Though not nearly as impressive as Whistler’s 37 lifts, Big White’s 118 runs are serviced by 15 lifts, 16 if you count the village gondola. These lifts can whisk 28,000 skiers per hour, meaning you won’t be stuck in long lines!
There are four ways to access this incredible mountain. From the village, Lara’s Gondola will take you down towards the Happy Valley Lodge and beginner learning area. The area features a skating rink, kid’s carpet lift, magic carpet lift, and the Big White Tube Park.
The Plaza Chair is also in the village which will take you down to the Ridge Rocket Express and Snow Ghost Express where there are a number of blue runs at the top. Most people, however, will take these popular lifts followed by the Alpine T-bar to reach the summit where you’ll find multiple double diamond blacks (which can be lapped by the Cliff Chair) and a number of green trails.
To access the east side, the Bullet Express and Black Forest Express will take you to a range of blues and greens where you can also ski into the top of the Telus Terrain Park.
Lastly, on the west side, the Gem Lake Express lift will open a mammoth amount of blues and blacks in the Gem Lake Area, while the Falcon Chair will take you to the highest point in that region. Most lifts open at 8:45am, except the Cliff Chair and Falcon Chair at 9:00am, which shouldn’t be an issue since they’re only accessible via other lifts.
When stormy weather strikes or thick fog rolls in, the Alpine T-bar and Cliff Chairs are usually first to close, since they service the most exposed and difficult area of the mountain. Nevertheless, the majority of those runs (excluding the double black bowls) can be still be accessed using the Bullet Express, Ridge Rocket Express, and Snow Ghost Express. If you’re really craving the thrill of black diamonds in the fog, you can make your way over to the Falcon Chair for “Grizzly” and “Playground,” through the Falcon Glades.
Where to Ski
With 2,765 ac of marked terrain, it’s nearly impossible to experience everything Big White has to offer in a single day. Sounds like a challenge, right? The sheer size of the mountain gives you an excuse to extend your stay so that you can explore the entire trail map. From coasting down the smooth, wavy greens from the summit towards Gem Lake to dropping into the cutthroat double black bowls by the Cliff Chair, the diverse trail map makes for an unforgettable experience. Regardless of where you choose to spend your day, make sure you give yourself ample time to get back to your car. The size of the mountain limits the connections between runs, even more so if the fog rolls in and disrupts service on one of the lifts. Believe me, the trek from Gem Lake to the main village and parking area is not something you want to attempt at the end of a long day.
If you can’t decide whether to pizza or french fry, you’re probably better off starting your day on the lower east side. Inexperienced skiers can hone their abilities on the kid’s carpet and magic carpet lifts before a trip to the village on Lara’s Gondola. After a quick bite to eat, practice on the rolling slopes of Happy Valley Way and Woodcutter before making your way down to the Plaza Chair. With a little more confidence and a push from a helping hand, the Bullet Valley trail will take you to the base of the Bullet Express, which is where the fun really begins. Off to the right, you’ll find a bunch of blues (which feel a lot more like blacks when it’s icy) along with green runs Sundance and Millie’s Mile through the glades.
If the weather is playing nice and you’re looking to expand your horizons, take Sun Run from the top of the Bullet Express down to the Alpine T-bar for a leisurely tow up to the summit. Surrounding the Enchanted Forest you’ll find the upper part of Sun Run, T-Bar Easy out, and Squirrel. You can easily spend an entire day on the east side alone, but if you’ve got time, we highly suggest taking a long, winding trip down Serwa’s, which will give you a glimpse of the Gem Lake glades and snow ghosts.
As much as we love Serwa’s and many of the other wide, rolling greens, you don’t visit Big White just to take it easy. Big White’s true colors really come to light for intermediate skiers, especially on the west side. Not to grease my own wheels too much, but I’m a pretty good skier. However, I had my fair share of yard sales and wipeouts during my first visit to Big White, and that was long before I even attempted any of the black diamonds. Start by warming up around the runs below the Bullet Express on the east before gliding across Ridge Connector to the base of the Snow Ghost Express. From here, you’ll have access to all sorts of blues as you weave in and out of the glades underneath the jealous riders in the chairs above you.
Despite the incredible variety on the east side, the real gems (no pun intended) can be found in the Gem Lake area. Coming from the virtually flat province of Ontario, I had never seen anything like the powder bowl (or anything surrounding the Powder Chair really). However, the majority of my visits to Big White were spent exploring the runs off of the Gem Lake Express. The breathtaking view of the Okanagan Lake acts as a stunning backdrop as you wade through the knee-deep powder of the Sun Rype bowl before things get serious. Ignorantly assuming the blues at Big White were similar in difficulty to the blues/blacks of my local mountain, I made my way towards Mustang Sally. After multiple face-shots of powder and a lengthy search for a missing pole, the 10 ft drops, narrow chutes and icy glades kindly reminded me that I wasn’t back at home. If you’re an experienced skier, get ready for the time of your life, as the intermediate terrain at Big White is some of the best in the west.
Personally, I could spend seasons skiing the blues and glades at Big White and never get bored. However, that’s obviously not the case for many experienced skiers. For this reason, Big White has a plethora of advanced runs that will test the abilities of even the most seasoned veterans.
Scattered throughout the blues on the west side, steep black diamonds underneath the Gem Lake Express put you in the spotlight as you fly through the trees and leap off drops, rocks, and ledges. This area, combined with the black out glades feature some of the most challenging runs on the mountain.
Still feeling unfulfilled? The Alpine T-bar and Cliff Chair provide access to the mountains most intimidating double blacks, including Pegasus, Camel’s Back and the Parachute bowl. I can’t speak from personal experience, but from what I’ve heard, the runs around the Cliff Chair are not to be taken lightly.
Big White’s Telus Park attracts all sorts of outstanding talent from skiers and snowboarders alike. The dedicated Telus Park Chair offers a quick trip to the top of the park to maximize your time on the slopes. Big White’s website boasts about their progression system; the park is strategically organized to allow riders to gradually work their way up to bigger features, minimizing risk and injuries. The system features beginner/intermediate and intermediate/advanced lanes to avoid any unnecessary interference between riders of different skill levels. A variety of small, medium, large, and extra large features make up the layout, often rearranged and rotated with each new season. The park’s diverse system can even be upgraded for regional, national, and world cup events.
From Tuesday to Saturday, Big White flicks on the lights above the Bullet Express and Plaza Chair to illuminate the largest night skiing area in Western Canada. An unprecedented 38 ac of terrain is accessible between 3:30pm-8:00pm, giving you the chance to ride your favorite east side runs after the sun goes down. From Thursday and Saturday night, the Telus Park opens up, giving riders the chance to experience the park in absence of crowds. Big White’s night skiing is perfect for late risers who want to get the most out of their trip without having to wake up before the sun rises. The mountain offers afternoon and night passes which are valid between 12:30pm and 8:00pm. The après-ski scene in the village thrives all week long, a perfect excuse to grab a couple beers after an evening on the slopes.