Snowed In: BC’s Best Slopeside Ski Resorts

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My alarm rings a half hour before dawn, jolting us awake. Across the room, I hear Taylor stumble over to the coffee pot and turn it on. Four of us, long-time friends and ski partners, have rendezvoused at British Columbia’s Kicking Horse Mountain Resort to spend a long weekend on the slopes.

 

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort | Reuben Krabbe

Making my way towards the kitchen, I look out the third-storey window of our Palliser Lodge two-room condo. Kicking Horse’s famed steeps tower above us. A run glides past our door. At the foot of the slope, a mere few hundred feet away, stands a cozy base village where a small cluster of lodges and eateries frame the bottom station of the mountain’s summit-cresting gondola.

Kicking Horse is renowned for its steep and gnarly high-alpine chutes and its light, champagne powder—but the mountain is also rich in fun, fast glades and smooth, gentle groomers.

The resort offers 1 376+ hectares (3,400 acres) of skiable terrain with 1,311 metres (4,300 feet) of vertical (the fourth greatest in North American skiing), 120 runs, five lifts, and an average of 650 cm of snow at the summit. Everything funnels back to the base of the mountain—and glides right past our digs at Palliser—providing unbelievable big mountain access with minimal fuss.

Slopeside sleeps are the pinnacle of ski and snowboard vacations—and British Columbia has some of the world’s best. At Kicking Horse, Panorama, Kimberley, Sun Peaks, Big White, SilverStar, and Whistler, it’s easy to stay on the mountain, park the car for the duration, and ski everywhere you need to go. For a group like us, it transformed our stay from a busy, chaotic experience to a fun, immersive adventure.

Panorama Mountain Resort | Kari Medig

Just 1.5 hours south of Kicking Horse, Panorama Mountain Resort offers even cozier perks. An intimate slopeside vacation village hugs the foot of a giant, uncrowded peak known for flawlessly groomed summit-to-base boulevards, jaw-dropping views and a lack of lift lines. Located in the Purcell Range of the Columbia Mountains, Panorama is a place where everything is steps from everything else—whether that means lap after lap on the vast slopes, après-ski soaks in the resort’s outdoor hot pools, nightly family activities or a gourmet evening at one of the many restaurants.

A true resort village, Panorama has a wide range of ski-in/ski-out and slopeside lodging to suit a variety of budgets. From basic and economical hotel rooms just a snowballs throw from the lifts, to upscale condos and townhomes. Either way, everything is equally close to Panorama’s night skiing on blue runs, the powdery steeps of its Taynton Bowl, and snowmobile adventures through the wilds.

There’s also tandem paragliding, seemingly endless kilometres of high altitude heli-skiing, and a selection of Nordic trails for skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-biking through meadows and woods. Fuel up at mountain huts with Alps-style eats and big views, locally roasted coffee at Fireside Café or rustic napolitana pizza at the village’s newest restaurant, Alto Kitchen & Bar.

Kimberley Alpine Resort | Leigh and Spring McClurg

Less than two hours from Panorama at Kimberley Alpine Resort, a family-friendly, alpine-themed town encircles the mountain, which is also located in the Purcells. With a half-dozen hotels in ready walking distance of the lifts, it’s easy for groups to focus on what matters—whether that means bell-to-bell laps or good local eats.

Downtown menus include fine dining at Pedal & Tap, Italian feasts at Grubstake Pizza, or choice drinks at The Shed (try the Whiskey Sour, my favourite). It’s a natural to add cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, climbing at Spirit Rock Gym, or warming up at the Aquatic Centre to the roster, all while your car accumulates snow in the parking lot.

Village views | Sun Peaks Grand Hotel & Conference Centre

Farther west, Sun Peaks Resort’s Alps-style village isn’t just ski-in, ski-out but ski-thru. Located at the juncture of the Cariboo and Monashee ranges of the Columbia Mountains, the resort’s variety of hotels and condos sit slopeside, including the majestic Sun Peaks Grand, the European-inspired Lookout Ridge Chalet, and The Burfield, a hostel and boutique hotel in one.

Beyond lodging and restaurants, there’s a healthy mix of activities like the Alpine Fondue & Starlight Descent, shriek-worthy drops at a bungee trampoline park, horse-drawn sleigh rides, dog sled tours, slides at the tube park, Nordic skiing, and more, all in easy reach.

The best part? Every bit of it stands within walking or gliding distance of the lifts at the second-largest ski area in Canada. With so much space, there are no crowds and you’re left to feel the full rush of flying down the mountain in the terrain parks, steep chutes, treed expanses, and more.

 

SIlverStar Mountain Resort | Blake Jorgenson

Two-and-a-half hours south lies SilverStar Mountain Resort, one of the largest ski areas in BC. Its colourful Victorian-inspired village is located at 1,585 metres (5,200 feet), and delivers a true ski-in, ski-out experience, with nine on-mountain hotels where guests can ski to and from the door. The village also has 18 food and beverage options, 132 runs, four distinct mountain faces, and a secret backside that spans 769 hectares (1,900 acres).

A visit to SilverStar wouldn’t be complete without an early morning visit to Bugaboos Bakery, an afternoon at Elevate Spa, and drinks at Red Antler. During our visit we stayed at Snowbird Lodge, skied over 9,144 vertical metres (30,000 feet) each day, went ice skating at the village pond, and watched an action-packed Vernon Vipers Junior A hockey game.

Big White Ski Resort | Blake Jorgenson

Less than two hours south lies Big White Ski Resort, where every hotel room, condo, eatery, and activity stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the ski hill itself, making it easy to take advantage of more activities—and enjoy the nightlife.

Known for its even temperatures and dry, light snow as much as its ski-in/ski-out convenience, Big White is a family-first mountain, with 15 lifts, 20 on-mountain cafes, delis, pubs and bars, a tube park, an ice-climbing wall, an ice rink, live music, baby- and pet-sitters, and more.

After a non-stop day of skiing, our group split up to take advantage of both mountain yoga and the day spa, meeting up later for après at the Moose Lounge and dinner at the Kettle Valley Steakhouse.

Whistler Blackcomb | Andrew Strain

BC’s best-known slopeside village is Whistler, where four out of five guest rooms are located within a stone’s throw of the ski lifts. While the mountain town, set along the Sea-to-Sky Highway north of Vancouver, is legendary for its vast size and unique ski terrain, it was the sense of community fun in the encircling village that made a big impression.

Here, tons of fat biking, Nordic, and snowshoe trails are nearby, and hot spots include a cultural centre, art museums, and Merlin’s for iconic shot-ski après. And there’s more: Post-ski options in the Village range from $4 cans of beer in a narrow, no-nonsense pub to fresh oysters and rarefied vodkas in a swanky ice bar. We opted for the $4 cans (next time, oysters) before heading to Forged, an axe-throwing outfit, to try our hand at a Canadian version of darts.

Loading up at Kicking Horse Mountain Resort | Reuben Krabbe

Back at Kicking Horse, the early morning light is creeping up the highest peaks, and time is of the essence. There’s 15 cm of fresh powder this morning. Our goal? Be first. We step out the door of Palliser, pockets packed with snacks, click on our skis and make our way downhill to Double Black. There, we bide our time over another coffee as the lift crew clears snow and starts the big bull wheel turning while ski patrol begins avalanche safety work.

The patrollers are on the move now, so it’s time for us to go. We finish our coffee, grab our gear, and make our way to the front of the line. The whole mountain rises above us, dusted in fresh snow, unmarred by ski tracks. Over the next three days at Kicking Horse, the four of us will ski dozens of runs, eat incredible food, soak in a hot tub, feast on après, and watch a live show, all without hopping into a car.

But now it’s time for the best part. Loaded with anticipation—but without fighting any crowds, sitting in any traffic, or wedging into a crowded parking lot—we’re first in line on a powder day. We board the gondola right behind the ski patrollers, all the way to the top.

Header video: Kicking Horse Mountain Resort

Header image: SilverStar Mountain Resort | Blake Jorgenson

POSTED BY: Andy Cochrane

Andy Cochrane is a freelance writer, producer, and photographer who lives nomadically in Tacoma with his dog, Bea. He spends most of his time in the Western US, searching for trails to run, mountains to ski, and good ramen.

Revelstoke Mountain Resort in the Selkirks | Andrew Strain

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