By Lori Knowles
Revving their engines in anticipation of a brand new ski season, Canada’s Western ski resorts have revealed impressive plans for Winter 2017. On the list: drones, NHL-ready ice rinks, and slopeside menus that are better for our waistlines. Here are 10 reasons why we should ski the Rockies, the Purcells, the Monashees, and the Coastal Mountains in 2017.
1. Whistler Blackcomb Watches our Waistlines
Under direction of all-star executive chef Wolfgang Sterr, slopeside dining at BC’s Whistler Blackcomb takes an abrupt turn in 2017, casting burgers and fries aside for healthy menus prioritizing locally sourced ingredients. Watch for vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, and sodium-reduced options in the Roundhouse and beyond in Winter 2017. What’s more, WB has jumped on Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Seafood’s bandwagon and has committed to using only naturally raised hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken and beef. Watch your waistlines, skiers, Whistler is getting healthy.
2. Sun Peaks Reserves Some Love for Hockey, Too
Skiers love hockey, too — especially outdoor hockey with a view of snow-capped peaks. That’s why BC’s Sun Peaks has broken ground on its latest attraction: an outdoor skating rink. No, this is not your average made-in-Canada backyard ice rink; Sun Peaks’ version is NHL regulation size. Think: Winter Classic. It’ll be frozen in time for the 2017 winter season.
3. Banff Soaks Up the Ski Life
As if skiing Alberta’s Banff, Lake Louise, and Sunshine aren’t iconic enough. In Winter 2017 the region’s Tri-Area Lift Ticket now gains you free admission to another iconic Western Canadian spot: the historic Banff Hot Springs. In 1883, three railway workers discovered a natural hot spring that ultimately brought rise to the founding of Banff National Park. In the early years, travelers lured by the healing minerals of the hot springs journeyed to the area via the Canadian Pacific Railway. Now visitors can soak up these benefits after a day on the slopes. With the purchase of a three-plus day lift ticket, skiers and riders receive complimentary access to these famed Banff Hot Springs.
4. Silver Star: At One with Everything
Silver Star’s My1Pass now includes winter fat biking. The resort near Vernon in BC’s Okanagan has added more than 15 kilometres of trails for cycling through the snow. Silver Star’s My1Pass also includes downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, tubing, skating, and snowshoeing.
5. ‘Cause Big White Loves Kids
Big White steps up to its rep as a family-friendly BC ski destination in 2017 with the expansion of its Kids Centre. The new space gives kids aged 3 to 7 more room to play and improves traffic flow for parents during pick-up and drop-off times. Better yet, all kids will be equipped with complimentary helmets and Flaik GPS systems — a fun tool that tracks their tracks through the snow ghosts and all over Big White’s big (105 km of runs) mountain.
6. Kicking Back Enroute to Kicking Horse
Reaching Kicking Horse is more relaxing now that a new shuttle service connects Calgary International Airport to the BC resort. The shuttle snakes along the TransCanada through Banff National Park to reach Kicking Horse’s base near Golden, BC. It’ll operate twice per week from December to March 2017.
7. Smile, You’re on Drone Camera at Fernie
Fernie Alpine Resort in BC has gone drone-friendly. The resort now offers skiers the option of hiring a drone to follow and film them cutting up the powder. The footage will be doctored by a professional film editor into a full-length ski video. Participants can then purchase said video to share with friends and family.
8. Marmot’s Half-Price Ski Offer
Marmot Basin in Jasper National Park, AB has found a way for us to ski for half price, all season. The new Marmot Escape Card is sold for $75 and includes 50% off regular rate, full-day lift passes for all ages. Better yet, there are no blackout periods. The card also offers half-price lift tickets at other Alberta ski areas, including Rabbit Hill and Snow Valley.
9. Better Access to Panorama Backcountry
Panorama Mountain Resort is ideally situated on BC’s Powder Highway to access heli- and cat-ski operations. But skiers don’t have to go that far for a backcountry experience. Taynton Bowl, once strictly a heli-ski destination, can now be accessed by a chairlift; new for 2016/17 is additional glading. This area is patrolled and controlled for avalanches, so skiers don’t need guides or special backcountry equipment.
10. Red Invites Us to Own the Mountain
Red Mountain Resort in BC’s Kootenays is the first in North America to jump on crowd funding. Through StartEngine.com, it’s offering skiers a chance to “own the mountain” for a little as $1,000. Those who make the top tier investment of $25,000 will get a five-year family seasons pass (or two, seven-year adult season passes), two pairs of limited edition custom skis or snowboards, and 10 transferable adult lift tickets valid for five years. Says Red Mountain Ventures’ CEO Howard Katkov: “We’re rebooting the Red Mountain Ski Club Community Ownership Model from 1947, only this time, the clubhouse will have wireless!”