From bustling, beautiful and culturally diverse Vancouver and all the amazing, year-round coastal activities (like whale watching and kayaking) to Whistler Blackcomb‘s majestic Garibaldi mountains that seem to rise right out of the ocean and the famed snow in the Kootenay Powder Triangle, the list of reasons to visit British Columbia this winter is truly endless. In the interest of time we decided to narrow those reasons down to the top 10, but we could really go on and on and on…
1. Interior British Columbia is renowned for having some of the world’s lightest and most abundant powder.
The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to big snow storms. While abundant, the snowfall in areas along the coast is often heavy and wet, which is great for securing incredible base conditions, but tough if you’re looking to nab some fluffy face shots. However, travel a little further inland to British Columbia’s Kootenay Rockies, aka Powder Highway, and the snow is not only incredibly deep, but light and dry. To give you an idea, Revelstoke‘s annual snowfall ranges from 30 to 60 feet annually. That’s a lot of snow!
2. The Sea-to-Sky Highway is easily one of the coolest drives in the world.
When you land at Vancouver International Airport one of the first things you’ll notice is that the cityscape is quite dramatic, nearby mountains look like they climb right out of the ocean. Whether you’re in a rental car, shuttle, bus, private transportation or even the new Rocky Mountaineer Whistler Sea to Sky Climb train, the trip from Vancouver to Whistler is simply stunning. You’ll pass by ocean bays abutted by monstrous mountains that are dotted with waterfalls. It’s something you must see in person to truly grasp its beauty.
3. British Columbia has one of the world’s highest densities of ski resorts.
Ski one or two, or try to ski them all. Whistler is the only British Columbia ski resort that isn’t within close proximity to another resort, but that’s OK. Whistler Blackomb boasts a staggering 8,000-plus acres of terrain to discover—you won’t be bored. The best way to experience the Kootenay’s Powder Highway is to travel from resort to resort, which includes Revelstoke, Panorama, Kicking Horse, Fernie, Kimberley, Whitewater and Red Mountain, following the snow and exploring the electric, mining-boom-turned-ski towns, like Nelson, Rossland and Revelstoke, along the way. The family-friendly Okanagan Valley resorts, Big White, Silver Star and Sun Peaks, are also commonly experienced as a package.
4. Whistler Blackcomb’s PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola is a record-breaking, engineering marvel.
Boasting the world’s longest unsupported cable car and highest of its kind, the PEAK 2 PEAK Gondola connects Whistler Mountain to Blackcomb Mountain. Year-round visitors can easily get from one mountain to the other without having to return to the base area.
5. British Columbia is easy to get to from anywhere in the world.
As Canada’s second largest airport, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) accommodates 100 international destinations, including 23 U.S. cities, eight Mexico cities and 10 Europe cities. Once you’re in Vancouver you’re just a beautiful two-hour drive from Whistler Blackcomb via the Sea-to-Sky Highway. If you’re looking to experience the Powder Highway, then you’ll want to fly into Spokane International Airport, pick up your rental car or whatever your preferred transportation method is and drive around from resort to resort. The famed powder route will pop you back out in Spokane. If you’d prefer hit up a couple resorts then Calgary International Airport, Kelowna International Airport or Kamloops Airport are each within an hour or two of just about every major British Columbia ski resort.
6. You won’t have to fight for fresh tracks.
If you’re used to skiing at some of the U.S. more popular ski resorts and waiting in 30-minute-plus lift lines during peak holiday weeks then skiing in British Columbia will be a welcomed experience. You’ll rarely wait on liftlines at any of British Columbia’s ski resorts. The Okanagan Valley ski resorts are popular with local weekend warriors, but mid-week skiing offers empty slopes and virtually no lift lines. Even though Whistler Blackcomb is one of the world’s most popular ski resorts and does experience some heavy crowds during popular travel weeks, its massive size and variety of terrain options ensures that everyone can spread out enjoy fresh tracks. Unless there’s three-plus-feet of fresh, the Powder Highway resorts rarely have any liftlines and those that do only have them during the early-morning powder scramble at the base area lifts.
7. You can experience a piece of Olympic history at Whistler Blackcomb.
All eyes were on Whistler Blackcomb during the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic snowsports. Prior to the 2010 Games, First Nation artists created hundreds of beautiful, authentic works of art for the world to see. This exceptional collection now lives at the Whistler Olympic Park. Offering a host of classic and skate Nordic trails, snowshoe tours, a biathlon experience and much more, Whistler Olympic provides the opportunity to experience the Games for yourself.
8. British Columbia ski resorts have some of the world’s longest runs.
If you like to ski or snowboard as much as you legs can possibly handle, British Columbia will please. British Columbia has four resorts that rank among North America’s top longest vertical descents. Revelstoke comes in on top at 5,620 feet, while Whistler Blackcomb boasts 5,234 feet, Panorama offers 3,979 and Kicking Horse has 3,790 feet.
9. You can enjoy some of the world’s best heli- and cat-skiing excursions.
If you’re looking for a ski vacation to trump all ski vacations, then going heli-skiing or cat-skiing in British Columbia is the answer. For ski movie-worthy powder shots head to Revelstoke and jump on one of Selkirk Tangiers helicopters. If you thought there was a lot of terrain at Whistler Blackcomb ski resort, think again. Whistler Heli-Skiing’s 432,000 acres is 50 times larger than the resort’s terrain and is comprised of 173 glaciers and 475 runs. If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, Red Mountain‘s Big Red Cats is an excellent choice. A day trip with Big Red Cat includes 19,300 acres of some of the best tree skiing and glades in the world. If you’re not quite ready for an all-day, backcountry excursion, Red Mountain offers plenty of resort-accessed cat-skiing. For $10 per ride this season you can hop on a cat to access Mt. Kirkup.
10. There are snow ghosts!
Kids age four to 99 love skiing and snowboarding among British Columbia’s “snow ghosts,” which are eerily-shaped snow- and ice-caked trees. The snow ghosts create a magical backdrop in this winter playground, and provide perfect photo opportunities.
We tapped Mountain Travel Expert Lee Ann Close to share some of her favorite things about British Columbia.
Lee Ann Close
Mountain Travel Expert Since 1995
“British Columbia is one of those places that you’ll want to come back to year after year. It’s easy to get to, has awesome powder, tons of ski resorts and unique experiences, like heli-skiing and cat-skiing”
Originally from the icy trails of New Jersey, I moved West to pursue powder and a career in writing and editing. Now in Aspen, Colo. and working for Ski.com managing the website and blog content, I couldn't be happier. You'll find me skiing at Aspen Mountain or Aspen Highlands in the winter and mountain biking at Snowmass in the summer.