The Big White Ski Resort tagline says it all: It’s the Snow. Big White receives an annual snowfall of 750 cm/24.5 feet of dry fluffy snow, known as champagne powder. It’s light stuff, which makes for truly amazing ski conditions. As with any great ski resort, there’s so much more to Big White than just that all-important snow quantity and quality. Big White also has great family-friendly amenities, a lovely village atmosphere, and loads of natural British Columbia beauty that appeals to ski enthusiasts from all over the world. Here’s our guide to enjoying the best of Big White Ski Resort with kids.
The Best of Big White Ski Resort with Kids
Big White Basics
Big White Ski Resort is located just outside of Kelowna, in the Okanagan Valley in the interior of British Columbia, Canada. It’s about a 5-hour drive from Vancouver (7-8 hours from Seattle), via the Coquihalla Highway to the Okanagan.
In terms of resort stats, Big White has a vertical drop of 2,550 ft, with 16 lifts accessing 119 designated ski runs for all levels from beginning to expert. There’s enough powder and terrain for everyone to enjoy. And there are rarely lineups, even on weekends. Big White is also home to Western Canada’s largest night skiing area, offering up 8,429 skiable acres of terrain, including the impressive terrain park, TELUS Park.
If you’ve never visited Big White before, it’s highly recommended to start off with one of the Resort’s free daily Snow Host Tours. The program is a great way to get a feel for the hill and its many runs and lifts. Guests can meet the experienced volunteer Hosts daily at 10:30 AM in a signed designated spot across from the Village Centre Lodge.
If you’re flying in from other parts of Canada, the United States or Australia, take note. Big White operates a convenient Airport Shuttle from Kelowna International Airport to the resort, which is about a 55 minute ride. You should pre-book the shuttle prior to your arrival. If you plan to cook some of your meals at your condo or chalet during your stay, you can pre-arrange a 45-minute grocery-store stop in town, to purchase supplies to stock up for your holiday. There is small grocery store in the Village, but supplies are limited and more expensive than in town.
Big White Ski Resort Village
The village of Big White is Canada’s largest totally ski-in, ski-out resort center. Meaning you can ski or snowboard directly to the door of your accommodation and to more than 20 on-mountain restaurants, cafes and bars. All these amenities are within a short walking distance of hotels, condos and ski lifts. The central Village Centre building has ski and snowboard rentals, ticket offices, retail shops, the Big White Bakery and Beano’s cafe.
There are a wide variety of restaurant options throughout the Village, from small cafes offering tapas-style healthy and vegan menu choices, to traditional bars and burger grills. Do stop for some pie or kid-friendly cookies at Big White Bakery in the Village Centre, or enjoy an upscale, family-friendly dinner at the Kettle Valley Steakhouse and Wine Bar in the Happy Valley Day Lodge.
No visit to Big White is complete without sampling an adult-only Gunbarrel coffee or hot chocolate from Snowshoe Sam’s Gunbarrel Grill. It’s a fiery, one-of-a-kind experience.
The Happy Valley Day Lodge is accessible via a short ride on Lara’s Gondola, five minutes from the main village. The Lodge is home to the casual Moose Lounge and Bistro, the fine dining Kettle Valley Steakhouse restaurant, and picnic facilities for day-users. The Lodge also hosts daily family activities for kids, such as crafts, marshmallow roasting and smore-making.
Winter Activities at Big White
Should the family and littles need a break from skiing and riding, Big White’s Adventure Centre offers a host of family-friendly off slope winter activities. Lace up for a skate or shoot the puck on Canada’s highest elevation outdoor rink, maintained by the cutest little Zamboni.
Rocket down one of five snow tube lanes either solo or as a family group. The helpful lifties will even give you a spinning start. Or book a snowmobile tour (including Mini-Z snowmobile experiences for kids), dog-sledding tours, and horse-drawn sleigh rides through a winter wonderland, including a dining tour for supper in the woods.
If you’re feeling really adventurous, climb the 60 ft Ice Tower, like I did. Yes, that’s me in the photo. At a cost of only $20, getting to the top of the tower could be one of the most exciting things you and your kids do this ski season. Anyone from ages 4 to 84 can climb the ice tower, if they dare.
Big White Ski School
Need lessons? No problem. Big White has a huge indoor ski school building, housing lesson registration and equipment rentals for kids, a kitchen for ski school lunch prep, and two play areas divided by age: 4-6 and 7-12. There is also a climbing wall, LEGO, and activity tables to keep kids busy before or after lessons. Skiing and riding lessons for younger children and beginners take place off the main mountain, near the Adventure Centre, with a moving carpet to get kids back up the hill.
Finding a suitable ski instructor is easy with Big White’s Ski School database. You can pick an Aussie snowboarding pro or a German-speaking Swiss ski instructor. Through the Ski School valet service, they’ll even come to your hotel and pick up your child for their lesson, for a small fee.
Big White prioritizes safety through its Flaik GPS tracking system band. Every ski school child wears this device on their lower leg. Flaik tracks skiers should they become lost, and allows Mom and Dad to follow along with their child’s day.
Big White also operates the Tot Town Daycare facility for pre-ski children (babies to age 5). Kids can also go for half-days, for those who don’t wish to ski the whole day. Ski Canada Magazine has cheekily voted it the “Best Place to be Abandoned by Your Parents.”
Where to Stay at Big White
Big White has a centralized reservation system that bundles lift tickets, rentals, and accommodations. The resort offers excellent package deals where kids under 12 often stay and ski free.
If you want to book independently, Stonebridge Lodge is a great choice for ski-in, ski-out luxury condos. They have full kitchens, hot tubs on every deck, and country-style, ski-kitsch suites. It’s one minute from Village Centre and spacious enough for one or two families sharing.
There are also many individual vacation properties available through VRBO. We shared this wonderfully-appointed Mistaya Chalet guest house with two other families on our last stay.
If you’re looking for an affordable family ski holiday, pristine snow quality, and no lift lines, Big White Ski Resort in Kelowna, British Columbia, should be at the top of your list. It’s the snow… and so much more.
New more skiing inspo? Check out these articles about other British Columbia ski resorts.
Photo Credits: C Laroye
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