A silky Canadian winter wonderland is life a real-life snow globe, writes Jordan Bond.
"A good day of skiing contributes to world peace." Huh? That right? Does the UN Security Council know this? And can somebody get a lift pass to Kim Jong-un, ASAP?
Josh Foster, Big White Ski Resort's director of snow sports, told me that. We were sitting in one of the little ski town's suave on-mountain restaurants. He's a professional skier himself, and looks pretty content. But world peace?
"For you," he tells his roster of ski instructors, "this is just another day. For the high-powered executive, this is their first holiday in a year or two.
"Our customers can live tough lives. This is where they feel the wind in their face, let off stress and have a lovely meal and drink. It might stop them from going home and firing 10 people."
I can believe that. Canadians and Americans often escape to Big White — a wholesome, peaceful winter wonderland in British Columbia's interior, an hour's flight from Vancouver.
Almost 1200ha of skiing area, both rolling hills and sheer drops, and views across the province. Ski-in, ski-out accommodation, bars and restaurants and shops, with snow activities for white-out days or tired legs. It seemed everyone was happy and even golden labs were galloping around. It's a flawless, real-life snow globe. World peace, maybe, if the whole world was like this.
Josh is convinced by the good that a few days in the outdoors can do for people; opening the lungs widely, taking in crisp air, sweating and puffing, rhythmically moving the body and sliding into that state where your real-world problems become fainter. Feeling alive and exhilarated and in awe at nature, enough to pull little things back into perspective. He really cares about the experience.
"If the kids are happy, the parents are happy." Another solid line. A truism, no doubt, and just as valid as the opposite. Keeping kids smiling is a big focus for the resort. Big White's tagline is "Canada's Favourite Family Resort", and for good reason.
It puts a lot of effort into thinking how it can entertain them, and avoid tears, which I can only imagine is only a little bit important to a relaxing break.
All 16 of the lifts on the mountain have easy, green-marked runs off the top, which makes the whole mountain accessible, top to bottom, and allows families to ski together. Split the other way off the chairlift, however, and you'll find tougher terrain. Of the 118 runs, half are intermediate-level and more than a fifth are expert.
For the kids, there's a beginners' area, horse-drawn sleigh tours, tubing, ice-wall climbing, and ski and snowboard lessons. There's a big day care in the centre of the village. Kids can pop on GPS trackers, so parents can see where they get to, and check out a whole lot of fun stats, like which runs they've skied, their top speed and the distance they travelled.
For the adults, get an on-mountain babysitter and more awaits: day spas, yoga, shopping, and a quiet drink at one of the on-mountain restaurants. All within the village centre.
Big White's about an hour's drive from the city of Kelowna, for all the things you can't get on mountain, or for a city day-off. But the resort's management have put a lot of effort in to make sure you don't need to go there if you don't want, and can spend your holiday relaxing instead of driving.
I was skiing in early spring, in lovely weather, with the sun beaming down and my jacket flapping behind me. The recent snowfall sat on top of pine branches. Some struggled under the weight and others would last the season until it melted. Occasionally, for no apparent reason in the stillness, one would get sick of it all and dump its snow haul, sending people nearby scattering as though it were a dog after a swim.
The three colours: pure white, deep, forest green and crisp blue.
The top lifts are about as high as Mt Ruapehu's; not monstrous, and able to be navigated. Same with the acreage. Lift lines were short (it was spring) and the runs were open. The snow quality, however, is as if it were a different substance altogether.
"It's the best snow I've ever been on," my driver from the airport, John, said. He's been skiing the area's mountains for 40 years, and keeps coming back to Big White.
"It's like skiing on silk. Even in bad years, it's good."
Many of the 17,000 on-mountain beds are ski-in, ski-out. My backdoor, which I slid up to, was 30 seconds downstairs from my room, with views over the Okanagan Valley from the spa pool.
And we did just that. It's a skiing holiday that delivers without the logistics. You get there and you're sorted, top to toe. The worst part of a Ruapehu holiday — jamming your gear in a car and lumbering it up from the carpark — has been removed. You walk out the door at Big White and start skiing. It feels natural, and wholesome, and undoubtedly peaceful. If only we can get that message to the Big Wigs.
DETAILS: There are a range of Canadian ski holiday packages available through helloworld Travel. helloworld.co.nz
For more information on Big White Ski Resort, go to bigwhite.com.