How to save on ski holiday: Tip No. 1 - book early

Money-saving tips for Washington residents planning a ski vacation in B.C.'s snow-buried interior

When it comes to planning your ski vacation to British Columbia's interior, rule No. 1 is the earlier you book the better.

"Always, the sooner you book the more deals you can snag," says Rachel Roberts, a media relations specialist at Sun Peaks Resort, near Kamloops, B.C.

The resort is offering up to 40 percent off lift ticket prices when you purchase early. It also has reciprocal lift ticket discounts for Washington state residents who are season pass holders at 49 Degrees North, Mission Ridge and Whitepass.

"And, absolutely, the big story is the currency exchange that sees the American dollar go 25 percent further here," Roberts says.

Similar bargains can be had at SilverStar Mountain Resort near Vernon, B.C.

Silver Star Mountain
Photo: Dave Heath

For each night Washington state residents book accommodation before Dec. 20, they get two lift tickets.

"Effectively, you ski for free before Christmas," says Kristy Jahn-Smith, SilverStar marketing manager.

Price discounts are hard to come by over the peak Christmas and New Year's stretch. However, because the U.S. greenback is worth 20 percent more than the Canadian loonie, British Columbia is always on sale for Washington state skiers and snowboarders.

Of course, being thrifty doesn't matter unless you get value.

In the case of British Columbia interior skiing, Americans will get an ultra-premium experience at a bargain price.

Sun Peaks Resort
Photo: Crai Bower

The southern B.C. interior's game-changing advantage is fluffy, powder-dry snow in mind-boggling amounts.

Anyone who's ever skied Sun Peaks knows the Champagne powder is legendary.

"By the time weather systems come over a couple of mountain systems and get to us they are dried out and we get the light and fluffy snow. It's completely different and better than the wet stuff they get on the West Coast," says Roberts.

Eighteen feet of that white stuff covers Sun Peaks every ski season, making the 4,270 acres with 135 runs and 16 gladed areas serviced by 12 lifts a downhill paradise.

In addition, the village and mountain isn't crowded, translating to short wait times for lifts, always.

The alpine village has a pedestrian-only main street that you can ski down to get to and from your ski-in, ski-out accommodation.

Horse-drawn sleighs and dogsleds are also a common sight on main street.

Sun Peaks is part of the inter-resort shuttle system linking Kelowna and Kamloops airports and Whistler Blackcomb near Vancouver, Big White near Kelowna, SilverStar and Revelstoke ski areas.

Nancy Greene
Photo: Dax Justin

Sun Peaks is also home to Nancy Greene, who won giant slalom Olympic gold at the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France.

She is still a fantastic skier and a heck of a resort ambassador.

Here's something many Washington folks probably don't know. You can hit the slopes with the Olympic champ any Saturday or Sunday, and most days of school holidays, simply by meeting her at the 'Ski with Nancy Greene' sign at the top of the Sunburst chairlift at 1 p.m.

Another tip is that when you buy your lift ticket, you can also use it for cross-country skiing, fat biking, snowshoeing and skating and hockey on the frozen pond.

Here are a few more insider facts on B.C.'s interior

  • The Interior is home to British Columbia's wine country, the second largest in Canada behind Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario.

  • It's also bisected by historic Route 97, the longest continuous north-south highway in North America.

  • Highway 97 also stretches almost 2,000 miles from Weed, Calif. in the south to Watson Lake, Yukon in the north, which is also Mile Zero of the Alaska Highway.

Nearby, there a couple of other resorts worth checking out that may not be on your radar. The snow and skiing is epic at Southern Interior resorts Red Mountain near Rossland and Whitewater near Nelson. Twenty-five glorious feet of the white stuff every season covers Red's 110 runs serviced by seven lifts over 2,682 acres of terrain.

Photo: Dave Heath

At Whitewater the snow is even deeper, with 39 feet falling every season in the Ymir high alpine bowl for awe-inspiring runs over 1,317 acres of groomed, treed and steep terrain.

It's time to start planning because resorts are open and more will be opening soon:

  • Sun Peaks opened for the season Nov. 18.

  • The lifts roar to life at SilverStar on American Thanksgiving, Nov. 23.

  • Red Mountain opens for the season Dec. 9.

  • Whitewater will see skiing and boarding start Dec. 8.

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