After Mariana and her family adopted me for Christmas, Kayla and her family kindly invited me and Andrea skiing at Big White for New Year. I’m not a fan of Whistler so was excited to see what the Okanagan and Big White had to offer.
Andrea and I had an uneventful drive up early on the 28th which was nice as the Coquihalla can be tricky/impassable. Our only delay was self inflicted as I drove straight past the turning, and massive sign, for Big White. This turned in to an annoyingly long detour but we eventually arrived to a lovely day in Big White.
The resort is ski-in-ski-out so after unloading the car we went to the long stay car park. There was a lot of snow so I did quite a few loops before finally choosing the best spot. In hindsight this was wasted effort, but I will get to that.
With the car sorted it was lunch, after which, Kayla and Andrea went snowshoeing/for a walk. I stayed home to relax as I was going to enjoy my break from training and I was on holiday after all.
The evening consisted of a family dinner followed board games. I introduced the team to Dobble and Codenames but the game of the evening was Ticket to Ride. I had never played before but strongly recommend it. I took some convincing as to how exciting building train routes across Europe can be, but it really is!! It probably helped I nearly won despite not having any strategy only to be scuppered by a last minute charge!
As the evening went on it started snowing lightly and continued as we went to bed.
We woke to around 5cm of fresh snow and were ready nice and early. The talk of the morning was my extremely stylish new bobble hat, a Christmas present from the Hicks family! I think the ears are particularly dashing…
Everyone had briefed me that Big White is known for: poor visibility, tree skiing, amazing powder and snow ghosts (I will come back to these).
Kayla took us straight off in to the trees and the fresh powder. Big White is much higher and colder than Whistler so the snow is lighter and drier. Pretty much every run has trees down each side you can work your way through. The fresh snow made for awesome conditions. Even the pistes had a consistent few cm’s of fresh snow and no hidden icy patches.
It was pretty cold but I was sufficiently wrapped up, so the only real downside was the visibility which was poor, but not awful. After a few loops through the trees Kayla took us up to the Alpine and boy were we in for a treat! The extra elevation took us above the cloud line to the most breathtaking views!!
What an absolutely stunning view looking over a sea of cloud with the taller peaks in the region poking through.
The alpine also introduced me to the snow ghosts which I don’t think I have seen before. No idea how or why they form here but reminded me of the statues in Narnia!
I had one little fall which wasn’t surprising as we were skiing hard. I didn’t mind though as every run made my legs burn so I made the most of the rest. Andrea was a lot more effective skiing through the trees and Kayla wasn’t even breaking a sweat!
Luckily for my legs we took an early lunch as apparently real lunch time is the best skiing. Being able to drop in and out is also a major benefit of ski-in-ski-out! 🙂
Kayla had been spot on and 11 30 to 2 was the best time to ski as everyone else was taking lunch! We started the afternoon in the trees before moving back to the pistes as our legs tired.
I couldn’t get over how soft the snow was and despite a full days skiing still so smooth. As we eventually wound our way home we got treated to the most amazing backdrop as the sun set.
As we skied down I tried to remember a better days skiing. Whitewater last year was spectacular, I remember some epic days in Obergurgle and one in particular at Courchavel but this was right up there. Such a nice change from my days at Whistler.
We skied to the bottom of the town to collect a free t-shirt from a run challenge before returning home. The resort is very active in promoting itself and puts on a lot of events, especially for families/kids. Fireworks twice a week, competitions, prizes etc. It really is an amazing resort.
Once home we took some down time before heading back out for some night skiing. It was cold enough that the soft snow had become crunchy which wasn’t ideal, but it was quiet and so nice to be outside at night even if the legs were slowing. Andrea unfortunately got a nose bleed so went home a couple of runs early while Kayla and I headed to the ski park. As there were no witnesses we were doing massive jumps and flips etc.
Finally finished for the day we retreated to the hot tub with a well deserved beer. This (the hot tub) would hopefully help with the recovery and boy did my legs need it. Following Kayla around the mountain is one of the more tiring things I’ve done! The rest of the evening consisted of putting my feet up and more boardgames.
The forecast was for a cold day followed by a snow warning on day 3 so we were happy to take day 2 a bit easier. We didn’t make the first lift but we weren’t too lazy.
The skiing was completely different. A perfect day for the pistes as the overnight freeze had made the trees rather crunchy. The visibility was poor but the conditions were good enough that Kayla was able to give us some lessons. My key take away is feet further apart!! I blame my parents for this as they always skied with their feet together and I wanted to be like them!
As the morning went on it got busier and the visibility decreased further so we took another early lunch. It was nice not killing my legs on every single run.
We continued to take the afternoon easy due to the flat light and it got busier as one of the main chairs broke down. (some people must have been on it for at least half an hour). Plus it was going to be worth saving the legs for snow tomorrow, although when I say take it easy it’s all relative as I don’t think skiing with Kayla will ever be easy for me!
Our evening was very similar again. A good stretching session in the hot tub before dinner and more board games. The guys got absolutely destroyed at Codenames.
The snow had started snowing while we had been in the hot tub and by bed time it was really coming down. We were going to be in for quite a day!
We woke to at least a foot of fresh snow, maybe even a foot and a half.
As we got ready Kayla’s brother left to skin up the mountain to get the first tracks. We however, were more traditional and made sure we were down for the first lift. Unfortunately everyone had the same idea. We were there 20 mins before the first lift and there were already 100 people in the queue. Despite this I was pretty excited as it was snowing hard enough for the snow to settle on us as we waited.
From the top of the lift we headed straight to the trees but encountered a problem as there was too much snow. If the gradient wasn’t steep enough you stopped and had to push. Even when it got steep we didn’t need to turn as the snow was knee deep.
I had a couple of ‘sit downs’ and a ski popped off in the deep snow. Although very soft, falling was exhausting as wading around in the deep snow is knackering. I was glad my ski popped off though as Kayla reset my bindings this winter and I had been worried they might be too tight. I would always rather come out too easily than not at all. As it turned out she had absolutely nailed it!
The tree routes improved each time through. As the snow got cut up it was insane as you could maintain some speed in knee deep snow. It was amazing swooshing between the trees and dropping off rocks to just bounce out in the deep snow. I’ve never been in to drop offs but with this much snow it was awesome and would spray all around me. It wasn’t all plain sailing though…
Mid morning a lift broke down with me on it and I nearly lost Kayla and Andrea as they hadn’t got on yet. I must have been stuck for 10-15 minutes which actually gave my legs a nice break. Although it was so cold my hat got stuck to the chair lift!
After a few more runs of amazing skiing Andrea returned for some lunch but Kayla and I decided to ski through. Kayla knew exactly where she wanted to go so I obligingly followed.
We went to the far left of the resort and got the lift up. For some reason the second half of this chair was brutal. The wind picked up, visibility disappeared and was bitterly cold. I had to cover every cm of skin and still was freezing.
As we got it was horrible. All the snow had been swept away by the wind so it was icy and I couldn’t see. I had no idea where we were going so just did my best to follow Kayla. We turned the corner and Kayla went off the side of the piste on a traverse. I followed and luckily, by complete chance, went just to the right of the post as to the left was a rope that would have clotheslined me!! The post also said ‘use extreme caution’!!
By the end of the traverse I had lost Kayla before relocating her. She was helping someone who had lost their ski in the deep snow.
We set off through the trees through waist deep untouched snow. It was steep enough that I could carry my speed despite the deep snow. It was the best snow I can remember skiing!! Unfortunately after a couple of small stints I lost a ski and fell in to a pile of deep snow.
It took me a while to dig out my ski but I was eventually ready again but had lost Kayla. After regrouping I carried on through the trees picking the best looking line and wasn’t concerned as there were plenty of tracks.
The skiing was amazing but it was testing me to my limit. I came to one drop off where I was stumped. It was too big for me to go off and there was a sort of couloir off to one side but I didn’t really fancy it either. Eventually I took the couloir and all I can say is thank goodness for kick turns. Safely at the bottom I decided it would be best to text Kayla as she would definitely already be at the bottom. I let her know I was OK and was making my way down at my own pace.
It then levelled out but the number of tracks was down to one. It did cross my mind, what if that skier was a nutter who jumped off cliffs, so I proceeded with caution. The trees thickened which made it challenging but just as I was getting concerned I might be lost I found a cat track. I followed it out which involved some walking but eventually I came to a piste. Relief!!
I knew Kayla would be waiting so I skied down as fast as my legs would let me but the deep snow as killing them. Kayla had waited and waited and eventually went inside to warm her phone up to check I was ok. We reunited at the lift and agreed that I would follow closer and she would wait more often.
Despite the lift being so cold (our clothes/faces were freezing) the skiing was so good we decided to lap this chair for as long as my legs held up.
Off the lift, down the cat track, off the edge and down till the visibility increased, clear the ice off our goggles until we could see!
Second time through I followed Kayla more intently and she waited when I fell behind. I can’t put in to words how ridiculous the conditions were and I could now enjoy them as I wasn’t getting lost.
I only had one issue following Kayla through a rather tight spot in the trees. I found out that I am wider Kayla and don’t fit through the same gaps!!
We looped this tree route a few times, freeze and recover on lift then destroy legs in waist deep snow.
By the time we were heading back to meet Andrea my legs were pretty much shot and I definitely needed a break.
My main observation of skiing with Kayla is who she can turn anywhere and on anything without even trying and making it look effortless. Very unfair!
We met Andrea and spent the lunch period mixing up runs (which almost felt like off piste) and routes through the trees.
To finish the day off we headed over to the one area we hadn’t skied. Without trying very hard, or with Kayla’s local knowledge, we found some more amazing routes through the trees. However, after a couple of runs I couldn’t do more than 3 turns without collapsing in a heap in the snow. Taking longer and longer to get up!
I decided to call it a day. Andrea and Kayla tried to convince me and I would have loved to stay out but this goose was cooked. I headed back with Kayla’s mum and it was the right call as even the easy run home was a struggle.
Once home I collapsed on the sofa at the end of the best, and most tiring, days skiing I can remember. Insane snow combined with Kayla’s local knowledge and constantly being pushed.
The girls returned and we headed straight to the hot tub for a beer and to soak our sore legs. Kayla admitted that she could ‘feel here legs’ which I took as a win despite the fact I could barely walk!! Andrea and I had almost tired her out.
We spent New Year’s Even playing board games and trying our hardest to stay awake. It was a real struggle but eventually it was time to head out for the fireworks and we were all standing!
The fireworks are launched from one of the pistes in the middle of town. There was a good crowd but Kayla’s family commented how quiet it was, probably because most people had passed out exhausted.
After the fireworks I tried to initiate a rendition of Auld Lang Syne but apparently it’s not a Canadian tradition and turns out I also don’t really know the words. Oh well. So instead it was back home and to collapse in bed. What an epic way to end 2019.
Andrea and I had to head home on the morning of the 1st and the first job was digging out my car. After 3 days of snow it was first hard to remember which one it was and then also to dig out. Never before has many hands make like work been more appropriate and we were out in no time.
We loaded the car, said our goodbyes and started the long journey back to Vancouver. We were lucky as for the most part the roads were clear so we were back in great time, even having dropped off the girl we gave a lift.
The journey brought down the curtain on both 2019 and another amazing Canadian ski trip. Kayla and her family completely spoiled us and we had 3, very different, but equally spectacular days skiing. The last day in particular was on par with the day in Whitewater and one particular day I remember in Courchavel as the best days I’ve had.
This trip also reminded me what I love about skiing and highlighted what I hate about Whistler. I don’t do many days skiing so going forward I’m going to be more picky about where I ski. The BC Interior is very much at the top of my list as it’s a far better use of funds and there are so many resorts I need to try: Revelstoke, Sun Peaks, Silver Star, Kicking Horse, Banff etc etc. Unfortunately it all has to be squeezed in between training and fishing. Too many priorities and not enough time!
So this amazing trip closed the final chapter of 2019 and I can’t wait for the adventures 2020 will bring!!