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Kids at Big White

Family Activities at Big White Resort

Canada, ROAM By January 20, 2015 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Big White BCLeaving my airport hotel this morning, there was a sign that left me breathless. ‘It’s not only about the destination, but about the journey.’ As I approach a milestone year, this message hit me as a powerful explanation of the first 40 years of my life. Recently the family and I travelled to Big White Ski Resort, near Kelowna, British Columbia. Their typical champagne powder is such a given that it is often taken for granted. I have a secret suspicion that in fact, the staff have so little worry about snow conditions that management have been able to use their extra time and passion to focus entirely on customer experience.  Trappers CrossingOur room at Trapper’s Crossing included a loft with bunks for the kids and a private hot tub on the deck. The kitchens make a huge difference for families and the grocery store across the street is much better stocked than most resort stores. The moose stencilled on each wall and requisite wooden skis and snowshoes as part of the décor made the kids squeal in anticipation for our Big White weekend. Big White Ski LessonsSomething miraculous and unexpected happened over the next few days. Ready to hit the hill with the new automatic RFID lift cards in hand, we started getting apologies from people… But it was a bluebird sun-filled day with a perfect temperature and a fabulous buzz in the Village Common Mall (VCM for hipsters). The VCM is like the Great Hall in a Harry Potter film – the nerve-centre of the resort where ski instructors grab their morning latte, phones get power from Telus charging stations and rental assistants never make you wait for equipment. With this vibe – why the apologies, I wondered. Big White Pet PassI soon found out that just before we arrived, a crazy mild spell hit the region. It was accompanied by torrential rain which washed away some of the fluffy powder. For the first time in decades, the slogan ‘It’s the Snow’ wasn’t fitting. Being somewhat familiar with the resort, I knew there were always hidden caches of great skiing but I was also interested to thoroughly explore the many other activities provided by the resort. After all – not everyone in the family always skis, and Big White offers so much more for the family than their snow. I should note that ‘family’ also includes four-footed ones, and they also offer the ‘Pet Pass’ in exchange for a donation to the SPCA. Bluebird Day Big WhiteMy tiny novice snowboarders were not deterred in the slightest by the conditions. They whooped and hollered as my husband made a mental note to give their instructor an extra big tip after he had to pick up the 6 year-old over 200 times. We followed the kids on the hill, spying on them and trying to show off our style a bit too… The Woods Big WhiteWe all met in the village for lunch and The Woods offers some of the best food and ambiance on the hill. A talented artist on staff has even hand-drawn a depiction of the restaurant and it’s on the back of the kids’ menu as a colouring page. In mid-afternoon, when the sun shines and guests are ready for après ski, huge drums with skis attached are slid onto a snowy patio out front and natural wood fires burn ‘til dusk as a DJ spins tunes that made me feel only half of my 40 years.  Big White Tube ParkIn past trips to the resort, we have been challenged with climbing the 60 ft tall ice tower. (For me, ‘challenge’ is an understatement). What I hadn’t yet tried was the tube park. A tow rope drags you and the tube to the top and you are spit out of the trail like a ping pong ball. After instructing the attendants if you want spins or no spins (the boys always asked for 2,000 percent spin power), we whizzed down the icy tube run to be slowed by bunches of hay. My face could have cracked with the grins. Then the true magic happened. We would form a duo with one of the kids, holding hands as we laughed and squealed down the icy track. Memories for a lifetime. Big White Games NightNear the tube park in Happy Valley is a bunny hill for beginners, snowmobiling (including two tiny ones for kids), horse and sleigh rides and of course, the huge outdoor skating rink complete with nets, sticks and pucks. After the activities we all hit the Loose Moose, where resort staff were holding a ‘Games Night’, teaching families how to play checkers and connect four, and being uber-generous with prizes. Six Degrees Bistro I have always believed that good parenting requires great balance, and the ad
ults of our family decided to experience the resort’s more mature offerings. Having no trouble finding an excellent babysitter, my husband went to Showshoe Sam’s to hone his pool skills while I hopped over to 6 Degrees Bistro for a tasting of wines and small plates. Owner John Mooney and his accomplished chef had prepared foie gras and local lamb to serve with an exceptional local pinot noir. I laughed happily when I realized Covert Farms was a supplier. Not only was the preparation and presentation at 6 Degrees more fitting of a New York City starred-establishment than a ski hill, but I found a kindred spirit in Mooney’s daughter, who has been volunteering with kids in Liberia. Though it has been two years since I travelled to Monrovia with Right to Play, we exchanged stories and smiles. After deciding that pool really wasn’t our game, my husband and I wandered into the VCM to check on the boys. It was carnival night, and rumour had it that Big White’s mascot, the Loose Moose, was to get a female partner in crime. The building was packed with bouncy castles, carnival games and cotton candy. Trying to high-five the boys, they were too busy throwing bean bags and getting prizes to pay much attention to mama. Sessions Taphouse Big WhiteWe headed around the corner to check out the newest watering hole and dining establishment called Sessions Taphouse. After a near $1MM renovation, this former ‘dive bar’ (they said it – I didn’t!) had been transformed into a restaurant and après ski paradise by day, and nightclub by night. What I entirely didn’t expect was the cuisine. On our next visit for lunch a day later, the cheesy bacon balls were devoured by the boys a la Homer Simpson, and every single dish we tried during the three visits during the trip were perfection. Carnival Night Big WhiteEarly Monday morning my husband rose early for the shuttle to Kelowna airport so as not to miss his day at work, and the boys and I were feeling the stale negativity that comes when leaving a beloved place. Given that it was the final week of school before the holidays, I didn’t think they would miss much if we extended the stay. Central Reservations was brilliant and helped us so much. While I was chatting with the desk, the two boys were playing in a festive section of the room, donning elf hats and playing with a stuffed Rudolph. On a table there was a microphone – a toy that apparently ‘called an operator’ in the north pole. The eight year old, doubting the existence of Santa, pressed the button. An operator connected him to Mrs. Claus. His eyes wide, she asked him what she and Santa should do for a special date night. My son answered that they should snowboard like he was doing at Big White Resort. Mrs. Claus got very excited by the idea, commenting that she would tell Santa that he had suggested it. My son was in a dream-like state. He has never believed in goodness and magic so strongly. So as we still received numerous apologies about the snow, we left Big White with life lessons, felt closer as a family and had tried new challenges. Though the champagne powder is the typical feather in Big White’s cap, it’s not nearly the only reason to pick this resort destination. Our journey experiencing the plethora of activities offered for everyone in the family reminded me never to focus on the end game. It’s cherishing every second of the journey that’s important. And now I’m 40 so that’s true wisdom talking. Addendum: After our family left the resort had 45 cm of fresh snow. The base is now at 183 cm with a cumulative snowfall of 360cm.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was provided with accommodation and passes for the purposes of crafting this story.



The People and the Snow at Big White Resort

Canada, ROAM By February 21, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Big White ResortToday Kelsey Serwa took Silver at the Sochi Olympics in ski snowcross, and I am willing to bet the Bullwheel at Big White Resort is packed already. Kelsey’s grandfather was a founder of Big White Ski Resort, and I can’t imagine a better hill to breed an Olympian.

Apres Ski Big WhiteLast month I visited the resort with Kimberly Clayton-Blaine to film a ski show for TheGoToMom.TV. Though I had been to the hill before, I feel as if it became part of my soul during this trip. I can’t quite pinpoint why. So many reasons, but more than anything, it was the people. Kind, helpful, happy residents and employees who love life and adore their hill took my breath away every day. There was an aura of gratefulness for being gifted with the snow and the facilities that was felt by all – especially the visitors.

It didn’t hurt that there were blue skies, incredible apres ski and kickass coffee in the Village Centre Mall (VCM) every morning. After darting through the trees caked in snow, the kids and I would warm ourselves in the open fire pits at the new outdoor venue called ‘The Woods’ as a DJ played. Telus fed us all hot chocolate and gave us funky glasses as the sun shone on world ski day. The new kids’ gear and candy shop in the village was a daily hit – and we even got a new ski suit for our picky son. In Happy Valley, a quick gondola ride away, both boys scaled the ice tower using ice climbing equipment while they were tethered to a rope. The younger son was a few months off from being the youngest person to ever scale the tower and ring the bell at the top. (My mother saw a photo on facebook and thought I had let them scamper up on their own. I assured her that Big White is incredibly responsible and safe.) Early on our final morning, the boys borrowed hockey sticks and a puck and hit the Happy Valley ice rink. I stayed by the fire taking photographs with tears in my eyes at the beauty of this magical Canadian experience.

Kids at Big WhiteCarnival nights happen twice per week, where kids can play games and do fun musical activities in the VCM. It felt as if the entire staff of the resort is involved somehow, and they live to get smiles from the children. The Loose Moose made an appearance when we were there and the children squealed. He’s just as recognizable to them as Mickey Mouse!

Al Reid The BullwheelMany a lunch, dinner and apres ski were spent at The Bullwheel. Al Reid is one of the most personable managers I have ever met. Plus he serves Nova Scotia donairs making The Bullwheel the only place outside of Halifax that makes them correctly. (Believe me – I’m a conoisseur.)  During our visit, Al and other fun-loving gentlemen had flooded an area at the top of the mountain and staged a hockey game on Hockey Day in Canada in order for skaters at Big White to play the ‘Highest Hockey Game in Canada’. Lovely, crazy and wonderful.

Whether it was the (cute) guy on the snowmobile who took the kids and I home after a wrong turn, the babysitter who made an everlasting impression on the boys, John Mooney, owner of a few great Big White restaurants who drove the kids and I home when their legs were too tired to walk, or Jim Lloyd, Director of Sales whose elegant care and attention left us wonting for nothing – it’s the people. No wonder Kelsey Serwa grew into a powerful athlete with the stamina to medal at the Olympics. She has incredible support in her Big White community. And wicked champagne powder.

Disclosure: UrbanMommies was hosted at Big White Resort for three nights. As always, all opinions are our own and are only biased based on of love of skiing and delight with the resort.

Want other BC Ski Resort roundups? Here you go!


Kid-Friendly Ski Resorts in BC

Canada, ROAM By January 15, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Kid friendly Ski Resorts in BCPicking the perfect ski resort for families in British Columbia is tough – because there are so many incredible options! I am a pretty avid skier and haul the kids everywhere in order to truly test the slopes and activities. Over the past year we have traveled the province to learn about the kid-friendly ski resorts in BC. I think you’ll love the options!

Big White Resort

Near Kelowna, Big White has more powder stashes that I’ve ever seen.  A fab place for intermediate skiiers and boarders, there are wide glades and fast lifts. The Village Centre Mall -“VCM” to locals – is the main lodge which houses equipment rentals, Beano’s awesome coffee, ticket sales and the ski school. Everywhere you look throughout the resort there are family activities, play spaces off runs and instructors gently guiding kids. Last year, Big White introduced the Flaik system to track every child in the moment via GPS. One staff member in the ski school watches the lighted map that indicates if any child it too far away from their instructor. That’s peace of mind for parents!! During the holidays kids can visit with Santa, in March there’s a festival to ‘Cruze the Blues’, encouraging visitors to check out intermediate runs over the entire hill and receive prizes. In my experience the music and vibe was addictive and Big White felt like a true community for young and old.

Kids Pizza Making BullwheelThe food on the mountain is exquisite. From the famous breakfast egg benedict at the Sante Grille to a higher-end gourmet and wine experience at Six Degrees, Okanagan wines and an internationally inspired menu may have you thinking you are on a continent other than North America. For lunch we loved the kid-friendly, healthy selections at the Globe Cafe and Tapas Bar all lovingly prepared by owner Jude Brunt. In the evening and for apres you should check out The Bullwheel. Chef Christopher Thomas has worked with Cirque Du Soleil and his talents can be tasted in every course. (He doesn’t do trapeze though). The pizza making for kids activity was a huge hit with the little ones.

Ice Climbing Tower Big WhiteThe only one in British Columbia, the ice climbing tower is not to be missed. At a height of 60 feet, it is made with four telephone poles doused in water. Crampons on your boots and clipped into a bulay system, the experience is completely safe (but still got my blood rushing and having me feel like a Bond girl). In the evening, family activities abound in the Moose Lounge in Happy Valley Lodge at the bottom of a short gondola ride. A bonfire melts marshmallows as you sip hot chocolate by the outdoor skating rink and inside there are games, music and Kettle Valley Steakhouse restaurant which you must not miss.

Stonebridge Executive LodgeWebsite:
Stay: Stonebridge Executive Lodge
Eat: Six Degrees, Kettle Valley Steakhouse
Apres: The Bullwheel
Climb: The Ice Tower
Relax: Beyond Wrapture Spa

Sun Peaks Resort

Sun Peaks Resort ViewsThirty minutes north of Kamloops, Sun Peaks Resort is modelled on an Austrian village and you can ski right through the centre to hit the Rocky Mountain chocolate factory, the Delta for apres or Oya for sushi. Made up of three distinct mountains, you can actually follow the sun to ski in a 360 circle throughout the day. The umbrella cafe at the base of Mt. Morrisey is a fun place to warm up, and at the top of Sunburst chair stands a restaurant – you can smell the fresh cinnamon buns baking from miles around. Kids at any age are fed like royalty at Masas, where they even offer mashed vegetables for really little ones. Older toque-wearing family members may want to hang at Bottoms and hit The Club at the Delta on the weekends.

winter-festival-of-wine-Sun-PeaksThe typical ‘interior’ snow is light and fluffy, and romance abound as you pass through a covered bridge and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride around the resort.  The terrain is very well-balanced and yet there are green runs off each main lift. Morriseys pub and Masas have great patios for the many days when the sun is shining.

Stay: The Delta
Eat: Mountain High Pizza
Apres: Masas
Do: Winter Festival of Wine
Relax: Sun Peaks Spa

Whistler Blackcomb

Whistler Blackcomb ViewsWith the look of the alps and a bar scene to rival Aspen, Whistler is a well-established, exciting mountain. The Peak 2 Peak gondola joins the two mountains giving you even more ways to structure your day. I have been to the hill with and without kids and I honestly can’t say which I prefer. When kids and dogs are in tow, the apres at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler is incredible. The hotel offers sleds so the kids can toboggan on the hill behind the hotel while adult rest their feet while having a fancy cocktail on the heated outdoor patio. The Four Seasons treats their mini guests to inexpensive gourmet treats and during special occasions will organize activities like magicians and fire dancers. The ski schools at both Blackcomb and Whitsler have the Flaik system so you can track your child’s route at the end of the day. On each hill there is a kids’ snow place – the tree fort or the castle – which delight the little ones.  Between full days on the slopes, swimming at the hotels and a few inevitable snowball fights.. my kids always sleep very well at Whistler.

Without kids, Whistler becomes a different beast. Bouncers at the door may have you on the guest list for Dub-Step night at Maxx Fish and you will have to make a tough decision at the Bearfoot Bistro about whether to sabre champagne or don warm coats in the icy cold vodka room. Fresh tracks can be had if you book a breakfast at the top of the mountain if you’re able to skip the clubs and get to bed early.

Olympic Rings on Whistler MountainBiathalon at Whistler Olympic ParkWebsite:
Stay: Four Seasons Resort
Eat: Barefoot Bistro
Apres: Garibaldi Lift Company (Whistler) / Merlins (Blackcomb)
Do: Try your hand at Cross Country skiing and biathalon at Whistler Olympic Park
Relax: Scandanave Spa
Nightlife: Buffalo Bills


Big White Roasted Butternut Squash

EAT, family meals By March 20, 2011 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

You are at a superb ski resort, home for lunch, and really don’t want to stress about dinner.  Roast a fab piece of meat and add this incredible Big White Roasted Butternut Squash side dish.  You can whip it up between trips to and from the hot tub.  Better still?  Make double, and turn it into a soup for later in the vacation.