Here’s How To Ski British Columbia’s Wine Country
Cooler climate grape growing can pose some challenges but it also has its benefits. With developing wine regions from East to West, Canada’s wine regions give cool a new meaning. In British Columbia you can tour some of North America’s best wineries on Saturday and hit the slopes Sunday. The best part? Wine country does après like nobody else.
Each of the province’s nine designated viticultural areas are somewhat lesser known to the international wine circuit and come with their own unique and magnificent backdrop. From the fertile agricultural belt of the Fraser Valley to a desert-like wild west landscape in the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, you’re never far from a great outdoor experience. Or ski resort, because mountains.
The people of British Columbia have big love for their wine and it shows in all the places they play, including mountainside dining. As experiential tourism grows and we look for more ways to vacation, places like BC are poised to deliver. The previously sleepy “shoulder season” is becoming a thing of the past and there’s now spill over into winter wine touring. Yes, that’s really a thing and if you like the alpine life you’re going to love this.
Local winter adventurers are torn between boasting about their spectacular mountains and wanting to keep them to themselves. Whistler Blackcomb saw the spotlight at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. International ski teams travel from around the world to train at Apex Mountain Resort and world cup champion and Olympian Nancy Greene Raine makes her home at Sun Peaks Resort where she still skis every day the resort is open. Winemakers can often be found carving it up on a ‘powder day’ (they play hooky when there’s a fresh dump of snow). With time comes maturity, and mountain après offerings are growing up.
You can still find a delicious slice and refreshing beer, but the high altitude culinary game is stronger each season. Skiing, boarding, snowmobiling, tubing, ice skating (or climbing), snowshoeing – whatever your fancy, there’s a great meal and brilliant sip waiting for you at day’s end. Pro tip: it’s alcohol at altitude, so remember to hydrate.
4 Beautiful Places to Ski, Eat and Drink in British Columbia
Big White 56km / 35mi from Kelowna
- Elevation: 2,319m / 7,606ft at summit and 1,755m / 5,757ft in the village
- Vertical drop: 777m / 2,2550ft
- Runs: 119 designated trails
- Accommodation: 3 village hotels, 25 condo/townhouse complexes (many ski in / ski out)
- Eateries: +20
- Fun fact: park the car and toss the keys for the weekend
This mountain resort is an easy one to call home for a day, the weekend, or a week because there’s enough to occupy everyone in your family. Try your hand at ice climbing or rent a snowmobile and take a guided tour of the snow-ghosted forest. Dogsled? You can do that, too. When the sun goes down and the gear is put away, you can tackle the mountain’s culinary scene one bite and sip at a time.
Stay: anywhere on the mountain that has a hot tub on the patio (there are plenty).
Sun Peaks 55km / 34mi from Kamloops
- Elevation: 2,080m / 6,825ft at summit and 1,250m / 4,000ft in the village
- Vertical drop: 882m / 2,893ft
- Runs: 137
- Accommodation: 9 village hotels/lodges plus condos/townhouses (some ski in/ski out)
- Eateries: +20
- Fun fact: the resort has three mountains (yes, 3)
This resort is known for getting more than 2,000 hours of sunshine annually. Truth. Learn to ski/board programs and snow activities are available for all ages and the mountains give just the right amount of space. Take a complimentary ski tour on one of the resident Sun Host Mountain Tours or check off Ski With Olympic Champion Nancy Greene from your bucket list. Yes, really. And first tracks are a thing here – an actual, planned thing with guides and breakfast. Grab tickets while you can to the 21st Annual Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival in January 2019 and sip above the clouds.
Stay: at one of the village hotels/lodges for easiest access to the slopes.
Whistler Blackcomb 120km / 74mi from Vancouver
- Elevation: 2,182m / 7,160ft (Whistler) and 2,284m / 7,494ft (Blackcomb)
- Vertical drop: 1,530m / 5,020ft (Whistler) and 1,609m / 5,380ft (Blackcomb)
- Runs: +200 marked trails and 16 bowls
- Accommodation: where to we start? everywhere
- Eateries: +18 over two mountains
- Fun fact: the resort has three glaciers (yes, 3) and a peak-to-peak gondola with maps for everything including the village because it’s just that big
Home of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, this place has history. If you ask around you might meet one of the originals who has lived on the mountain since its inception and helped create the feeling of community still palpable today. There’s so much to do it’s dizzying, and that’s not just the altitude. Perhaps the easiest approach is to focus on what you want to experience, not to try to do it all, and save room for the unexpected because there’s more to explore here than can be summed up in a neat little paragraph.
Stay: anywhere you like, because there’s a variety of accommodation to fit many budgets.
Apex Resort 35km / 22mi from Penticton
- Elevation: 1,575m / 5,200ft at base and 2,180m / 7,200ft at summit
- Vertical drop: 610m / 2,000ft
- Runs: 79 designated trails
- Accommodation: local network rentals
- Eateries: 4
- Fun fact: a favorite haunt of winemakers and chefs
You can’t get more local than Apex. It’s an open secret in Okanagan wine country that when the snow flies, winemakers and crews flock to the hills for a breath of fresh air and fresh powder. Apex isn’t glamorous, but it’s where junior athletes and international teams train so you know there’s something special going on here. A family park, a skating loop that runs through a forest, and enough après to satisfy the appetite you’ll earn. This is one secret that won’t stay kept.
Eat: breakfast or lunch at the cafeteria because it’s an actual cafeteria on a hill in the most delightful old-school way, or grab a quick bite at The Edge Bistro.
Sip: après at Longshot Wine & Tapas, or the Gunbarrel Saloon for a legendary Gunbarrel Coffee (flaming Grand Marnier and a double barrel shotgun).
Stay: in one of the many owner-rental condos on the hill, or head into Penticton and explore your surroundings.