED and Whitewater. And tuck into a bit of backcountry adventure along the way. Little do I know that road tripping with my bubble while discovering big adventure close to home is about to become travel’s biggest trend.

For the journey, we rent a 28-foot winter-ready motorhome (with subzero insulation, solar panels, a generator, and hot-and-cold running water) then pack it with every conceivable thing. The drive from Whistler to Revelstoke takes about six hours. Fat flakes the size of Loonies spin out of the sky the whole way.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Dave Heath

REVELSTOKE MOUNTAIN RESORT

At Revelstoke Mountain Resort, we register for overnight parking then decamp to the day lot. Throughout BC skiing, great (and safety-conscious) lodgings from kitchen-equipped slopeside sleeps to cool ski town hotels are prominent signatures, and Revy is no exception—but we’re not alone in the parking lot, where a dozen other RVs from homemade to high-end are tucking in for the night. Truman, a 90-pound white shepherd-mix, makes the rounds. By the time lifts start turning the next morning, every campervan-sleeping ski bum touring the Powder Highway somehow knows Truman by name.

Revelstoke is the tallest top-to-bottom ski area in North America, but its real lure for adventurous skiers and snowboarders is its frequent snowfall, thigh-burning pitch, and diverse terrain. From the compact base village, a two-stage gondola ferries powder hounds up, up, up. Then everyone disperses across the mountain’s three chairlifts and 3,121 acres of boulevards, basins, and skiable woods.

First Tracks Breakfast Club, an early-up-the-lift program with a half-day dedicated guide for private groups of two to six, is a smart way to get snowy rewards right out of the gate while learning the lay of the land. Outdoor seating at Mackenzie Outpost makes on-mountain refueling easy. Also easy is nipping down to the RV to walk Mr. Popularity then jumping back on the gondola to riffle lap after lap through steep powder trees with local friends. Afterward, downtown Revelstoke—a more than 100-year-old heritage city flecked with a mix of the unabashedly old and the innovatively fresh—is just 10 minutes away. Tip: Taco Club has both eats and drinks to go.

Catching Air | Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

KICKING HORSE MOUNTAIN RESORT

Up and over Rogers Pass in Golden, dry snow cakes Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. In the parking lot, we tuck into the RV’s cozy master bedroom feeling like we’re already deep into a great adventure. Truman paces the main cabin, restless. The generator hums.

In the morning we take a long dog walk around Kicking Horse’s ski-in/ski-out neighborhoods then swing by Double Black for breakfast to go. Steps away, the Golden Eagle gondola rises 3,500 vertical feet to the summit. A sea of snow-capped peaks spills into the vista beyond. We slither out the ridgelines that separate the mountain’s five big bowls, drop into chutes, bound down through fresh powder, rocket into the big basins below, then catch a ride back up and do it again.

We take turns checking on Truman, then hike out to the resort’s more remote bowls for big, uncrowded skiing before having a late (and easily physically distanced) lunch amid the vaulted rafters and panoramic views of summit-top Eagle’s Eye Restaurant.

From Golden we angle the RV southeast down Highway 95. The Rockies rise to the east, the Purcells to the west. We pull into Radium Valley Vacation Resort for a restful night plugged into full-service RV hook-ups. We wander with Truman through fresh, light snow and and cook dinner in our cozy little cabin on wheels. After dark, we soak in the historic outdoor mineral pool at Radium Hot Springs while snowflakes drift down between the stars. Are we 10 hours from home or a world away?

Downhill skiing at Panorama Mountain Resort | Kari Medig

PANORAMA MOUNTAIN RESORT

At Panorama Mountain Resort we ride up open-air lifts, marvel at the surround of spectacular snow-capped peaks, then soar down perfectly combed boulevards that seem to go forever. We dip into mogul zones and glades then arc back onto the pistes to carve to the base, where a one-of-everything roster of amenities (from a candy store to heli-skiing to hot pools) intermingles with lift-adjacent condos and homes.

After coffee at the sleek new Fireside Café, we head up to Taynton Bowl for our expert terrain fix, making hour-long laps in untrammeled heli-ski-style terrain thanks to the Monster X snowcat ($15 per ride). For dinner, bubble groups can arrange private dining experiences like raclette and fondue in Panorama’s lovely on-mountain cabins, but we opt for wood-fired pizza at the all-new Alto Kitchen & Bar.

Fernie Alpine Resort | Reuben Krabbe

FERNIE ALPINE RESORT

Fernie Alpine Resort tucks into the far southeast corner of BC. The mountain is like a playlist of BC skiing’s greatest hits: Big bowls, abundant powder, fall-line terrain, well-spaced trees, rolling groomers, slim crowds, lovely vistas, and loads of ski-in/ski-out sleeps. We meet up with local friends, dance through roomy pockets of chuff, and glide right onto the open-air chairlifts to do it again.

Ten minutes away, historic downtown Fernie is down-to-earth yet lively, with bean-to-bar chocolates, a distillery, Latin fusion cuisine, and fresh-baked bagels. Nearby there’s also coffee roasting, an award-winning brewery, and a well-equipped RV park. Truman likes Fernie’s dog-friendly cross-country skiing zones and the miles of winter fat biking single track.

Next we head west. In Rossland, we check into the stylish and upscale Josie Hotel, one of three sparkling new places to stay at RED Resort. It’s very dog-friendly. Also: Room service from a gourmet chef? Yes! Later we stroll the snowy streets of historic Rossland. Within an hour, everyone in the Kootenay Rockies seems to know Truman by name.

RED Mountain Resort | Ryan Flett

RED MOUNTAIN RESORT

RED is a big mountain (nearly 4,000 acres) in a small town (about 3,500 people), which translates into a roomy, easygoing experience. We zoom down well-pitched pistes, connect with local pals to go powder hunting in RED’s trees, and explore the in-resort cat-skiing on Mt. Kirkup ($10 per lap).

Whitewater Ski Resort | Ryan Flett

WHITEWATER SKI RESORT

Whitewater, some 90 minutes away, is another cult favourite. A family-focused day ski area that packs a destination-worthy punch, Whitewater is known for its frequent deep powder days, continuous fall-line tree skiing, easy access to backcountry, and friendly, inclusive feel. We chase local friends around the mountain and have a blast.

In Nelson, 25 minutes downhill, we check into the historic Hume Hotel. Truman has been here before and he prances into the lobby like he’s leading a marching band. In our room, he rolls over, four paws up, grinning from ear to ear.

The husband and I have been enjoying our RV experience, but the big dog, we now realize, prefers hotels.

We spend our time in Nelson taking him for long walks along the lakefront, doing more of our own ear-to-ear grinning at Whitewater and diving deep into Nelson’s outstanding food scene: Oso Negro and Empire for coffee. Marzano for contemporary northern Italian. Broken Hill for fall-off-the-bone barbecue and whiskey drinks. Yum Son for Vietnamese, Cantina del Centro for Mexican, Red Light for ramen and more.

We can barely fit into the RV for the drive home.

Whistler Blackcomb | Andrew Strain

WHISTLER BLACKCOMB

Back in Whistler, it’s like we’re seeing everything with fresh eyes: Whistler Blackcomb’s 8,171 skiable acres, its 16 alpine bowls, and all our favourite steeps, pistes, and trees. The fine BC art at the Audain Art Museum, the community’s embrace of First Nations culture, the serenity of Scandinave Spa Whistler, and the snowy maze of trails in Emerald Forest where our best friend knows the way.

We went on a road trip through our own backyard, but the husband and I feel as though we’ve had a big, restorative adventure somewhere far, far away. And as we stroll through Whistler Village—so large and lively, with such a diverse, multicultural feel—somehow everyone knows Truman by name.

For tips on how to plan your ski trip this year, click here. Note: BC’s winter road conditions can include snow and ice. Be sure to check DriveBC before heading out on any road trip and be aware of the winter tire and chain regulations across the province from October 1 to March 31. Before any winter road trip, visit Shift Into Winter to learn how to prepare yourselfprepare your vehicle, and drive for the conditions.

Winter RV rentals come in two categories: “Winter-ready” and “winterized.” Winterized is a confusing term that means the vehicle has been drained of fluids for the season, will have no hot or cold running water, and may not be equipped with insulation appropriate for winter sleeping. “Winter-ready” means the RV has been outfitted specifically to be fully functional for cold weather travel. In British Columbia, CanaDream rents winter-ready RVs. Plan to allow at least 90 extra minutes during the pick-up process to be fully briefed on how to use all the winter systems. Check out this CanaDream Trip Planner for info on where best to park at the resorts.

Header image: Skiing through powder at Whitewater Ski Resort | Kari Medig

WRITTEN BY: Susan Reifer Ryan

Susan Reifer Ryan has always led a dual life while working as an editor and writer—half in Los Angeles, and half in the mountains. She began her journalism career in the early 1990s covering sports, culture, and information technology before breaking into national U.S. magazines penning Hollywood celebrity profiles, then shifting to coverage of travel, adventure, skiing, and mountain life. These days her writing spans a broad spectrum—but she remains one of North America’s leading authorities on smart ski-related travel around the globe, and is the executive editor of Modern Interest Media’s SkiTravelGo.com, a guide to experiencing the best of mountain destinations worldwide.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort | Andrew Strain

Winter Deals in BC

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

View Deals

Explore BC's Ski Map

Discover ski resorts around British Columbia.

View Map