Big White Lifts & Terrain

Ski Big White BC Canada
Big White skiing includes lots of fantastic groomed blue runs
Intermediates get 54% of the trails
About 32% of the resort consists of groomed trails
The Alpine T-bar offers picturesque runs for confident beginners
The Cliff provides alpine and sub-alpine steep terrain
Big White BC has lots of nooks and crannies to find powder
The slow Powder chair and the infamous snow ghosts
Big White BC is paradise for intermediates
Big White skiing
The Big White Out is lifting
You can ski in amongst some of the snow ghosts
Big White Ski Resort Canada
You can traverse or hike around to some side-country
The green run that heads into the ski-through village
Big White terrain park
It's the Snow!
Double black terrain of The Cliff
Some of the entrances into the Cliff are gnarly
Big White Skiing

Big White Lifts & Terrain

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded

Our Terrain Ratings

Powderhound rating = advanced/expert terrain + powder + freshies + uncrowded
Open Niseko Trail Map
  • Vertical (m)
    1,508 – 2,319 (811)
  • Average Snow Fall
    7.5 metres
  • Lifts (29)
    1 Gondola
    1 Six Pack
    4 High Speed Quads
  • Ski Hours
    8:45am to 3:00pm
    3:00pm to 8.00pm
    Early Dec to Mid April
  • Terrain Summary
    Runs – 118
    Longest run – 7.2 km
    Expert - 6%
    Advanced - 22%
    Intermediate - 54%
    Beginner - 18%

Ski Big White BC

Big White skiing and snowboarding is across a variety of terrain including groomed runs, bumps, glades, tight trees, a great terrain park, and a steep powder bowl. In general, Big White BC is nirvana for intermediates and it’s very good for beginners. Of the 1,147 hectares of skiable terrain at Big White, an amazing 367 hectares (32%) is groomed. Big White also has lots of terrain to suit advanced riders, and a few challenging slopes for experts.

The zone below the mid-mountain village at the Big White ski resort consists of green runs. To the east and above the village are blue and green trails, whilst tucked over the back is an alpine bowl that serves up double black diamond runs. West of the village are lots of blue runs, with more blacks than blues as you move further northwest towards the Gem Lake chair lift.

Crowds

Big White is definitely not crowded like some of the big European ski resorts, Whistler, or the high profile Colorado ski resorts that get smashed with the crowds. However compared to some other BC ski resorts such as Revelstoke Ski Resort, Kicking Horse, or Whitewater, Big White has relatively high skier traffic, particularly on weekends (population of the Kelowna district is 180,000).

On weekdays there’s more skier traffic on the east side of the mountain, as many destination visitors like to ski here. The Gem Lake area is popular with the locals, so the crowds even up somewhat on weekends. Lift queues are rarely a problem, and generally you only have to wait a maximum of a couple of minutes to get on a chair.

Lifts

The lift infrastructure at Big White is pretty good and it continues to develop. The ski resort has 16 lifts including a high-speed 6-pack chair and four high-speed quads. There is also a gondola for transportation between Happy Valley and the mid-mountain village.

The Gem Lake Express is particularly impressive, offering speedy access to 711 metres of vertical skiing. If only it had some nice Perspex hoods for protection from the elements!

The Powder chair is a let down of Big White and unfortunately it’s required to travel to and from Gem Lake. The chair is very slow and the powder rewards not necessarily worth it. It seemed to stop every time we got on it and subsequently it sometimes developed queues. Thankfully it’s set to be replaced in the near future.

Night skiing at Big White is pretty remarkable with a large area that incorporates not just green bunny runs but also some long blue runs.

Big White Snow

“It’s the Snow” is the motto of Big White and whilst it’s very good, I’m not sure if this is the strength they should be bragging about? Big White receives 7.5 metres of snowfall annually on average, with a tendency for consistent regular snowfalls, rather than big dumps. This is a decent amount of snowfall, but it’s slightly less than the average for a BC ski resort.

With regards to snow quality, visitors from Eastern Canada would be in heaven and definitely think that “it’s the snow” at Big White. The snow is reasonably dry and also far superior to the coastal powder at Whistler Blackcomb.

Big White Canada is also proud of their snow ghosts. Whilst these are visually impressive, the snow ghosts are really just indicative of moist and windy weather conditions that aren’t conducive to supreme powder conditions.

Big White ski resort needs a decent snow base to get started. Summer grooming has meant this isn’t such an issue on the groomed piste, but some of the other trails and the off-piste require plenty of snow cover. For example, the Falcon chair offers some of the best terrain on the hill, but it’s often the last to open due to inadequate snow.

Big White Weather

I don’t mind not getting a suntan or if I can’t see too well whilst I’m skiing if it’s dumping with snow, but at Big White it’s more often just foggy weather that creates visibility problems. Some harsh people unaffectionately call the ski resort “Big White Out” due to the common foggy conditions.

When the “Big White Out” hits, head for tree lined runs or glades where the visibility is generally OK. Nevertheless if you’re lucky enough to own multiple pairs of goggles, you might want to pack the ones suitable for flat light.

Due to its location, the temperatures are fairly reasonable. It’s warmer than the Rockies area, but colder than Whistler, and it feels quite nippy when you add the wind-chill factor, particularly over on the western side (e.g. Gem Lake chair) of the resort where it's often windy.

Ski Big White - Beginners

Absolute novices can ride the magic carpet down at Happy Valley. One pro of this area is that beginners can learn in peace in a dedicated novice area free of any hoons, and there are other activities to do there if a rest from skiing is required. The only minor downside is that the area is not near the main village and a gondola ride is required to get down there.

The next progression is a couple of gentle runs off the Plaza chair that conveniently drop down from the mid-mountain village, or the run down to Happy Valley. These too are largely just frequented by beginners.

Most of the other chair lifts have green runs that can be tackled by confident beginners who want to explore. These are a little steeper (e.g. Millie’s Mile is rather steep for a green run) and cross more challenging runs. The mega Ogo Slow run down to the Gem Lake chair requires mega stamina, and should not be attempted on a low-vis day, and don’t even think about going up the T-bar during the Big White Out or you may get too friendly with a snow ghost!

Big White Skiing - Intermediates

Big White is heaven on sticks or a snowboard for intermediates with 54% of trails being rated as blue, which includes lots of cruisers, some steep groomed runs, and nicely spaced glades. Big White caters perfectly to both low-end and strong intermediate riders, and scores full marks from us. The terrain for high end intermediates is perhaps a fraction better at Sun Peaks, but Big White is far superior to Silver Star where they don’t do enough grooming.

For the Family/Kids

Big White is an award winner when it comes to catering for the family (they score a best ski resort in Canada award from us for family friendliness). The dedicated beginners’ area is perfect, and lots of chairs have runs for differing levels so the family can remain in the near vicinity of each other.

Lots of beginners’ runs go straight past the Big White accommodations, which can be useful for keeping an eye on older children. The Hummingbird and Easy Street runs go straight past various lodges, and lots of green runs also go past accommodation in the heart of the village.

Night skiing is a great option for the family with a very large illuminated area of 15 hectares.

Terrain Park and Pipe

Big White has a large terrain park with three lanes of different sized jumps, rails and boxes for different abilities. The terrain park also has a standard half pipe depending on the amount of snow available, as well as a skier/boarder cross course which is super fun.

Advanced Skiing Big White

The statistic of 22% black terrain possibly underestimates the amount of Big White skiing for advanced riders because there are lots of off-piste nooks and crannies and trees to play amongst. Big White ski resort has numerous black ungroomed runs that quickly transform into moguls to exhaust your quads. “Shakey Knees” is very aptly named.

The Gem Lake area is the best spot for advanced riders to hang out, and there tends to be more powder here. Sun Rype bowl is a fun playground for powder hounds, especially on days of good visibility and after a big dump. Nothing’s particularly steep, but there’s lot of fun in amongst the snow ghosts such as between Black Bear and the chair lift, and there are fun little trees below the Falcon Chair that lead down to the Gem Lake Express.

Snowboard and Ski Big White for Experts

Big White only has a limited amount of terrain for experts, which is within the alpine bowl serviced by the Cliff chair lift. The degree of challenge is often dependent on the snow conditions, and if there are lots of death cookies, it may be best avoided.

The main degree of challenge lies in the entrance into the bowl and the size of the cornice or the number of exposed rocks. There is usually a relatively easy entrance in via the Camel’s Back run where you can traverse across into the trees for fresh dry powder. There might be a short herringbone to get to the chair lift.

Access to the bowl is also relatively easy via the Cliff run, or right next to the Cliff chair lift. Conversely the Parachute bowl on the skiers’ left has much more challenging entries which include cornices, chutes, rock bands and little cliffs (depending on the amount of snow cover).

Most of the bowl is considered in-bounds and is managed by ski patrol, however the bowl is quite steep and at risk of avalanching. Appropriate avalanche gear and precautions are recommended. 

The Playground is also considered a double black run, but this trail is a waste of time unless there’s lots of snow cover or you have no respect for the base on your skis or snowboard.

Sidecountry

Big White has a little bit of side-country to the skiers’ right of Kalina’s Rainbow which drops down to the Moonlight run. Other popular sidecountry is a hike to the skiers’ left along the reasonably flat ridge from the Cliff chair, with lines that head down to the chair lift.