Ski Resort Series: Big White

I’ve been saying this for ages now, but I want to start writing more about the outdoor adventure experiences I’ve been having in BC over the last 5 years. I haven’t done a lot with this blog over the past few years, except for writing about my occasional vacations, but I’ve been writing a lot on my second blog, which is a book blog (check it out here). I’ve developed some better writing habits, so I’d like to try and focus on writing more on this blog and perhaps reorganizing some of my content to make it a bit more of an adventure blog. I’m sure I’ll still post about travel when I get the opportunity, but those trips just aren’t as frequent as they were when I was in University and hopping off somewhere new every 4 months.

I’ve hiked over 100 trails in the past 5 years and would love to write about some of those trails. Since it’s winter, I’ve decided to write a few posts on some of my snowshoeing adventures and do a little ski series to motivate myself to write more. I’ve skied most of the local mountains in Vancouver and have made a ton of trips to Whistler, but I also go on an annual ski trip to the Interior every year. This tradition was born in 2016 because the Easter holidays that year were in March and I wanted to make use of the extra vacation days. My original plan was to spend the weekend at Big White Ski Resort with Seth and my best friend and her boyfriend, but I ended up getting an awesome deal on a condo that could sleep 10 people and we decided to fill it with some of our other friends.

Since then, we’ve gone to a different ski resort every year, but Big White still sticks out as being one of my favourites. It’s located just past Kelowna and is about a 5 hour drive out of Vancouver. Because of Easter holidays, we left on Good Friday morning and arrived mid-afternoon, but every year since we’ve left after lunch or after work. Our condo was located right on the mountain with ski out access and we had this huge window seat in the living room looking out onto the ski slopes and surrounding mountains. The resort also had a huge group hot tub and we spent a lot of time chilling in the evenings.

On top of the awesome accommodation, we also had excellent conditions. It was sunny the first day and we had some amazing views. It clouded over in the afternoon and snowed all night and into the next day, so even though we didn’t get the views on the second day, we got some really awesome powder. Big White’s tagline is “It’s the Snow”, and I would have to agree because it had some of the best snow conditions and is the latest in the season that we’ve ever gone skiing.

One of the things I liked most about Big White, which I don’t think has been replicated at any of the other resorts I’ve been to, is that the slopes go right through the ski village. Until I started exploring some of the resorts outside Vancouver, I didn’t realize just how many ski hills there actually are in BC and was surprised to learn that not all of them have villages. This has made it a bit of a struggle when planning our trip in later years because we really want to go somewhere with group accommodations and a fun atmosphere, but sadly some of the resorts just don’t seem to offer much on-mountain accommodation.

But we were located right in the village at Big White and there were several fun places to explore around. We had dinner in the village one evening and made our own meals other nights. It’s always so surreal driving out to the Interior (and really to any of the mountains in the lower mainland) because the conditions change so much on the way out. It was late March, so we didn’t really see any snow on the drive out to Kelowna (except on the Coquihalla) and it was pretty bare most of the drive up to Big White. But it was a huge contrast because the mountain ended up getting so much snow on our second day skiing and overnight, that the drive was totally transformed on the way out. We ended up having to shovel our vehicles out after a pretty heavy dump overnight and the plows were busy running the mountain road down to Kelowna all morning on our way out.

Big White is a huge mountain and has a ton of trails. I took a look at the ski map to jog my memory and I don’t remember it being quite as large as it actually is. I’ve definitely become a better skier since 2016 and I’m wishing I could go back and try out some of their glade runs. Overall the mountain has a nice mix because there are several big chairs running the whole length of the mountain, as well as several smaller chairs just running to the peaks. The Gem Lake Express Chair is quite separate from the rest of the mountain and this is where we spent almost our entire second day doing powder run after powder run.

Overall, we had such a great time at Big White that it inspired us to check out a different mountain every year, and we have our 4th annual trip coming up in a few weeks! Our group has grown and we’ve worked out a lot of the details of the trip down to a pretty precise science and have developed a lot of traditions that we keep going every year. It’s always one of the highlights of my winter season.

Categories: Life in British Columbia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Favourite Hikes in Southwestern BC: Part II

About 2 years ago I compiled a list of my Favourite Hikes in Southwestern BC. At the time I’d hiked about 40 trails and narrowed it down to my top 10 favourite trails. Some of those trails would definitely still be in my top 10 hikes, but since then, I’ve surpassed 100 trails and decided it was time to compile a new list! I haven’t included any of the hikes from the first list, so check out that post if you want to see my original list, but this list features even more awesome trails! All photos taken by yours truly.

#10 Lightning Lakes – I’m a little bit obsessed with EC Manning Provincial Park (as you’ll soon see from this post) and what I love about Lightning Lakes is that it’s got a little bit of something for everyone. The entire Lightning Lakes Chain Trail is actually 24km long and travels through the valley past 4 different lakes, but I’ve actually only done shorter loop around the first two lakes (but I’d love to do the whole trail someday). But I love this trail because it is pretty flat, so it makes for a great beginner trail and because there’s multiple lakes, you can customize it to whatever length you want. It has the most gorgeous views of the blue lakes and the surrounding mountains, as well as it’s a great place to swim and hang out in the summer. Me and my friends go every year to chill and BBQ at the first lake. (24km, no elevation gain, you decide the time and length!)

#9 Dam Mountain and Thunderbird Ridge – Located at the top of Grouse Mountain, I’ve never explored these trails in the summer, but I had a blast when I snowshoed them in the winter. It’s annoying to have to pay the gondola fee to get up Grouse Mountain, but on a clear day with a fresh snowfall, this hike has the most gorgeous views looking out into the Metro Vancouver watershed. It’s an easy enough trail – a lot of people just snowshoe up to Dam Mountain and then turn around, but I’d recommend going the extra 2km along Thunderbird Ridge. I also have to say that I ran into some equipment issues (personal equipment) and the Grouse Mountain staff were so helpful in resolving them! (7km, 250m elevation gain, 3 hours)

#8 Ring Lake – Ring Lake would probably rank even higher on this list had it not been right in the middle of wildfire season when I went there. But even with the insane amount of smoke in the area, I still loved this hike and am now dying to go back at a clearer time of year. Ring Lake is located in the Callaghan Valley and is a very low traffic trail. The gravel road to get to the trailhead is a little dicey (I’d recommend high clearance) and it is in grizzly country, but it’s a great area to explore if you want to escape the crowds. It is a steep trail up to the top because most of the elevation gain is in the second half of the trail, but the views at Ring lake are fantastic. The only issue right now is that one of the bridges is out right before the lake and you can’t cross it in high flows, so I would definitely recommend visiting in August or September. Even if you don’t make it to the top though, it’s worth visiting for the berries and alpine meadows located just past Conflict Lake. (20km, 500m elevation gain, 8 hours)

#7 Flatiron/Needle Peak – Flatiron and Needle Peak share most of the same trail, but split towards the end with Flatiron one way and Needle Peak the other. I think you could easily do them both in a day, but there was snow when I went a few weeks ago (early October). so we decided to skip steep Needle Peak. But this hike still blew me away! It does have significant elevation gain, but I liked it a lot because after an initial push through the forest (45-60 mins), the rest of the hike is along the ridge looking up at Needle Peak. Flatiron continues on to a lake that would probably be great for swimming in the summer and boasts great views looking down on the Coquihalla. Breathtaking on a clear day, but bring a sweater, it’s cold up there! (11km, 800m elevation gain, 6 hours)

#6 Frosty Mountain – The second hike from Manning Park on my list, I did a multi-day trip along the PCT and up Frosty Mountain (but you can do this one in a day). It’s definitely a steep hike, but the views are just amazing! my favourite part is the section running from what I call the “fake summit” to the actual summit, which goes right along the ridge up the peak with 360 degree views. I’ve heard awesome things about this trail in the Fall as well because the larch trees all turn bright yellow and make for some really vibrant pictures! (22km, 1150m elevation gain, 8 hours)

#5 Mount Price – A theme with my favourite hikes is that they tend to be some of the less crowded hikes. I did a 3 night trip through Garibaldi Park back in 2016 and hiked both Panorama Ridge and Black Tusk. My friend hadn’t been and asked me to join her for another 3 nighter, so I decided to switch things up and try out some new hikes while we were up there. While she was climbing Black Tusk (not a favourite of mine), I decided to hike the much less popular Mount Price. What a great decision because this hike is unreal! It’s basically Panorama Ridge, but on the other side of the lake and with hardly any people. It’s not a popular trail, so it’s not well maintained and does include a very dubious and steep hike up the side of Clanker Peak and then Mount Price, but the views from Mount Price are totally unreal! It has a very large summit, so I explored up there for over an hour without getting the least bit bored. It has great views across Garibaldi Lake of Black Tusk and Panorama Ridge, but it also has views looking back at the glacier and Mount Garibaldi. It was a tough hike, but ranks high on my list. (11km roundtrip from Garibaldi Lake, 600m elevation gain, 7 hours)

#4 Heather Trail – This one is a bit of a repeat from my last list since I included the Three Brothers Mountain in Manning Park, which is the first 11km of the Heather Trail. But I loved the Three Brothers hike so much that I had to go back and do the entire Heather Trail, and I definitely don’t regret it. If you love 360 degree views, the Heather Trail has it, but I personally love it for the alpine meadows. I’ve discovered I have a bit of thing for the alpine meadows (especially when wildflowers are in season) and I love hiking through meadow after meadow, there’s just so much open space and they make me feel like I’m living in the Sound of Music. I also really liked Nicomen Lake on this hike, but it was extremely buggy. The Heather Trail can be done as a through hike or return, we did it as a through hike by combining it with Hope Pass Trail from Nicomen Lake (38km through hike, 1000m elevation gain, 2 day hike)

#3 Cheam Peak – This one makes the list as well because of my recent obsession with meadows. It’s located in the Chilliwack Valley and you definitely need 4WD to get to the trailhead. But despite that, it was still a pretty busy trail because it boasts a great view looking out over the Fraser Valley. However, on the day we did it it was super foggy, so we didn’t actually see this view at all. But it really didn’t bother me and it still tops my list because the views looking back at the valley and the alpine meadows were breath-taking. In my opinion the fog made for some super interesting pictures and we had the most wonderful post hike swim in Spoon Lake, so the fog didn’t deter me at all. I felt like I was in middle earth for this hike, so I was content the whole time and would love to go back! (10km, 650m elevation gain, 5 hours)

#2 Juan de Fuca Trail – Okay, I know the Juan de Fuca is a bit of a stretch for this list, but it is still technically “Southwest BC”, it just involves a bit of travel time to get to the island if you live in the lower mainland. But it was seriously one of the highlights of my hiking experience over the past 5 years and I can’t not include it on this list. The Juan de Fuca is a 50km trail along the south-western coast of Vancouver Island and is known as the “West Coast Trail Lite”. I’ve devoted three whole blog posts to my experience on this trail and it was really unlike any other hike I’ve done before. The ocean speaks to that part of my soul that grew up in Newfoundland and this was my first multi-day through hike, so it felt like more of a journey than any other hike I’ve done before. I’d highly recommend this trail, I’d just say not to underestimate it. It is a very strenuous hike and it definitely kicked my ass, but it was the most rewarding hike I’ve ever done. (50km, 4-5 days)

#1 Skyline Trail/Hozameen Ridge – I had to end this list with one more trail from Manning Park. I really do love this park and I spent a lot of time exploring it over the last 2 years, and the Skyline Trail was definitely the highlight. With the exception of the first 5km, the entire hike runs along the “skyline”. You basically hike along the ridge from mountain to mountain with the most amazing views of the alpine meadows, wildflowers, and mountain range. You can do this trip in a single day if you’re ambitious, either as a through hike or return trip (25km), but we did it as a two night trip, base camping at Mowich Camp. On our second day, we day hiked along Hozameen Ridge to the border monument and the most incredible view looking out at the enormous Hozameen Mountain. I loved every second of this 3 day trip and would recommend to everyone. The first 5km are a pretty consistent incline, but after that, it’s not a difficult trail. (40km, 500m elevation gain, multi-day trip)

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Hue and Hoi An

We’ve officially left northern Vietnam and had about 5 days to explore central Vietnam. We started in Hue, which is known as the imperial city and is cool in that a large part of the city is located within large stone walls surrounded by water.

We upped our hotel game a little bit in central Vietnam and stayed in hotels with pools, which was an awesome relief from the heat. Our first day in Hue was pretty chill and we had some pool time and explored along the river. I started to get my stomach back in Hue and while I was still too beef adverse to try their most popular dish, Bun Bo Hue, I did try Banh Khoai, which is the Hue version of Banh Xeo. Banh Xeo is a crispy pancake filled with shrimp, pork, and bean sprouts. It’s slightly different in every city and I’m on a mission to try them all. Its a tie between Hanoi and Hoi An for my favourite, the one is Hoi An is served with a delicious peanut sauce. I also tried Nem Lui in Hue, which is basically a pork skewer that is also served with a peanut sauce.

On our second day in Hue we did a cruise of the Perfume River in a dragon boat. It wasnt my favourite because it was just so hot and the engine on the boat is really loud, but it took us to see Minh Mang tomb, a temple, and Thien Mu Pagoda, which are all located along the river and are pretty neat. There’s a ton of tombs located in Hue for past kings and emperors of the imperial city, but we just visited one. Its enormous though and was heralded as an excellent piece of architecture for its time (1800’s).

We also made a visit to the Imperial Citadel. The Imperial City is essentially everything north of the river in Hue, and the citadel is located in the center of the city behind another moat and set of stone walls. It is impressive in its scope and there was a lot to look at and explore, but we were about ready to pass out from heat exhaustion at this point, so we cut our visit a little short and made a beeline back to the pool. We had good timing though because we were in Hue over the weekend and similar to Hanoi, they close down a bunch of the streets to just pedestrians in the evening, so it was lovely to explore after dark.

We left Hue at the crack of dawn to travel to Bach Ma National Park for what would become the highlight of Seth’s trip. As I’m sure most people know, Seth loves birds and is just completing his masters in ecology, so we hired a local ornithologist to take us on a private bird watching tour of Bach Ma, which is supposed to be one of the best places in Vietnam to see birds. It did not disappoint!

I won’t get into the specifics, but we did some heavy birding in the morning and Seth was thrilled to see more than 30 different bird species. It was a great tour for both of us though because the park is very mountainous and gorgeous and I loved admiring the landscapes as much as Seth loved looking for birds. We started with a hike up to the summit of the mountain, which had an amazing view looking down over the coast, and did a hike along the river and several waterfalls in the afternoon.

This one was called the 5 lakes trail and was actually a much more technical trail than I was expecting, but I got to swim in the river under a waterfall, which is pretty much my favourite thing to do! We finished by hiking to Rhodedendron Waterfall, which is a 300 metre high fall crashing down over the mountains. It was neat because we hiked to the top of the waterfall, so while we didnt actually see the waterfall, we had a cool view of the river cascading over the cliff.

It wasnt all fun and games though! Seth and I discovered a new species that we had no idea existed, the land leech. We were so naive to only think there are water leeches, but we quickly learned about land leeches which were constantly trying to climb up our shoes whenever we went through the bush. They are quite gross and I was constantly checking my boots for them and kicking them off before they could make it to my legs. Seth wasnt so lucky though, he had short socks on so they kept sneaking down into his boots and he had to pull 2 or 3 off him over the day. They dont hurt, but they’re nasty little buggers and one left him with a big bruise.

Hoi An stole our heart on the trip though. We’d heard really good things about the ancient town and we were looking forward to having some time to chill. We had our nicest hotel booked in Hoi An and we’d originally planned to do a day trip to some ancient ruins, but we liked the town so much we decided to just hang around the city instead. On our first day we borrowed bikes from our hotel and biked about 5km out to go to the beach. It was another hot, cloudless day, so we enjoyed booking beach chairs, having our food and drinks delivered to us, and hopping in and out of the water. We were very content.

I got the biggest surprise though when we got back to the hotel room because they completely decked our room out with flowers and rose petals. There had been a few flowers the day before, and I was laughing about how extra the hotel was being, when I turned around and found Seth getting down on one knee and pulling a ring box out of his pocket! He totally surprised me but I couldnt have been happier to say yes when he proposed to me with my Mom’s engagement ring (they are both very sneaky!) So Hoi An became our favourite place for very sentamental reasons!

It is a very romantic city though. Every day starting at 3 they close down all the roads to traffic in the ancient town and after dark the entire city is lit by hundreds of paper lanterns! There are boat rides running up and down the river, so we took one to celebrate and see all the lights. It capped off a perfect day.

It wasnt the end of the excitement though. We had a pre-booked street food tour of Hoi An to fit in as well! Fortunately we had both gotten our stomachs back and we were able to eat all the delicious treats on the tour. We started with a proper Banh Mi, which was much better than the one I had in Hanoi and I tried the Hoi An version of the Banh Xeo pancake. There’s a lot of chinese cultural influence in Hoi An as well, so we tried the traditional white rose dumplings and wonton “pizza”. The main course was the most delicious chicken fried rice, and we capped it off with some coconut crackers that are local to Hoi An. We didnt have it on the food tour, but I did try one more local dish, Cau Lau, which was a tasty pork noodle soup.

Sadly our trip is almost over now, but I have one more post about Cat Tien Park and Ho Chi Minh City, so stay tuned!

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