Last winter, I decided to load up the family van and take my youngest three boys—Nicholas, nine, and 12-year-old twins Nelson and Aemon—on a four-day road trip. Where? To British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan. Why? To ski to our hearts’ content.
While the Thompson Okanagan is known best for its world-class wineries and sun-soaked summers, it also happens to be home to some fantastic ski resorts that take full advantage of the light, powdery snow that falls in abundance throughout the region every winter.
Yes, indeed, it was a plan. We would start in the south and work our way north, testing our mogul mojo along the way. Here’s what we found.
Apex Mountain Resort, Penticton
For steep fall lines, crazy-fast runs and a cozy village atmosphere (including many ski-to-your-door rooms), it doesn’t get much better than Apex Mountain Resort. A challenging mountain just 30 minutes west of Penticton, Apex has its own loyal following—a group whose numbers just keep growing.
The steep, north-facing slopes here keep snow significantly longer than other mountains, and, with 1,112 skiable acres and tons of “extras” on offer such as lift-access tubing, three terrain parks, five restaurants (including the ultra-popular Gunbarrel Saloon) and a small village to explore, Apex is definitely a place to put on your radar.
As luck would have it, we had two bluebird days at Apex, and my boys loved every second of our time there. They were especially fond of Grandfather’s Trail, a scenic, beginner-friendly five-kilometre run that meanders along the northern front. We also enjoyed testing our lack of skill—with plenty of thrills and spills—in the three terrain parks.
Big White Ski Resort, Kelowna
When we pulled up to Big White, it was clear the resort had changed a great deal since my last visit there 25 years ago. While young men with mullets are still welcome, the place has certainly undergone a family-focused facelift. A massive tube park with a high-capacity magic carpet lift, an ice-climbing wall, an Olympic-sized skating rink and lots of new hotels and restaurants all dot the landscape.
My kids and I ate all of it up. Twirling down the tube runs together was a definite highlight, as was watching my youngest pick his way to the summit of the ice wall. But the mountain itself, exceptionally laid out and serviced with 15 lifts, is what really impressed. As far as the snow? How does 26 cm in 24 hours sound?
On a whim, I had thrown my pair of seldom-used heli-skis into the van, just in case of an epic powder dump. And on our final morning, I dusted them off and schussed out into the snow-smothered yonder. After two runs through the waist-deep wonderland, I had already devised a plan to return to the Thompson Okanagan.
Where to stay along the way
Three Spots to Hike, Paddle and Cycle Along The Great Trail
The Great Trail (formerly the Trans Canada Trail) connects three oceans and covers 24,000 kilometres. Discover the beauty of Canada's vast landscape by cycling along the Kettle Valley Trail from Kelowna to Penticton, paddling the Chief Whitecap Waterway and Meewasin Trail in Saskatoon or hiking the Fundy Footpath in New Brunswick.
British Columbia’s Best Wine Regions (and Where to Sip)
The Okanagan Valley is emerging as one of the world’s most exciting wine regions, thanks to its range of climates and terroirs. Meanwhile, the Thompson Valley’s Kamloops area is on the rise. Sip aromatic whites at the Fall Okanagan Wine Festival (Sept. 28 to Oct. 8) or Pinot Noir at Privato Vineyard & Winery in Kamloops.