Snow and families go together like hot chocolate and marshmallows. And where else to treat the kids to a white Christmas or wintry wonderland than British Columbia?
Canada’s westernmost province is a natural nirvana of mountain peaks and trails that pave the way for young and old to learn and master the art of skiing and snowboarding. And then there’s the unimaginable amounts of snow perfect for snowball-, snowman- and snow angel-making. Plus, getting there has never been easier thanks to direct flights with Air Canada from Brisbane or Sydney to Vancouver, and great package deals with Sno’n’Ski.
Family holidays aren’t always sun-drenched sandy affairs. Take your brood on an unforgettable escape at four of these incredible family-friendly ski resorts in British Columbia.
Big White Is For Beginners
Soft powdery snow, a comfortable -5 degrees Celsius average temperature and a brains trusts of ski instructors make Big White a mecca for beginner ski families. It’s the concept of family and the small-town community feel that sets Big White apart from other resorts – you’ll feel wholly welcome the moment you pull into the village. Big White is a relaxed place to spend a week or more, with myriad accommodation options that boast self-catering facilities for those nights you don’t want to venture out for dinner. Sundance Resort is a particular stand-out with its media room, kids play area, fitness centre and heated outdoor pool and waterslide.
The friendly instructors come from all around the world to teach young ski and boarding enthusiasts. Credit: Big White Ski Resort
When it comes to ski school, every family member is catered for, thanks to a jovial and professional crew of instructors from all over the world. There’s joint classes for little ones age three to six years who don’t want to be separated from their parents, age-appropriate ski (from three years) and snowboard (from five years) lessons as well as freestyle camps for beginners who prove to advance quickly. There’s also a crèche for parents who want some time to themselves on the slopes or at dinner.
Off-piste and in the heart of the village, there’s tubing, snowmobiling, snow-shoe touring ice-skating and dog sledding to enjoy too.
There's plenty of fun to be had for the whole family, on and off the slopes. Credit: Big White Ski Resort
The best part about Big White is that part of their value season falls in the middle of January, smack bang in the middle of our summer holidays, when North American kids are already back at school. Uncrowded runs make visiting here perfect for beginner families in January.
SilverStar Is For Shredders
If the family has done a few domestic ski trips and are keen to take their riding to the next level, SilverStar Mountain Resort is the ultimate alpine playground with four mountain faces and 11 lifts to service 132 runs.
Best suited to experienced skiers or snowboarders (40 per cent of runs are designated for intermediate abilities, 35 per cent suitable for advanced and 10 per cent for the extreme daredevils), SilverStar enjoys a mid-mountain, ski-in, ski-out position, with the first run of the day always down to the chairlift, before heading to the top of the mountain and skiing back into town.
No matter what ability level the family is at, lessons allow skills to further develop with the full attention of knowledgeable and experienced instructors, who also double as mountain guides. After all, there’s nothing like insights from local riders to enhance your experience.
The village itself is picture perfect, with buildings swathed in a quaint mix of complementary colours. Accommodation options include everything from enormous ski chalets to budget-friendly apartments with all the mod-cons of home, as well as hot tubs for a true après-ski experience. Fireside Lodge and Snowbird Lodge are two excellent options for a family stay with contemporary and cosy spaces to unwind, extra beds and full kitchens – some condos can sleep up to 10 people if required.
When it comes to dining out, fuel up at 18 different eateries and bars, many of which are inherently family friendly. The quesadilla and nachos at The Den are popular lunchtime treats, as is the poutine and elk burger at Red Antler.
As for après-ski fun, explore the terrain a different way on a fat bike or snow-shoe tour, and complete the experience with a very-Canada sleigh ride and log-cabin dinner.
Sun Peaks Is For Everyone
You know you’re onto a good thing when you can ski through a meandering Bavarian-style village and into a poutinerie, irresistible dessert shop or onto a bungee trampoline.
Which way to the most family fun? Credit: Sun Peaks Resort
Sun Peaks is tailor-made for families who want to ride and experience a medley of off-piste fun together. Family members can go their separate ways at the top of Burfield Chair, and meet up for a cruisy finish right into après along the sweeping 8km-long ‘5 Mile’ green run that curves around Mount Tod. Morrissey is also another Sun Peaks mountain favourite, beloved for its groomed runs studded with trees.
Find plenty of off-slope fun, like tubing, at Sun Peaks. Credit: Sun Peaks Resort
Spoilt for choice is an understatement when it comes to Sun Peaks’ off-piste excitement. Strap on a pair of snow shoes and strike out with a tour guide who will point out local landmarks as you frolic in the snow, culminating in a feast of s’mores and hot apple cider around a campfire.
Teens and their parents can also get a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a groomer with a ride in a snow groomer, or there’s the option to work for your supper with a guided ice-fishing adventure on one of the many hard mountain lakes in the area. And if mums and dads want to enjoy a romantic evening out, Sundance Kids Centre offers hosted dinners for kids for about $30 per child, Monday to Thursday evenings, alongside movies, games and crafts. Family Fun Night is also held every Tuesday during ski season at the ice-skating rink.
“I loved the smaller feel and quaint village lit up with fairy lights, and most of all, how family-oriented the design of the resort is. I’d love to take my kids one day,” says Travel Expert Karl Tilby from Flight Centre Balgowlah, NSW.
Top tip: If anyone want to leave the boards or skis behind, take the Sunburst chair to the Sunburst Café and Bar found mid-mountain for lunch, with a side of resort views and ‘download’ (take the chairlift back down) for even more impressive views of the resort and surrounding peaks.
Whistler Blackcomb Is For Extended Families
The mega ski resort found two hours north of Vancouver hardly needs an introduction. Whistler Blackcomb is made up two mountains connected by the Peak 2 Peak, an 11-minute gondola journey, when combined with the lift system, can transport over 65,000 people per hour. The resort is impressive, to say the least, and offers families, from toddlers to grandmas, everything they could hope for and more in a vibrant and lively alpine atmosphere.
One of the toughest decisions to make is where to stay, but luckily, there’s no wrong answer in the village. Most hotel rooms offer interconnecting suites, complete with kitchens, for extended groups to stay together, along with all the luxuries of hotel-style comforts.
The Fairmont Whistler has the largest pool deck in all of Whistler, with three hot tubs, a lap pool that plays music and the ability to swim from the inside out to avoid unrobing in the cold air. Westin amps up the 5-star conveniences with a ski valet so you can leave your gear before lunch and pick it up when you’re ready to get back on the slopes, while the Hilton family combo suite guarantees groups connecting rooms.
Ski parking at Whistler Blackcomb Resort. Credit: Getty
While Whistler Blackcomb is usually reserved for the gap-year and ski season younger crowds, there’s a whole host of family-friendly entertainment throughout the village (just look for the ‘family-certified’ icon).
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