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Go: Silver Star, B.C.

Go: Silver Star, B.C.

Welcome to the best family ski vacation you've never had.
By Susan Reifer
posted: 12/13/2011
Silver Star main

Skiable Acres: 3,065

Vertical Feet: 2,500

Base Elevation: 3,780 feet

Summit Elevation: 6,280 feet

Three minutes. That’s the wait time at Silver Star’s most popular chairlift on a busy Saturday during the height of winter. The Comet Express, a high-speed six-seater, swoops us uphill over broad and neatly combed boulevards that unfurl along this interior-B.C. resort’s rolling front face. Midway up the mountain we pass Silver Star’s festively bright, Victorian-miningtown- inspired village. Below us, and exactly one ski-booted step outside our hotel’s back door, skiers in no particular rush click into bindings, then glide downhill through midmorning sunlight toward the lifts. From our perch, we also spot lean cross-country skiers leaving the village along the 65-mile network of groomed trails that makes this one of the world’s leading nordic destinations.

We rise another 1,000 vertical feet to the summit. vistas of woodsy, snowcoated slopes roll toward silvery lakes. We soar all the way back to comet’s base—down a vertical drop comparable to Colorado’s Copper Mountain, Vermont’s Stowe or California’s Squaw Valley—through shadows cast by sun-kissed evergreens. The snow is a pleasure underfoot—squeaky-cold yet carveable. We slide into the comet lift maze for another three-minute wait. “Hey, Dan,” says one regular to another. “Big lineup today, eh?”

On Silver Star’s forested back side, steeps and chutes guarantee even less traffic. (“You want to pay attention back here,” says one local, dropping into a short gully tipped at a certified 45 degrees.) We find billowy poofs of untouched powder—five days after the latest snowfall—and no liftlines whatsoever. Yet somehow, at après-ski in the village, reveling skiers and boarders pack every stone-and-timber nook and cranny of Long John’s Pub. Inside the Bulldog Grand Café, they fill every fireside leather couch and club chair.

Nearby, a frozen pond with an island in the middle is scattered with ice-skating families, some playing hockey. Alongside, kids ride mini snowmobiles along a trail through the woods while parents kick back around a fire pit burning actual logs.

Located 50 minutes from Kelowna international airport in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley wine country, Silver Star is well out of the fast lane without being backward.
food offerings are au courant—a gourmet take on cinnamon buns for breakfast, spiced duckling paired with award-winning regional reds in an on-mountain cabin for dinner. Accommodations are roomy—and, at the new firelight lodge, even hipster-sleek.

The snow quality, whichis predictably good here in the Bugaboo Mountains, is a good bet for vacationers, with frequent blessings of dry, light snow followed by sunny days. The popular (but uncrowded) terrain parks have launched World Cup and pro skiing careers. and the mountain’s overall terrain mix is well balanced, with a broad selection of advanced and expert terrain rivaling that at any of silver star’s family-friendly neighbors, including Big White and Sun Peaks.

Twenty minutes away, the small city of Vernon (population 36,000) adds to Silver Star’s appeal with signature diversions like Junior a hockey games. (The Vernon Vipers, age 16 to 20, are four-time national champions.) Absinthe tastings at the Okanagan Spirits Craft Distillery and Epicurean Charcuterie at authentic German delicatessens—the area was originally settled by immigrants—are worth the trip. And within a 30-minute drive, vineyard tasting rooms await, most notably Gray Monk (don’t miss the rarer varietals like Siegerrebe, Rotberger and Ehrenfelser) and Ex Nihilo (open by appointment for tastings of its award-winning riesling—and viewings of its art). Best of all: with liftlines this blissfully short, you’ll have time to squeeze it all in.

sleep › The new Firelight Lodge’s hip one- to three-bedroom condos are adjacent to the kids’ adventure park. Condos have gourmet kitchens and ski-out access to the Silver Queen chair. Ask for a pond-view room. From $179; skisilverstar.com.

eat & drink › For an on-slope culinary adventure Friday and Saturday nights, take the Paradise Express snowcat to Paradise Camp for regional gourmet fare in the woods. Fun apres options include the rowdy Long John’s Pub and the more genteel Allora Tapas Bar, both in the village.

must do Silver Star and Sovereign Lake’s combined network of nordic trails, accessible from both village and chairlifts, ranks among the top three in the world.

tip Make a side trip to the new Sparkling Hill Resort, built by the Swarovski Crystal family. There are saunas and steams, a spa, contemporary lakeview rooms and excellent food in Peakfine restaurant.

tip Brewer’s Pond is the beating heart of the village. Rent a hockey stick and a pair of skates and enjoy après like a Canadian.

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