Ski Resort Series: Blackcomb

Even though Whistler-Blackcomb is one big resort, I decided to write about them separately since it is two different mountains and I’ve spent so much time skiing both. I posted about Whistler first, so check out that post for more general info about the resort, like lift passes and parking.

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Creekside is not an option for parking if you’re skiing Blackcomb, but there is an upper parking lot for Blackcomb if you want to jump right on the Blackcomb Gondola – though I understand it fills up pretty quickly. We always park in lots 4/5 (no matter which mountain we’re skiing) and take the shuttle over to Whistler village, so we always take the Excalibur Gondola up to start. The benefit of the Blackcomb Gondola is it takes you right to Rendez-Vous, which is the main hub on Blackcomb. Excalibur only goes halfway up and then you have to switch to the Excelerator Chair.

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For a long time, Whistler was my favourite mountain. I loved going up the Peak Chair and eating at Creekside. I liked the long runs that swing you around the mountain and how many different lifts there are. But over time I’ve grown to really love Blackcomb. I don’t think I can say I like it more than Whistler, but they’re definitely tied and I try and alternate back and forth every time I visit.

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The most popular runs on Blackcomb are at the 7th Heaven chair and it’s easy to understand why. On a clear day you can see all the Black Tusk and the surrounding mountains. 7th Heaven is completely clear of trees at the top, so it has amazing views before branching off into a dozen different runs. There’s a small cafĂ© at the top and while it’s almost impossible to get a seat inside, Brandon and I have spent more than one occasion enjoying our home-packed lunches outside at the picnic tables or on the slopes. Otherwise, we usually hit up Glacier Creek for lunch. It’s large and the crowds usually clear out a bit by 1:30pm. I find it much busier at Rendez-vous and usually try and avoid eating there.

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Once we get to 7th Heaven we’ll usually spend half of the day skiing there. There are tons of runs and you can pop in and out of the glades when you reach the top of the ski-line. There’s almost always small ramps scattered throughout the top, so Grant and I usually like to play around and test our abilities (we get at most a few inches of air, but we love it!).

If the conditions are bad though, 7th Heaven can be a bit of a nightmare. With no trees to shield you from the wind and blowing snow, visibility can be really bad at the top and they’ll often close the entire chair if the conditions are dicey. But on a clear day its really the best place to hang out!

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After 7th Heaven, Glacier Chair is really popular, but it’s never been one of my personal favourites. A lot of the runs at Glacier are more advanced and though my skiing has improved in the past years, I still like to play it a little more cautious. However, I recently discovered something new in the Glacier Chair area that is totally worth checking out!

At the top of the Glacier Chair, there’s a small t-bar called the Showcase T-bar, which takes you just a little bit further up the mountain. I’ve always ignored it because I hate t-bars, but I recently learned that if you’re willing to do a short walk, there’s a run at the very top of showcase that goes down the back of Blackcomb Glacier to an ice cave! It’s shown on the printed resort map, but I guess it doesn’t see that much traffic because after the t-bar, you have to take your skis off and walk upslope about 5 minutes to get to the top of a bowl going down by Blackcomb Glacier. It only takes about 5 minutes, so it’s totally worth it in my opinion, but it is steep, so I was pretty out of breath from carrying my skis.

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Once you get to the top of the bowl there are gorgeous views looking out over the mountains. Advanced skiers will climb further up the bowl, but I think most people just ski down from there. It’s steep at the top, but nothing unmanageable. The caveat with this run though is that it does go through avalanche terrain. The resort has a warning posted at the top of the lift that you are entering avalanche terrain, so make sure to check the bulletin before going. Fortunately the risk was low when we visited.

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It’s a gorgeous run, we played it safe and followed the ski markers down the center of the bowl. When you get to the bottom of the first part of the bowl, if you look to the right, you’ll see the Blackcomb Ice Cave along the side of the run. We skied down to it and spent some time exploring and taking photos. This was my first ice cave, so it was a really neat experience, but I’m not knowledgeable about ice cave safety, so we ventured inside the opening, but not beyond as we had no idea what the risk was.

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It’s a bit of a climb uphill again after the ice cave, but no where near as steep, I was able to ski it, but Brandon walked his board out. The run continues down around the back of the mountain and connects in again at the Crystal Chair. We had perfect weather when we visited the ice cave, so it made for a really fun day. I couldn’t believe I had skied the mountain for 7 years before discovering its existence!

Crystal Ridge can be a fun place to ski and I’ll often do a run or two in that area, but Jersey Cream is probably my favourite chair after 7th Heaven. It’s a shorter chair with limited runs, but I really like the views. Otherwise, there’s a ton of fun blue runs to do around the middle of the mountain and that’s where I’ll usually finish out my day. Depending on the conditions, we will ski down to the bottom, but sometimes we’ll download the last section on the gondola. Just be careful when you ski down that you take the right run based on where you parked. One leads to Whistler Village while the other leads to Blackcomb base.

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And that about sums up my thoughts on Blackcomb and Whistler. It’s definitely not cheap to ski there, but I keep coming back every year because there’s such a wide diversity of runs, the snow is usually better than the local mountains, and it’s much closer driving distance than going all the way to the interior. I still ski Cypress a lot too, but I always have the best time at Whistler-Blackcomb! However, be aware that with covid, reservations are now required prior to arriving and all the restaurants are operating as booking only. So unless you bring your own lunch to eat outside, plan ahead! Otherwise, have fun!

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Ski Resort Series: Silver Star

I’m almost caught up to this year with my ski trip posts, but one more to go before I can write about this year. In 2016, we spent Easter weekend at Big White and in 2017, we spent St. Paddy’s Day weekend at Sun Peaks. In 2018, we decided to time our trip with the Family Day holiday in order to make use of the long weekend and take less holiday time. Similar to our trip to Sun Peaks, most of our party drove out after work on Friday, but I decided to make it a half day again to avoid driving out in the dark. This year we went just before Valentine’s Day, so we had a bit of a Valentine’s party when we arrived. Since I’m always one of the first people to arrive, I’ve started a bit of a “welcome drinks” tradition, with green drinks for St. Paddy’s day in 2017 and pink drinks for Valentine’s day in 2018.

In more recent years we’ve had a harder time picking a resort because our group has really grown and a lot of the resorts don’t have group accommodations available on site. We’ve been wanting to go to Revelstoke for several years, but we just can’t seem to make it happen because of the accommodations. In 2018 we decided to rent two condos at Silver Star to accommodate what ended up being a group of 13 people. It did create a bit of a different vibe being separated into two groups, but both condos were located on the same floor, so we dragged the table from the smaller condo into the bigger condo so that we could all eat together. The added benefit with two condos was also that we had two hot tubs!

Silver Star has a pretty small ski village, but a lot of the accommodations border the slopes, including ours, so we had excellent ski-out access. What’s interesting about Silver Star is that the mountain is very clearly delineated between the “front side” and the “back side”. The front side is pretty clearly divided into 3 sections, two upper slopes and one lower slope, while the back side just has one main lift. I wish I could comment on the back side of the mountain, but I didn’t ski a single slope of the backside. The entire back side of the mountain is all black diamonds serviced by one lift. I’m not a high risk taker when it comes to skiing, so I tend to stick to blue and green runs on bigger mountains. That said, Silver Star is a smaller mountain and none of the slopes were that intense, so I think I probably would have done okay on the black diamonds. But some of our group tried one run on the back side on the first day and said the snow was awful and icy on that side of the mountain because of the cold conditions leading up to our trip, so I decided to skip it.

The other side of the mountain was a different story. Like I’ve said in some of my other posts, the direction of the slopes and the sun can make a huge difference on the quality of the runs. Our first day skiing Silver Star was absolutely gorgeous, with sun and blue skies the whole day! For this reason, I had a blast skiing the front side of the mountain and thought the conditions were pretty good. We started on the Comet Chair and I absolutely fell in love with this part of the mountain. The Trails were in great shape and the trees are pretty spacey in the upper area, so it’s really easy to do some fun glade runs. I honestly could have spent most of the trip on this chair and I would have had a great time!

The major downside to going skiing on the family day weekend is of course, the crowds. Silver Star isn’t the biggest ski resort, so the line-up for the Comet Chair was pretty huge and annoying to wait in at times. I was willing to wait because I enjoyed the runs so much, but a lot of the group didn’t want to waste the day in the line-ups, so we moved on to the Silver Woods chair, which is located on the lower section of the mountain. This part of the resort was okay, certainly better than the backside, but the elevation was a little bit too low and the conditions were not really good down there either. I did spend some time there and did most of the runs because they are shorter, but eventually we split into two groups, with one group staying on the lower runs, while I decided to join a group willing to wait for the Comet Chair.

Later in the day, we decided to give the Attridge Chair a try and I ended up spending the rest of the first day and a good portion of the second day on this part of the mountain. It was much less busy, but still had pretty good snow conditions. The slopes were a bit more technical on the Attridge side, but again, the trees were pretty spaced out, so there was lots of room to explore and try some new things. There was a lot of powder on this part of the mountain, so I took the opportunity to work on my powder skiing. I found it more challenging, but it was the good kind of challenging that makes you a better skier. I ended up having a pretty good time trying out some new runs and learning some better control on my skis. That said, at the end of the day, Comet Chair was still my favourite!

So it was a bit of a mixed bag at Silver Star in that many of the runs weren’t in great condition, but a lot of them were fantastic. There was the downside of huge crowds at the Comet Chair, but if you are willing to try some new things and check out the other parts of the mountain, the lift waits weren’t actually that bad. With 13 people, we didn’t ski together as a group, but I did a lot of hopping around between groups and I think I found a pretty good balance. A lot of people are definitely more adventurous than me, but my skiing is good enough that I can hold my own with most of the skiers and take the opportunities to get a little better myself. Good powder conditions definitely helped improve my confidence on Attridge Chair, whereas I was less inclined to take risks on the icy conditions.

We’ve kept our traditions going and I cooked Jiggs Dinner for the group again! It’s definitely a lot to manage, cooking for so many people, but it’s one of the few times I get to eat Jiggs Dinner throughout the course of the year, so I’m willing to keep doing it. I love coming together with friends over food, and when you’re the chef, there’s the added benefit of never having to do the dishes!

As a word of warning, Silver Star Ski Resort is located just outside of Vernon and can be reached from Vancouver traveling through either Kamloops or Kelowna. We drove through Kamloops on the way there and Kelowna on the way back. They are pretty much the same distance, I think driving time just varies depending on traffic and weather conditions. Having driven both routes, I would definitely recommend driving through Kelowna. It’s mostly highway driving with multiple lanes, which Kamloops to Vernon is not, so it makes for a nicer driving experience.

Ski Resort Series: Sun Peaks

Continuing on with my ski resort mini-series, my first post was about Big White Ski Resort, which I visited in 2016. We had so much fun that we decided to make a ski trip to the Interior an annual event. There’s so many different ski resorts and we were excited to try out another mountain, so in 2017 we decided to visit Sun Peaks, which is the biggest ski resort in BC after Whistler-Blackcomb.

Sun Peaks is located just north of Kamloops, about a 4.5 hour drive from Vancouver. Easter was too late for skiing in 2017, so we decided to use some holidays to go over the St. Paddy’s Day weekend. This time we weren’t located right in the village, but we managed to score accommodations in a huge log chalet with 6 bedrooms and a hot tub! It was definitely one of the nicest places we’ve stayed and was just a short bus ride away from the village. I took Friday and Monday off to make a super long weekend and we drove out after lunch, but the rest of the group drove out after work and arrived to a bit of a Paddy’s Day celebration.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get as lucky with the weather at Sun Peaks as we did at Big White. Looking back, I still had a great time at Sun Peaks, but it was probably my least favourite of the resorts I’ve visited. I think I have to mostly attribute this to not having ski-out access and to the weather conditions not being as great. Sun Peaks is a huge resort, but it was quite warm when we visited and the snow was really icy in the mornings from freezing overnight, but then heavy and slushy in the afternoons.

We spent the first day hanging out on the Crystal Bowl and Sunburst lifts. I liked the Crystal Bowl because the snow was a lot better on top of the mountain, but visibility was quite poor. Sunburst had better visibility, but not great snow. it was still a fun day, but on our second day we hit the other side of the mountain on the Morrisey Chair and I personally had a lot more fun on that side. It took me a while, but I’ve finally learned that depending what side of the mountain you ski on, conditions can be totally different because of the direction of the sun. Morrisey Chair ended up being a lot nicer than the other side of the mountain because the sun was on it in the morning and softened up the ice from the night before.

Morrisey Chair is primarily glade runs, which I used to not like that much, but have grown to really enjoy the more I ski. If you’re a big skier, you definitely already know how fun glade runs can be, but I only ever skied 2 days a year growing up and they were always at the same resort, so it wasn’t until I moved to BC that I started to get a bit better at skiing. My friend Grant is one of the more adventurous of our group (or was before our group grew), and I love trailing him on glade runs, trying to hit some of the little ramps and bumps between trees. We spent most of our second day doing glade runs and then me and Carolyn popped back over to Crystal Bowl to finish our day off with some awesome views.

So I did still end up having a great time at Sun Peaks, it just doesn’t stand out as one of the more memorable trips to me. It is a huge resort though and there’s definitely a wide variety of runs available. I think I would still like to go back and maybe try it on a day with better snow conditions.

We’ve developed some fun traditions over the years though. It took me a while to meet people when I first moved to BC and most of the people I was friends with were actually Newfoundlanders, so the first ski trip we went on, I cooked Jiggs Dinner (traditional Newfoundland cooked dinner) for everyone for Easter. Even though it wasn’t Easter on our second trip, I cooked it again and have made it every year since. To shake things up a bit, Brandon always prepares hot pot for the whole group on our second night and it’s become a fun tradition and a bit of a culture sharing thing.

And some more photos! I’m pretty sure this is my first time looking at them since I took them 3 years ago and they are cute!

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