All About Big White for Non-Skiing Family Fun

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By Kristen Thompson

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We love Big White, and we love skiing. But with two little kids (one of whom is too young to ski), hitting the slopes is not on our radar. Whether you’re bound to the schedule of toddlers, watching your spending, visiting form out of town without gear, or just aren’t a fan of skiing, we get it! But we also want you to know that there are tons of amazing things to do at Big White that don’t include riding a gondola up into the clouds and barrelling back down the mountain.

Read on for 9 super fun non-skiing, family-friendly things to do at Big White, and what you need to know ahead of time


PARKING

Hey, getting there is half the battle! The first time we went to Big White, simply to scope it out as part of a recon mission, we didn’t know where to go, or what to expect when we got there.

First thing: Parking lots at Big White are free! (just don’t park on the side streets).

Second: Don’t pull over at the first parking lot you see - if you’re coming to Big White to wander around (ie you don’t plan on skiing), then head to the Happy Valley parking, and park as close to the lodge as you can! (Hint: Type “Happy Valley” into Waze or your GPS, or check out our customized, interactive map below!). Click here to open our map in Google.

 
 

NOW WHAT?

If you plan on coming to Big White for non-skiing fun, almost everything you need is right in around the Happy Valley Lodge - adjacent to the parking lot. This really is the hub for non-skiing adventure, so consider it your home base for the day!

From the parking lot, you’ll see Happy Valley’s Olympic-sized skating pond, as well as a large, two-storey lodge. Head inside to use the washrooms, gather some info, or grab a hot drink.

GETTING UP TO THE VILLAGE

To the right of the Happy Valley Lodge is Lara’s Gondola, which takes you from Happy Valley up to the Village. The gondola is free to use, and a short, fun trip for kids. Up in the village, you’ll find customer service, restaurants, cafes, shops, ski school information, and more (like the CANDY SHOP!!! Picture this being screamed at me by my children). It’s fun to check out, even if you plan on spending all your time in Happy Valley. Sometimes we just take the gondola up and down for the view. And the candy.

HAPPY VALLEY ADVENTURE PARK

All of Big White’s non-skiing winter activities - aside from skating - can be found at the Happy Valley Adventure Park (see pic below). From the gondola, head across the wide bridge and you’ll find yourself in the midst a family-friendly winter wonderland.

In the Happy Valley Adventure Park you’ll find:

  • Two bunny hills for kids’ lessons

  • The ice climbing tower

  • The tube park

  • The dog sled facilities

  • More washrooms

  • Info and ticketing huts for snowmobiling, ice tower, and tube park

FOOD

You won’t go hungry for lack of restaurants and cafeterias at Big White, which has 20 restaurants, cafes, delis, pubs and clubs. Most of them are up in the Village, but you can also stay down in Happy Valley.

  • The Happy Valley Lodge features two eateries upstairs: the Caf at Happy Valley (opens at 8 a.m.), and the Moose Lounge restaurant (opens at 11 a.m.). There’s also a cafeteria and cafe on the ground floor, where you can order grab-and-go food and hot drinks.

  • If you plan on bringing a bagged lunch from home, head into the cafeteria on the main floor of the Happy Valley Lodge. There are tons of tables, and even microwaves for re-heating a hot meal. If the weather is nice, take advantage of the picnic tables in front of the skating pond (located just outside the Happy Valley Lodge). Grab a table by the fire pit!

WASHROOMS, LOCKERS & OTHER IMPORTANT FACILITIES

Besides restaurants and cafeterias, Happy Valley Lodge also offers the following:

  • Heated washrooms, including a family washroom and baby changing stations

  • Lockers

  • Free phone-charging stations

  • Ice skate, snowshoe and nordic ski rental facilities

  • Maps and information

WHAT TO BRING FROM HOME

(Polly suggests bringing attitude).

Big White has you covered: From restaurants, cafeterias and coffee shops, to stores selling outdoor gear, and rental facilities for anything else you may only need for one-time-use, there’s really nothing you NEED to bring from home. That being said…

  • Eating out can be expensive. We always pack our own lunch and hot drinks, and save food purchases for end-of-day, pre-drive-home treats. There are lots of places to sit down and enjoy your lunch from home, and even re-heat meals (see FOOD for details).

  • A backpack is a must if you plan on participating in more than one winter adventure, especially with kids. Snacks, discarded mitts and toques, extra diapers and a thermos with coffee are all easier to lug around when they’re on your back. Being hands-free is the way to go!

  • Bringing skates, snowshoes, or kids whose legs are “breaking” after a few feet of walking? Bring a sled from home (one with a rope you can pull). If you happen to forget yours, you can rent sleds up in the Village near the daycare centre!

  • Sunny days are wonderful, but they can also be a headache if you don’t have sunglasses with you. We always bring goggles for our kids, even if they aren’t skiing!

RENTALS

If you’re looking to rent cross-country skis, snowshoes and skates, head to the main floor of the Happy Valley Lodge, and you’ll find everything you need there!

  • Snowshoes: $29/day. $35 if you also want boots and poles

  • Cross-country skis: $32/day (adults 13 +), $22/day (kids 12 and under)

  • Skates: $12 per hour, $6 each for sticks and helmets

  • Jackets or pants (adults 13 +): $22 per item/day

  • Jackets and pants (adults 13 +): $34/day

  • Jackets or pants (kids 12 and under): $18 per item/day

  • Jackets and pants (kids 12 and under): $27/day

    • Rentals at Happy Valley open at 9 a.m.

    • For more info head here


Now, without further ado…

TOP 9 MUST-DO ACTIVITIES FOR NON SKIERS

1. SKATING

(Photo: Big White) Take a spin on Canada's highest outdoor skating rink, surrounded by snow-covered trees and picturesque mountains. Whether you are looking for a leisurely skate or a pickup hockey game, this rink is welcome to everyone.

Where: Right outside Happy Valley Lodge

Rates: Use of the rink is free. See RENTALS for skate rental rates

  • Strollers and wheelchairs not permitted on the ice. 

  • Practice bars are available for beginners.

  • Fully lit for night skating.

  • Picnic tables and bonfire make this a perfect spot to unwind


2. TUBING

(Photo: Big White) The Big White Tube Park offers five specially-groomed runs fun for all ages. No skill or equipment are required.

Where: Happy Valley Adventure Centre

When: Mon - Fri 4pm - 9pm. Sat & Sun 2pm - 9pm

Rates: Ages 6 and up: $23. Children 5 and under: FREE

Tickets: Can be purchased from the Snowmobile Hut in the Happy Valley Adventure Centre.

  • Children must be a minimum height of 42" to tube alone. 

  • Children under 42” must be accompanied by a paying adult who must raft with the child

  • One person per tube . Adults may hang onto their child's tube in the kids' lane

  • Ski boots and hard shelled boots not permitted.

  • Fully lit for night tubing.


3. SNOWSHOEING

Big White has 25 kilometers of trails for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, catered to all abilities. Choose from guided tours for varying levels of ability, or rent your own snowshoes (or bring your own from home) and choose your own adventure.

Where: From Happy Valley Adventure Centre, proceed to the trail head below the beginner's slope.

Rates: Trail passes are $15 for participants 13 and up; $12 for kids 6 to 12. The nordic trails are free with any valid Big White day ticket, multi-day ticket or season pass. For more info head here.

Tickets: Can be purchased in the Happy Valley Day Lodge, or up in Village Centre Mall.

  • All participants must have a valid Trail pass, Alpine ticket or Season's Pass to use the trails, even if you are bringing your own gear.

  • Rentals available inside the Happy Valley Lodge. For rates, visit RENTALS further up.

  • Do not snowshoe in the dark, or on cross-country ski trails

  • Dogs are allowed on dedicated K-9 -friendly trails

  • For information about guided snowshoe tours, head here


4. CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

See above information, as it’s the same as snowshoeing. (Photo: Big White)


5. SLEIGH RIDES

Cozy up under a blanket and enjoy hot chocolate while gliding through snow-covered forest trails.

Where: Just outside Happy Valley Lodge, by the skating rink (you’ll see a sign)

When & Rates: Every day but Wednesdays

  • 1/2 hour tours: 12pm, 5pm (Fri 12pm, 2pm). Adults 13+ are $20. Kids 5 to 12 are $15. Under 5: FREE

  • 1 hour tours: 1pm, 4pm (Fri 1pm, 3pm). Adults 13+ are $30. Kids 5 to 12 are $25. Under 5: FREE

  • For information about private group tours or dining tours, head here

Tickets: Must be pre-purchased from the Concierge Desk in the Village Centre Mall (up the gondola).

  • Choose between half hour tours, full hour tours, private tours and dining tours.

  • Arrive 10 minutes prior to scheduled departure to ensure tour leaves on time. 

  • Hot chocolate is provided on 1 hour tours.

  • Blankets are provided, but dress warm all the same!

  • No cancellations or exchanges within 24 hours. Sleigh ride time may be subject to change. 5.


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6. DOG SLEDDING

(Photo: Big White) Experience the thrill of mushing through Big White’s famous backcountry as the enthusiastic and powerful Canadian Sled Dogs take you on an unforgettable winter excursion.

Candle Creek Kennels will begin with an orientation introducing you to the dogs, the sled and the process of harnessing before heading out on the trails, giving you extra dog sledding insight. 

Where: From the Happy Valley Adventure Park, proceed to the bottom of the magic carpet at the beginner's ski area. The kennel is located on your right hand side.

When:

  • Tuesday - Thursday, and Saturday & Sunday - 10am, 12pm, 2pm 

  • Friday - 10am

Rates: $295 (plus tax)

Tickets: Must be purchased in advance. Call 250-491-6111 or email concierge@bigwhite.com.

  • Capacity: 320lbs (max. 2 people per sled). Don’t try to be sneaky - they’ll weigh you!

  • Wear warm winter clothing and ski goggles

  • Arrive 5 minutes prior to tour, at the kennel site, below the magic carpet.

  • Children must be 3 years or older to ride on the sled.

  • Children aged 3-10 are required to wear a helmet.

  • Passengers 14 years and older may participate in driving the sled.

  • Trail is 6 kilometres long (approx. half an hour).

  • A healthy level of fitness is recommended for participants.

  • Tour is not recommended for pregnant women.


7.SNOWMOBILING

(Photo: Big White) A variety of daily snowmobiling tours take place on trails catered to all skill levels, from family cruising to advanced powder riding. Drive your own snowmobile or double up with a friend.

Where & Tickets: The snowmobile hut in the Happy Valley Adventure Park.

When & Rates:

  • 1 Hour Tour Daily 11:30am & 4pm. $139 for single rider. $59 passenger over 12. $39 passenger under 12.

  • 2 Hour Tour Daily 9am & 1:30pm. $189 for single rider. $69 passenger over 12. $49 passenger under 12.

  • 3 Hour Tour Daily 1:30pm. $229 for single rider. $79 passenger over 12. $59 passenger under 12.

  • 4 Hour Tour Daily 8:30am. $259 for single rider. $99 passenger over 12. $69 passenger under 12.

  • Twilight Tour Friday & Sunday 5:30pm. $179 for single rider. $79 passenger over 12. $59 passenger under 12.

  • For information about snowmobile tours: Visit here

Good to know.

  • All drivers must be at least 16 years old with a valid drivers license and parental consent.

  • There is no age restriction for passengers, however they must be more than 91cm (3 ft) tall.

  • A damage deposit (paid by credit card) is required for all tours.

  • Helmets are provided.

  • Adult size snowmobile gear is available for those that do not have their own ski gear.

  • Arrive no later than 25 minutes prior to scheduled departure time.

  • The Concierge Desk will provide you with a ticket, which you will need to bring with you as proof of payment.


8. KIDS’ SNOWMOBILING

(Photo: Big White) Mini-Z miniature snowmobiles are great fun for the kids. Kids get to experience the thrill of mini snowmobiling on a track built specially for them! 

Where & Tickets: The snowmobile hut in the Happy Valley Adventure Park.

When: Mon - Fri: 4 - 8 p.m. Weekends: 2 - 8 p.m.

Rates: $20 for first 10 minutes. $10 for each 10 minutes after that.

Tickets can be purchased only from the Snowmobile Hut in the Happy Valley Adventure Centre.

  • Children must be under 40kg (90lbs).

  • Wear warm winter clothing, waterproof outerwear is recommended.


9. ICE CLIMBING

(Photo: Big White) Big White has expertly trained climbing staff to help and encourage you all the way up its 60 foot ice tower. Constructed out of 4 telephone poles with 3 foot thick ice, with beginner to advanced options. All ages are welcome to participate in this exciting activity to conquer to the top.


Where & Tickets: Happy Valley Adventure Centre, behind the huts

When: Daily from noon to 8 p.m.

Rates: $30 per climb, $50 for the day.

  • There are 4 sides to the tower - beginner and more advanced for those looking for a challenge.

  • No previous experience necessary.

  • Activity for all fitness levels and all ages.

  • All equipment is provided - boots, crampons, ice tools. 

  • Arrive 15 minutes prior to scheduled climb time.

  • Private Tower Rentals available - ask the Concierge Desk for more details

  • Fully lit for night climbing.(Photo: Big White)



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Kristen Thompson is a freelance journalist, and half of the team that makes up Do The Okanagan. She grew up skiing in Ontario, so B.C.’s mountains make her knees shake. But she loves all the non-skiing fun at Big White, and she loves to apres!