Skiing and Snowboarding
Most of the developed winter recreation areas are in the southern half of British Columbia and in the Canadian Rockies. Whether you’re a total beginner or an advanced daredevil, you’ll find slopes to suit. The price of lift tickets is generally reasonable, and at the smaller, lesser-known resorts, you don’t have to spend half your day lining up for the lifts. Generally resorts are open December–April. The best known of the British Columbian resorts is Whistler/Blackcomb, but others scattered through the southern interior provide world-class skiing and snowboarding on just-as-challenging slopes. The best of these include Big White Ski Resort, Silver Star Mountain Resort, Red Mountain, Whitewater, Fernie Alpine Resort, and Panorama Resort; and Sun Peaks Resort. Banff National Park is home to Canada’s second largest resort, Lake Louise, as well as Sunshine Village and Ski Norquay. Nakiska (vicinity of Calgary) was developed for the 1988 Olympic Winter Games.
Heli- and Sno-Cat Skiing and Snowboarding
Alternatives to resorts are also available. If you’re an intermediate or advanced skier or snowboarder, you can go heli-skiing and heli-boarding in the mind-boggling scenery and deep, untracked powder of the Coast and Chilcotin Ranges, the central Cariboo Mountains, and the Bugaboos. The world’s largest heli-ski operation is CMH Heli-skiing (403/762-7100 or 800/661-0252, www.cmhski.com), which includes almost limitless terrain over five mountain ranges accessed from 11 lodges. Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing (250/673-8381 or 800/661-9170, www.wiegele.com) offers heli-skiing and heli-boarding in the Monashee and Cariboo Mountains from a luxurious lodge at Blue River.
Another, less-expensive alternative is to hook up with one of the many Sno-Cat operations in the province. Sno-Cats are tracked, all-terrain vehicles (similar to snow groomers but capable of carrying passengers) that can transport skiers and snowboarders up through the snow to virgin slopes in high-country wilderness. British Columbia has been a world leader in this type of skiing, and many operators are scattered through the province. Revelstoke Mountain Resort (250/837-2188, www.discoverrevelstoke.com) offers the best of both worlds—this alpine resort in central British Columbia offers lift accessed skiing and boarding, plus cat- and heli-skiing.
Thanks to its location amid some of the continent’s most consistent powder snow, Island Lake Lodge (near Fernie, 250/423-3700 or 888/422-8754, www.islandlakelodge.com) has gained a reputation for both its Sno-Cat skiing and boarding and its luxurious lodgings.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition