Big White Ski Resort: family-friendly skiing in Kelowna BC

It speaks to Big White Ski Resort‘s dedication to families that there’s too many family-friendly activities, events, and programs to include in just one post. Over the next week, we’ll be featuring our favorites, in addition to this overview of the mountain and its lodging, dining, and family fun.

First, an overview from the Pit Stops for Kids video channel:

Skiing at Big White:

I asked around before arriving at Big White, and learned that this resort is known for three things: family-focused fun, lightweight, ‘champagne’ powder, and fog. (More on that last one in a bit.) From the moment we checked in at Central Reservations, it was evident the ‘family-focused’ part was no joke: we were given a full page of daily activities for kids, most of them complimentary. Throughout our stay, we experienced Big White’s bi-weekly ‘Carnival Night’ with bouncy houses, slides, carnival games and free cotton candy; hot chocolate by a bonfire; Family Apres Ski at the Moose Lounge; and a holiday parade the kids could participate in. Had we stayed longer, Nate, age 13, could have participated in Teen Wii Night, and Toby, age 8, and Calvin, age 11, could have attended a Kids’ Centre climbing wall event.

Because Big White is a completely ski-in, ski-out resort (yes, you can ski or walk everywhere), it’s very relaxing to get from Point A to Point B, and because the vibe here is very laid back, you’ll see kids sledding and adults snowshoeing or cross-country skiing throughout the village along the streets and pathways. We immediately embraced this attitude, leaving the car parked and hopping on the gondola from our mid-mountain condo to head to the lower Happy Valley adventure center and walking just a few steps to the Village center.

Big White village

Thanks to Big White’s high elevation location in the Monashee mountains near Kelowna BC, the resort enjoys a steady amount of snowfall (they don’t make their own snow…they don’t need to). The tree skiing is consistently great, and the snow is dry and light, making it easy for even young kids to slide through the powder. Our boys loved the large amount of glade skiing, and I loved that I didn’t need to go all the way up the peak to find challenging terrain.

Big White’s reputation for fog is accurate as well, but you know what? It was no big deal. The dense fog can be disorienting, but local skiers know just what to do: head to the gladed sections of the lower mountain (such as Black Forest), and save the peaks for another day. We found the fog to often burn off, but if it doesn’t, just think of it as an excuse to tackle some of Big White’s other outdoor activities. While out in the fog, take a photo next to Big White’s famed ‘snow ghosts’.

Big White ski resort

Big White Ski and Board School:

Big White’s reputation as a family destination is well-deserved, and naturally, this extends to its Ski and Board School. Unlike some ski resorts, Big White’s ski school is not just day care (though they have that, too). As an expert skier, I was pleased to see the skill levels of each ski school class clearly marked on the Big White website, complete with YouTube videos of necessary skills so you can accurately place your kids in the right classes. Once on site, I was also happy to see the sheer number of ski school instructors; extras are always in reserve should they be needed on any given morning.

Kids' Centre lessons and activities

We dropped off Calvin and Toby at ski school for two half-days, and on Day 1, I braced myself for the usual chaos of ski school registration during peak season. It didn’t come. Though the Kids’ Centre (located directly across from the Village Centre Mall in the main village) was bustling, it ran like a well-oiled machine, thanks to efficient, friendly staff. Kids can be dropped off as early as 8:30 am for a 9:30 lesson, but they’re hardly suffering while they wait: the ‘no adults allowed’ Kids’ Centre houses lego tables, indoor slides and play spaces (yes, you can play in your ski boots), and tables for arts and crafts.

Security is well-run as well: kids are given scannable bar codes for their helmets and parents are issued identical codes they must present at pick-up. During lessons, kids wear GPS trackers, the data from which is later emailed to parents, so they can see where their child skied or boarded on the hill. I was impressed that at each pick up, my kids’ instructors sought me out to explain to me in detail how my kids were progressing. Toby’s instructor, a young man named Jordan, was especially detailed and friendly. I’ll admit: my kids don’t always want to have lessons when they could be free skiing, but both were happy to go back to the Kids’ Centre on Day 2.

Big White outdoor adventures

Outdoor Adventure:

Big White is home to North America’s only ice climbing tower, an experience so unique, it deserves its own post. Also located nearby: Big White’s Mega Coaster snow tubing park, the highest elevation ice skating rink in Canada (on which kids can also play hockey, complete with referees), dog sledding (more on that as well), miles of nordic trails, sleigh rides, and snowmobiling.

Family Activities:

Kids can return to the Kids’ Centre almost every evening for scheduled, supervised activities, many of which are complimentary. Activities include wall climbs, snow tubing, and game nights, including dinner. Family activities abound as well: we checked out apres ski fare snacks and mocktails at the Moose Lounge after a full ski day, and took part in holiday events such as Big White’s annual Christmas Eve parade. Be sure to check for daily events offered (schedules can be found at the information center at the Village Centre Mall)…the list rivals that of a cruise ship!

Big White sleigh ride

Dining:

The beauty of true ski-in, ski-out lodging is that families can make their own meals in their condos. On the nights you choose to eat out, this also means fewer crowds (both at lunch and dinner). We grocery shopped en route to Big White at Kelowna, but also ate a few choice meals out. Our favorite dining locations:

Gunbarrel Coffee at Gunbarrel Grill

1. The Bullwheel: This restaurant on the upper side of the village is a nice spot to duck into for a mid ski-day meal or dinner. The food is very fresh and often locally sourced, paired with Okanagan wines in the evening. We recommend the huge gourmet burgers and kids’ make-your-own pizza.

2. Beano’s: This breakfast and coffee spot is located right in the cozy Village Centre Mall, making it a convenient and yummy breakfast counter before dropping the kids off at lessons or picking up your tickets. We loved the breakfast sandwiches and the kids devoured their big cinnamon rolls.

3. Kettle Valley Steakhouse: This restaurant is casual while still delivering on excellent cuisine. If you’re in Big White during the holiday season, order Christmas dinner from Kettle Valley and have it delivered right to your condo. We experienced this firsthand, and had a delicious (and large portioned!) dinner of turkey, vegetables, stuffing, rolls, salad, cheesecake, and more.

4. Happy Valley Cafeteria: This cafeteria is just like that in most day lodges, with two differences: lower prices and better food. We loved their noodle bowls, and we were able to get healthy burgers for the kids (they liked the tuna burger, for instance). Don’t worry: there’s also fries, grilled cheese, hot dogs, and the like.

Lodging:

The Eagles Big White

There is no ‘bad’ location at Big White, but if you want to be close to the village and right off an easy (green) run, our lodging at The Eagles Resort is perfect. Our three-bedroom, two-bath plus loft condo included a full kitchen, spacious living room with fireplace, huge boot/coat room, and fun three-bed loft for the kids. We had more room than we knew what to do with, plus ski lockers a few floors below us. We could step into our skis and right out onto the run, or walk just a few yards through a snowy tunnel to the village. After skiing, we relaxed in the large indoor/outdoor hot tub, and the kids made use of the communal game room.

Eagles kitchen and club room

The Eagles reminded us of the ski lodging of our youth: low on frills such as granite countertops and exposed wood beams, high on practical touches like glove-warming racks and a full ski tuning station in the ski storage locker. Each condo comes with a heated, indoor parking space (extra cars can park in the outside lot) and housekeeping refreshes towels and takes out garbage three days weekly. The Eagles was exactly what we needed to stay comfortably and conveniently at Big White.

Eagles Big White

As I disclose whenever applicable, Big White Ski Resort hosted us during our stay. Though appreciated, this generosity did not come with expectation of a positive review.

About the author

Amy Whitley AUTHOR: Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly as a family travel expert at Go Green Travel Green and Practical Travel Gear, and contributes to Outdoors NW as an outdoor adventure traveler. Find Amy at Google.

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