British Columbia is blessed with such an abundance of snowy terrain, visitors might never ski all of it. But don’t let that stop you from trying. These five lesser-known resorts offer some of the country’s best skiing with smaller crowds and more locals.
Red Mountain Resort
Red’s major expansion is now serviced by lifts. Grey Mountain and its 400 hectares of terrain was only available last season via snowcat. Two of the resort’s peaks offer 360-degree descents, and experienced powderhounds can try in-bounds cat skiing. But go soon; it might be your last chance to beat the crowds. The New York Times ran a huge story on Red last month, and, last year, ranked the ski town of Rossland, B.C. as the eighth must-see spot in the world. It also won two resort accolades at the 2013 World Snow Awards. Red is not going to be lesser-known for long.
Why go: 110 runs across three mountains, served by seven lifts. An 890-metre vertical drop and an average snowfall of 7.5 metres.
Reality check: A resort-in-progress is, well, in progress: Red’s lifts are slow enough to make new friends on, the on-hill amenities are from the pre-flush era and the food is less than gourmet. In short: Come for the skiing.
Single-day lift ticket: $72 for adults.
Getting there: Drive 2 1/2 hours from Spokane Airport in Washington state, four hours from Kelowna, or 40 minutes from regional airport Castlegar. redresort.com
Apex Mountain Resort
A smaller resort in Penticton, B.C., Apex offers ski-in/ski-out accommodations in a cozy, unpretentious village with plenty of shops, restaurants and bars. The skiing is varied and uncrowded, with groomed greens and blues to get newer skiers started, while experts challenge their skills on the bowls, glades or narrow north runs. And with a tube park, night skiing, groomed and lit regulation-size hockey rink and a one-kilometre skating loop on offer, not only do you not need to leave the resort – you won’t want to.
Why go: 68 runs served by four lifts. Three terrain parks and a World Cup aerial site and mogul course. A 600-metre vertical drop and six metres of average snowfall.
Reality check: Beginners can ski here, but unless they’re quick learners, they might be better off starting their ski career at a hill with more greens.
Single-day lift ticket: $66 for adults.
Getting there: Apex is about half an hour from Penticton Regional Airport or 90 minutes from Kelowna. apexresort.com
Whitewater Ski Resort
The only Canadian resort to make the best powder list in Lonely Planet’s new book 1,000 Ultimate Adventures, Whitewater in Nelson, B.C., is proud of its prime spot on the region’s so-called Powder Highway. But it also boasts some of the best fuel around: Fresh Tracks Café in the main lodge was named “the best ski lodge food ever” by Skiing magazine and caters equally well to those looking for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free or meaty comfort food. While there’s no on-mountain accommodation, that gives you a chance to stay in the funky town of Nelson, just half an hour away.
Why go: 81 runs served by four lifts. A vertical drop of 623 metres and 12 metres of average snowfall.
Reality check: Castlegar airport is nicknamed Cancel-gar for its propensity to get fogged in, meaning this isn’t the place for a tightly timed getaway. Fly into Spokane instead, or just come for longer.
Single-day lift ticket: $68 for adults.
Getting there: Drive half an hour from Castlegar airport, three hours from Spokane or five hours from Kelowna. skiwhitewater.com
Kimberley Alpine Resort
Kimberley boasts the most sunny days of any resort in the province as well as fluffy powder, short lift lines and pretty views. The backside Black Forest offers North America’s largest gladed terrain – mostly expert, with a couple of intermediate options. While the resort has ski-in/ski-out lodging and plenty of evening activities, you won’t want to miss a side trip into the quaint town of Kimberley, B.C., just a few minutes away. It’s got Bavarian-style architecture , complete with the world’s largest cuckoo clock, which upon insertion of a coin reveals beer-wielding, mustache-wearing, yodelling mascot Happy Hans.
Why go: 68 runs (plus 12 in the glades) serviced by five lifts. The vertical drop is 751 metres and there’s an average snowfall of four metres.
Reality check: The most sunny days translates to less snow than other mountains, so if you’re looking for frequently renewed deep powder, Kimberley might not be your first choice.
Single-day lift ticket: $69.95 for adults.
Getting there: Kimberley is 4 1/2 hours across the Rockies from Calgary or four hours from Spokane. skikimberley.com
Mount Washington Alpine Resort
Known for its views of the Pacific Ocean, Mount Washington on Vancouver Island is perfectly placed for a combo vacation: think a few days of skiing followed by surfing in Tofino or golfing in Victoria. But not at the moment; the resort closed last week for lack of snow. When it’s back in operation, new skiers are well served by a beginners’ area with wider trails and four covered magic carpet lifts, the longest in North America. The experienced crowd will appreciate the resort’s 40 hectares of tree skiing amongst old-growth yellow cedar and mountain hemlock as well as 160 hectares of double-blacks on the mountain’s backside.
Reality check: The same drought that’s wreaking havoc on California cropland has hurt Mount Washington, too. It had to close after receiving just 150 centimetres of snow since the beginning of November, though resort operators are still optimistic about the rest of the season.
Why go: 81 runs serviced by five lifts and four magic carpets. A vertical drop of 505 metres and an average snowfall of over 11 metres.
Single-day lift ticket: $75 for adults.
Getting there: About an hour drive from regional airports Comox or Campbell River, or three hours from downtown Victoria. mountwashington.ca