Silver Star Mountain and its village are highly rated for family skiing and village living. It’s the fourth largest downhill ski resort in British Columbia, after Whistler Blackcomb, Sun Peaks and Panorama. The resort gets an average of 23 feet of snow, and it’s usually the first British Columbia ski resort to open.
Silver Star’s terrain covers two very different mountain faces. For families we recommend the Vance Creek area served by the Summit Chair and the Comet Six-Pack Express. For the more adventurous, the Putnam Creek area can be accessed by the Powder Gulch Express and the Summit Chair.
The backside is steep and challenging; the front side is beginner-friendly. From the top of the Summit Chair and the Comet Express, you can see Sun Peaks and Big White. From here, it’s a five-mile run to the bottom of Aunt Gladys at the Putnam Creek station.
Advanced skiers and riders head straight to the Putnam Creek side. Intermediates enjoy Gypsy Queen, reached via Aunt Gladys from Paradise Camp. It’s the most popular blue run on the mountain. Beginners can’t go wrong taking the Powder Gulch Express.
Snowboarders should watch out for the Bergerstrasse flats above Paradise Camp. Once beyond it though, there are plenty of single- and double-black runs that will keep your inner free-rider happy. The Powder Gulch Express serves all the runs.
The halfpipe and terrain park are on Big Dipper. The park has features for all riders and skiers.
Part of the High Altitude Training Center, Silver Star’s cross-country trails attract Olympic athletes in training. The 100-kilometer trail network includes the adjoining Sovereign Lakes Cross-Country system; 2.5 miles are lit for night skiing. Lessons are available daily.
Silver Star’s Adventure Park has a lift-served Tubetown, a skating pond, Mini-Z snowmobile park for kids, horse-drawn sleigh rides, snowmobile tours and snowshoe excursions. Via Snowmobile Safaris, you can tour the resort perimeter on a snowmobile. Phone (250) 558-6019.
The Bulldog Grand Cafe is an extension of the Bulldog Amsterdam, with the feel of an Austrian ski resort. The Silver Lode Inn Dining Room features Swiss and international cuisine. In the Silver Star Club Resort you’ll find the most upscale restaurant, Clementine’s Dining Room.
The Italian Garden and the Vance Creek Saloon serve light meals and snacks until midnight. Don’t miss the Lord Aberdeen Bistro, where soups are a specialty and there’s a wide variety of homemade fare. Long John’s Pub at the Lord Aberdeen Hotel offers pub fare, lunch, dinner and drinks; families are welcome.
Bugaboos Bakery Cafe, noted for its award-winning strudels and coffee, is a European-style cafe beside the Town T-Bar on the Vance Creek boardwalk. Francuccino’s Mountain Bakery & Cafe, owned by the same couple, also serves delicious European baked goods, plus gourmet dinners three nights a week (reservations required).
All Silver Star hotels are centered on the main village. Lodging can be booked through Silver Star Holidays, (800) 663-4431. Overnight self-contained RV parking is allowed in the C lot (turn right just before the bridge). There is no charge and there are no hookups.
The village at Big White sits at 5,706 feet (B.C.’s highest base area) and lifts carry skiers up to 7,606 feet. That’s about the same elevation as Whistler/Blackcomb but conditions differ, as the air and snow are considerably dryer this far inland. One of Big White’s signature features is its tree skiing.
Snow Ghost Express serves Big White’s most popular runs from the main base near the Ridge Day Lodge. A free gondola carries guests down from the main village plaza to Happy Valley with its day lodge, rental shop, high-end gift shop, a skating trail and rink, Nordic center, beginner’s learning center, tubing park and RV parking.
Expert skiers and riders gravitate to the long and inviting Gem Lake Express runs.
Intermediates can enjoy the Sun Run from the top of the Alpine T-bar, Exhibition, Highway 33, Serwas and Sundance. There’s also fine terrain off the Rocket and Powder chairs. An entire area off Gem Lake Express is dedicated solely to intermediate runs. Beginners, even first-timers, gravitate to Millie’s Mile, a gradual cruiser named after the owner’s granddaughter. A complete learn-to-ski facility is located in a secluded teaching area at the base of the free Happy Valley gondola.
Snowboarders have a good time most anywhere on the mountain. TELUS Park, with an on-mountain lodge and chairlift, is used as a training and competition facility for snowboarding and freeskiing. But don’t worry, ordinary folks can also use it. The 50-acre park area centralizes the terrain parks, rail garden, pipes, boarder-cross and family fun-race area.
Big White has 15 miles of world-class scenic cross-country trails. Cross-country skiing is included free with lift tickets. Nordic day passes are also available.
The Happy Valley Adventure Centre offers the Mega Snow Coaster tube ride with 10 lanes and two lifts, snowmobile tours, sleigh rides, ice-skating and snowshoeing.
All restaurants are in or near the village center and represent a swell variety of offerings. Beano’s, in the middle of the main ticket/rental building, serves the best coffee, soup and sandwiches in the village. Surf the Internet with your latte upstairs at the TELUS E-Loft.
Snowshoe Sam’s concentrates mainly on steaks and chops. You’ll need dinner reservations, especially on the weekend when it gets packed. Their Gun Barrel Coffee is as much a show as an after-dinner drink. Your waiter pulls up alongside your table with a double-barrel shotgun and pours flaming Grand Marnier down the barrel into a glass with brandy, cacao and whipped cream.
Coltino’s Ristorante, at Das Hofbrauhaus, serves Italian fare as well as Alberta beef in a friendly family environment. Raakel’s next door has après-ski where they serve some mean salads, burgers and pizzas.
Frank’s Chinese Laundry in the Whitefoot Lodge prepares good Chinese food with a quick in-and-out lunchtime buffet. Ride the gondola down to the Kettle Valley Steakhouse, where you’ll find a stylish wine bar, comfy surroundings and a steak-heavy menu.
Lodging in the Big White mountain village ranges from hostels, hotels and condos to private chalets, all ski-in/ski-out. Parking for self-contained RVs is allowed in the Happy Valley parking lot near the skating rink and Lara’s Gondola. The charge is $10.50 per night. Tickets are purchased at the lift ticket window.
For travel between the U.S. and Canada by land or sea, U.S. and Canadian citizens need to present either a Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document or both a government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, and proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. Children 18 and younger may cross with just a birth certificate.
More information is available from www.skisnowboard.com, from which some of this material is adapted. Steve Giordano and Lynn Rosen are editors of www.skisnowboard.com and the annual guidebook Ski/Snowboard America.
SILVER STAR MOUNTAIN
Snow Report Number: (250) 542-1745
Reservation Number: (800) 663-4431
Phone: (250) 542-0224
Web site: www.skisilverstar.com
Snow Report Number: (250) 765-7669
Reservation Number: (800) 663-2772
Phone: (250) 765-3101
Web site: www.bigwhite.com