Pros: Terrific snow, wonderful terrain, good hotels, good restaurants, friendly staff
Cons: 55 min drive from Kelowna aiport, T-bar at the top
We had a first class experience at Big White, Jan 2003. The terrain was great - the locals said the snow was bad - there was a 5ft base but it was as good as Aspen or Deer Valley and we thought it was really great as we arrived just after a snow storm. We then had 5 days out of 7 with blue skies. Even on the bad days it was cloudy and flat light made it a bit difficult to see bumps - but it was OK.
The runs were wonderful with hardly anyone on them. We skied virtually all the blue runs - only one was a bit tricky as it went through the woods and there was a warning sign at the top saying there were early season conditions which we should have heeded, but another run (Blue Ribbon) with this sign was really in excellent condition. There is a very good intermediate bowl from the top of the Gem Lake Chair and you get long runs for the time it takes the lift to go up.
We also like the elevation which is low as you don't feel tired due to altitude. The only time it was busy was for night skiing on Wednesday when school buses arrived and at the weekend. On the weekend Gem Lake Chair and Powder Chair had no lines so even the busy time was great.
Most of the people we met were Australian, there were also Canadians. It was 3 days before we met an American and only at the weekend did we meet more Americans - all from Washington State - no Californians.
We stayed at the Inn at Big White and the kitchenette was great. It had a lovely warm pool, hot tub and gym. The Australian students who looked after us there were excellent.
We liked the restaurants - all were good - especially the Black Forest Gateaux at the Swiss Bear. The Coho Salmon was superb at the Happy Valley Lodge restaurant. The welcome night on Monday evening was worth attending to sample restaurant fare.
We did dog mushing - highly recommended. Even though I fell off into waist deep powder at the first turn, I managed the downhill through the woods and then it was easy on broad cross country trails. The cross country trails were very well groomed.
The top of the mountain is just like the website with white trees called White Ghosts locally. You have to go up a T-bar to get up it - two on the T-bar of unequal weight was tricky - but by myself was fine.
We had no problems flying from Vancouver to Kelowna although a couple of flights earlier in the day had to turn back because of fog in the Okenagan Valley. Often the resort is above the fog - so we did not suffer from it while we were there.
The runs are really quiet - we did the run to Gem Lake Chair - 3 miles at least and did not meet a soul. I did Millie's Mile on Monday 6 times and the most I saw on it was 5 people. Every chair has a beginner run from the top - although the beginner run was closed on Falcon Chair. We tried all the other chairs and thought all were in excellent condition.
The ice rink was tricky for me - but they had good skates to rent - there was nothing to hold on to as it was like a frozen pond. The village has good amenities. There were very nice condos and chalets for sale.
This would be good for all ages and all kinds of groups - old because its low, young because of great childcare - in between Snowshoe Sams had great entertainment at night - for couples the village was very romantic at night. They did great fireworks one night, had marshmallow roasting on bonfires some nights and also had romantic sleigh rides. They also have tools to fix ski problems in the main street and will wax your skis during lunch. Service was terrific.