By Ariel Brewster
In the town where I grew up, we skied three days a week. Parents dropped their kids off at the two-chairlift mountain to terrorize the trails unsupervised, and school let out early for lessons. So I couldn’t wait for my two nieces, Simone, 6, and Eloise, 3, to be old enough for a ski trip.
Big White, in the Okanagan Valley of BC, is family focused and easy to get to, with shuttles for the 55-minute trip from the Kelowna airport. The girls loved Big White’s Santa’s Village–style vibe. There’s a candy shop, carnival nights with face painting and bouncy castles, and a yellow gondola—which the girls called “the gumdrop”—that transports families down to the magic carpets, skating ponds and beginner hills of Happy Valley.
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Simone had no patience for instruction; she just wanted to hop on the “big kid” chairlift and let it rip. Eloise made a valiant effort, and looked quite cute in her ski boots and helmet, but her favourite part of the trip was…daycare. The on-site Tot Town Daycare featured her three favourite things: snacks, arts and crafts, and naptime.
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Skiing with kids is tiring, so we replaced nightly baths with a soak in the hot tub on our balcony. Hot cocoa for the girls and cold beers for the grown-ups had us feeling refreshed for another day of adventure.
Thrill-seekers Drop off your skier or shredder for a group lesson (kids six and older) while you get some solo runs in. For kids three to six, try the Mom (or Dad!) and Me are Skiing Program, which pairs a parent and tot with an instructor. Parents tag along, but the teacher is the one skiing backwards in a reverse pizza wedge. (Bonus: You’ll emerge with a few pointers for next time.) Our instructor magically produced crackers and juice boxes from her pockets every time Eloise lost interest.
The Mega Snow Coaster Tube Park was a hit—it’s sledding without all the hiking and huffing: Recline in your inner tube as a rope tow pulls you to the top of the chutes. Daredevils can try the kiddie snowmobile rentals, or the ice-climbing tower. Simone strapped on a pair of crampons and a harness and conquered the 60-foot ice tower without hesitation.
Cozy condos You might like the ski-in-ski-out chalets and hotel rooms, but my nieces went wild for their first bunk bed experience in our village condo rental.
Grocery delivery Order all your vacation essentials from The Market in the village, so your fridge is stocked when you arrive.
Kid lunch At the BullWheel, kids don chef hats to make their own pizzas and ice cream sundaes.
Enchanted evening Cozy up under a blanket during a horse-drawn sleigh ride through the starry woods.
Did you know… Big White was bought by an Australian-Canadian family in 1985, and has been drawing ski bums from Down Under ever since. On Australia Day (January 26), keep an eye out for Boomer the Kangaroo, the mountain mascot.
Tip It’s impossible to carry all your own rental gear and your kids’ skis and boots while wrangling two small children. Instead, arrange with the concierge to have your equipment whisked from the pro shop to your accommodations.
A version of this article appeared in our December 2014 issue with the headline "Postcard From Big White," p. 24.
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