Bluebird days and wine tours in Kelowna
By ANDREW PENNER
Kelowna, B.C. – While riding up the legendary Cliff Chair at Big White, it hit me. It doesn't really matter what the weather is doing, what the snow conditions are like, just being in the mountains, skiing, recreating, hanging out with your family or friends, well, that's the most important thing. But, ask any skier, those balmy bluebird days – especially when the snow is amazing – are the cat's meow.
Big White is famous for its snow ghosts.
Indeed, my day at Big White was one for the ages. All the ingredients were there. An endless blue sky. No wind. Zero degrees. Great friends. Great snow. In my book, that's called the “good times” guarantee.
Not surprisingly, we (my skiing buddies were Derek, his wife Julie, and Brody) spent all morning racking up laps off the Cliff Chair. The epic lines and excellent conditions produced non-stop ear-to-ear grins. There was no holding back. And the biggest star of the show was Big White itself.
“With 119 runs, 15 lifts, five powder bowls and 762cms/25 ft. of Okanagan Champagne Powder annually, Big White Ski Resort is Canada's favourite family resort,” says Mason Buettner, the marketing director for Big White. “Skiing among all those snow ghosts is surreal and we're famous for that.”
Local rider, Derek Barile rips down one of Big White's 119 runs.
Not surprisingly, we milked the morning for all it was worth. And after skiing, we hung out at the family-friendly Happy Valley Adventure Centre for some ice climbing and tubing. The 60-foot ice tower was a hit (literally) and we took turns kicking and hacking our way to the bell at the top of the tower (crampons, a harness, and ice tools are included in your climbing package, $30). Julie made it look easy. Although no experience is necessary, this is a sweet little challenge that's actually quite a bit harder than it looks. (At least, for me!)
But, after leaving Big White in the mid-afternoon, our adventure was far from over. With dozens of nearby wineries, restaurants and craft breweries, a winter getaway to Kelowna doesn't stop with the snow.
Located on a beautiful bench high above Okanagan Lake, the Summerhill Pyramid Winery is one of the shining stars in Kelowna's vibrant wine and culinary scene. Boasting 100% organic wines. Executive Chef Mara Jernigan taught us her “secret” moves to make perfect homemade pasta with a decadent garlic, cream, and hazelnut sauce and we left the Summerhill Pyramid Winery in awe of how progressive and multi-dimensional the “new world” wineries of the Thompson Okanagan can be.
When it comes to evening fun, the BNA Brewing Company has you covered with craft beer, great food and bowling all under one roof.
Of course, it isn't just wine that this region is known for. The local craft beer scene is coming on strong. And, without a doubt, a force to be reckoned with in this genre is the BNA Brewing Company.
Located in downtown Kelowna in a converted timber-framed warehouse, BNA features all the trendy “tricks” to make a visit truly memorable. A silver Airstream trailer converted into a bar? Check. A 10-pin bowling alley upstairs? Check. A world-class food menu that showcases the bounty of the Okanagan? Check. Exceptional craft beer to suit every taste and style? Check. Long story short, closing out our Kelowna tour with a visit to BNA Brewing was the right call.
But, regardless of which establishment you end up at, a visit to Kelowna in winter is always the right call. You typically get the moderate, valley-floor weather in the city and a snowy wonderland in the alpine at Big White. And, who knows, roll the dice and get a bluebird day and, presto, all your ski dreams will come true.
When You Go
Kelowna gets very attractive when you bundle these amenities into your weekend itinerary. Choose somewhere new, get out and uncover what makes this city worth the visit.
Build your Kelowna winter stoke, search #ExploreKelowna on social media and be sure to use it when you experience the region.
Andrew Penner is a freelance writer and photographer based in Calgary. You can follow him on Instagram @andrewpennerphotography.