Canada: Wet Your Whistle at Big White
By Steven Bochenek
There’s nothing wrong with skiing for several days straight. But neither is anything wrong with taking a breather and sampling magnificent wines amidst stunning lakeside vistas. These days everyone’s talking about British Columbia’s Mount Olympus, but I recommend Big White. It’s BC’s second-most popular ski destination and towers over Canada’s second-most popular wine region.
Enjoy some challenges at Big White (this is BC) but plenty of easy runs
Elite skiers will always prefer the jagged peaks of Whistler-Blackcomb whose verticality outdrops Big White’s vast hump 1600 metres to 777. But there’s no shame in being outclassed by the best. And Big White still offers some genuinely terrifying double-black diamonds like the whimsically named Parachute Bowl and moronically obviously named Cliff.
For the rest of us, there are lots of long easy runs with plenty of elbowroom. Of the 118 trails, 54% are intermediate and 18% beginner – all amidst views that God should win awards for.
The food and wine are magnificent at Spirit Ridge in Osoyoos. I was chuffed to learn afterwards that my friend and trusted wine expert, Stï¿½phane Beauroy, recommends its partner winery the Nk’Mip Cellars. They cleverly pair meals with Nk’Mip’s delicious products like the unspeakably good Qwam Qwmt Pinot Noir.
The Burrowing Owl winery is just as impressive. Their lunch menu is intricate but I didn’t get past its first offering of duck confit accompanied by with their rich Cabernet Franc.
We completed our day in Kelowna. Nestled on Okanagan Lake, it offers great eating options showing off the local wines in stunning surroundings. Visit the architecturally triumphant Mission Hill Winery but dine at the Eldorado Hotel. It outshone our other gustatory experiences, again featuring local vintages, and boasts a colourful history. A hunting lodge built in the 1920s by an eccentric Austrian aristocrat, it was floated by barge miles down the lake in 1999 where it was promptly torched by arsonists. A year later, the hardheaded owner had rebuilt it, twinning the original almost inch for inch.
For a full day of unrepeated views, drive a huge oval: south on 33 towards Osoyoos on the Washington border, then north through Oliver and Peachland to Kelowna (such inconsistent names!) where you meet up with the 33 again. If you don’t have a car, there’s a regular shuttle to the Kelowna airport – where cheap taxis into town abound.
Watch the weather for your wine days!