Interior slopes offer fun on or off skis

Four B.C. resorts serve up inventive programs for family fun in the snow

Chris Keam is a single parent who’d like to introduce his daughter to the joys of skiing—gently. “I’d really just play it by ear and see how she is responding to it,” the Vancouver video editor says. “If it wasn’t going well, I’d probably want to explore other things too…like tobogganing, which is easier with a five-year-old than skiing all day, every day.”

Four ski destinations in B.C.’s Interior have just the thing. Sun Peaks Resort (near Kamloops), Silver Star Mountain Resort (near Vernon), Big White Ski Resort (near Kelowna), and Apex Mountain Resort (near Penticton) serve up some very inventive programs that don’t require skis for kids, youth, and grownups.

Without skis, the next best way to get down a slope is on an inner tube. All four resorts have tube parks with sculpted runs and lifts to the top. Big White boasts “North America’s largest resort tubing park”; Apex’s park is named after a ubiquitous Canadian coffee chain. Get yourself and your doughnut—er, inflatable tube—to the top, climb in, and gravity will do the rest. If that’s too rough for the royalty in your group, put them in Sun Peaks’ Sno-Limo: a cushy chair on skis that a “chauffeur” gently steers over ski runs.

For flatlanders, all four resorts have outdoor skating, Nordic skiing, and snowshoeing. Skating areas range from hockey rinks to frozen ponds. Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have a range of activities to choose from. Silver Star, for example, offers a starlight snowshoe package complete with a guide, chocolate fondue, and a sleigh ride back to the village.

Speaking of sleighs, Sun Peaks, Big White, and Silver Star all have horse-drawn tours. In addition, Sun Peaks and Big White encourage visitors to meet and mush with their sled dogs. Motorized sleighs are a possibility: ask Sun Peaks, Silver Star, and Big White about their snowmobile tours. Teens can ride shotgun with a trail groomer in Sun Peaks’ Cat Trax Tour, and grownups can take in a dinner-destination version on Silver Star’s 12-passenger Snowcat.

Away from the snow, Sun Peaks’ Sports Centre tempts with an outdoor heated pool, hot tub, and kids’ play zone. The National Altitude Training Centre at Silver Star also gives you a good reason to pull the mittens off: an all-ages climbing wall and bouldering cave. Big White’s Day Spa entices young people to replenish with a facial, while their adult counterparts can sample a red- or white-wine “vinotherapy” massage.

When it’s time for you and your tribe to take some space, the resorts understand—after all, most of them are family-owned. Says Keam: “I’d be willing to pay extra for reputable child care in the evening.” Naturally, all resorts offer ski and snowboarding programs, and kids can escape from family for hours at a time during the day. But the resorts also offer full child-minding services—usually in hourlong, half-day, and full-day increments—with some evening options. Don’t be afraid to ask the impossible: Silver Star, for example, will watch newborns, and Big White hosts supervised video-and-pizza nights for $10 a kid.

What else? Plenty: Sun Peaks, Apex, Silver Star, and Big White jazz up their regular activities with tons of daily and weekly special events. Visit the activities and events sections of their Web sites for details. You’ll be playing in the snow in no time.

ACCESS: Sun Peaks Resort (1-800-807-3257, ); Silver Star Mountain Resort (1-800-663-4431, ); Big White Ski Resort (1-800-663-2772, ); Apex Mountain Resort (1-877-777-2739; ).

Published in the March 8, 2007 Spring Adventure issue of the Vancouver Georgia Straight