kidless

Ontario couple discover there’s more to Big White Resort than kids and family activities

BY: Chris Robinson

Can a kidless couple find the right mix of recreation, relaxation, and a little romance at Canada’s favourite family ski resort? That was the question we were asking ourselves when we set out on our annual spring ski trip to Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna.

Otherwise, I recommend reading on, especially if you’re doing research to find a great ski destination for you and your significant other …

My wife, Lisa, and I have been to many ski resorts over the years, but this time we decided to combine a scheduled business meeting in the West with a four-day ski holiday afterwards.

Big White has deservedly earned the reputation as a family ski area, and for good reason: they cater to families. From the moment we arrived it was apparent that the majority of the resort population was families and the number of pre-teen kids was staggering! The place clearly lends itself to a family dynamic that offers everyone the opportunity to enjoy the experience, both as a group and individually.

The layout of the resort’s central village area provides a focal point for many aspects of the vacation and the Big White Kid’s Centre occupies centre stage in the village. Morning traffic is heavy around 8:30am when kids are being dropped off for programs. Half and full-day programs are available and they sell out quickly. The formula is both simple and brilliant. The offer of fun and adventure, complete with meals, joining friends of similar age and skiing ability in the care and guidance of one of Big White’s many expert instructors is liberating for kids and parents.

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The village is also the hub for resort concierge services, lift tickets, snow school, rentals, food – including a bakery and numerous restaurants – shopping (everything from gear and gifts to the Market & Liquor Store), strolling, and general hanging out. The spacious Big White day lodge is ideally suited for this with high-top tables to gather around where the people watching over a morning coffee from Beanos is good sport in itself.

We arrived on a Wednesday. Thursday was to be a day-long meeting for me and a day of R & R for Lisa. Wednesday’s dinner kicked things off with my meeting group, gathering for cocktails at the Kettle Valley Steakhouse, a five-minute gondola ride from the village to the Happy Valley base area. Michael J. Ballingal, Big White’s Senior VP, was our host for dinner. We gathered around the large harvest table in the centre of the restaurant and were treated to a variety of fine Okanagan wines, accompanied by charcuterie plates and stacked seafood platters before diving into our mains. I chose a 6oz filet mignon with a side sautéed wild mushrooms. After a delicious steak the group was presented with plates of baked alaska, flourless chocolate torte, and dulche de leche apple bomb for dessert. Needless to say, we would head to bed on our first evening fully sufficed.

Thursday morning our business group decided to take advantage of first tracks with the meeting scheduled for 10am. It had snowed all night and 20cm’s of fresh powder blanketed the resort. Powder skiing is a prime reason to come to BC and Big White is reliable for both snow quantity and quality. The resort boasts champagne powder and we were lucky enough to be treated. The Ridge Rocket quad offers nearly 1500 feet of vertical with access to multiple trails and gladed areas. A squadron of eight of us flew through the powder with hoots and hollers echoing across the slopes. Liam from the Big White Ski Patrol was our guide as we had the mountain to ourselves for two runs before the lifts opened to the public. The week had barely begun and I was ready to concede that it might not get any better! We would log five untracked powder runs before duty called.

At this point I should speak about our accommodation. When I first called Michael J. to inquire about accommodation there was no hesitation in his reply. For a discerning couple he recommended Stonebridge. Upon our arrival the reasons became clear: Stonebridge is slopeside, ski-in, ski-out. The building has an attractive façade, appointed in wood and stone and is accessed from the main road across a stone bridge spanning the ski trail that connects the village to the Bullet quad chair, just 50 meters away.

The living room was spacious, featuring leather and wood furnishings and mountain chalet decor. The open concept kitchen, complete with granite countertops and stainless appliances, flanked the main room. Two full baths –one with a steam unit – and a full-sized hot tub on the balcony overlooked the valley below. It was our home for only five days but our hot tub conversation, while sipping a beer and taking in the views,