Spring break at SilverStar, Sun Peaks ski resorts

Late season fun at ski hills

It certainly feels like spring in the Thompson-Okanagan, even as more snow fell in the mountains this week.

The excitement is building at Southern Interior ski hills for spring break from March 15 to April 1.

"Spring break equals sunshine and good times at SilverStar, and we have plenty to celebrate here during March," said Megan Sutherland, communications and public relations specialist at SilverStar Mountain Resort.

March 16 will mark the third annual Nokian Tyres Green Tire Giveaway. Follow clues posted on social accounts and search the mountain to be entered to win a brand new set of winter tires.

"The Seismic Spring Mountain Festival is back for another year, celebrating mountain culture with 10 days of sport, music, art, crafts and culinary. It’s a week of good vibes, amazing spring skiing and fun times for the entire family from March 29 to April 7," she said.

Seismic at a glance

Official après ski will kick off with SkiiTour on March 30, free live music on the new Nokian Tyres Community Stage, the Après zone, barbecues and beer gardens, wine dinners and paired tasting events, signature sport events including the Timber Tour, S2S Ski Marathon April 6 and 7, family scavenger hunts, art workshops, Paint and Sip nights and comedy and film nights, plus giveaways, themed ski days, trivia and karaoke.


"Sun Peaks is going to be a happening place with plenty coming up in the month of March and into April," said Christina Antoniak, director of communications for Sun Peaks Resort.

"Our premier resort hotel property, the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel, has a savings of 35% on stays in March and April with an accompanying $25 beverage credit (book by March 5). We’ve just launched a landing page that showcases these savings."

If you need a reason for a multi-day stay, ArtZone’s third annual Anonymous Art Show and sale will go March 21 to 24, with details at here. And the Sip, Savour and Ski Sun Peaks Culinary Festival will be held March 28 to 31 with the schedule here. The festival will cram nine unique events into four days.

"You can savour dishes crafted with locally-sourced ingredients from Sun Peaks' finest eateries, perfectly paired with artisanal brews, cocktails and wines,” said Antoniak. “Soak up the spring sun on the slopes while embarking on an unforgettable culinary journey in our mountain village.”

The signature event is A Taste of Brewhalla on March 30, when Brewhalla Festivals and Tourism Sun Peaks will co-host an exciting craft beverage tasting event, live music, and fun and games like life-sized Jenga and Corn Hole.

You can wrap up the season with a ski improvement session at the Spring Fling Ski Camp April 5 and 6 and at Wonder Weekend April 6 and 7, a celebration of the mountains, with Retro Days, Snow Way Down Bike Slalom, Slush Cup and Top to Bottoms Run.

"One of the cooler items from an affordability standpoint is the Worldwide Season Pass Reciprocal,” said Antoniak. “We’ve opened a 50% savings on alpine lift tickets for any season pass holder from any downhill ski area anywhere in the world. This offer is valid from March 25 through our closing day on April 7. Our sports school is also offering group lessons at 50% off for the last week of the season, April 1 to 7.”


The Overlander Ski Club doesn't have good news for those hoping to spend a few days cross-country skiing south of Kamloops during spring break.

"Sadly, I don't think we will be open during this period. Winter is dwindling quickly for us," reported GM Chelsea Francis.

It’s the same at Nickel Plate Nordic Centre.

"We aren't planning any March break events. Hard to believe another season is nearing an end at our slice of heaven," said Kevin Dyck, marketing and communications manager.

At the Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club, organized events will be over by March 3, said Laurie Cole, club director and secretary.

"In spite of the slow start to the 2023-24 season, courtesy of El Nino, we had a great season with many fun events—the fourth annual Stride and Glide fundraiser for KGH, two Moonlight Ski and Snowshoe events, two sets of masters social ski lessons and our ever-popular Cookies and Cabins tour,” said Cole.

“Our organized club events are over now until next winter, but the season is far from over. So come up and enjoy some skiing and snowshoeing in March. We're closer than you think and conditions are better than you might expect, thanks to cooler temperatures and a good snowfall in late February.”

Cole said the board of directors will work hard over the summer months on a fundraising campaign for a new groomer, with plans to apply for grants to supplement the generous contributions of members and day pass users.

If you want to donate to the cause, visit the club’s website and select the orange “grooming machine fundraiser” button.

In the next few weeks, Kelowna Nordic will send out a survey to all annual members and newsletter subscribers.

"We need their feedback to plan the future of Kelowna Nordic and they will be entered in a draw for a free annual membership for completing the survey,” said Cole.

“Some of the things we want to know are favourite Nordic trails and why, ideas for new events or activities, suggestions for improving facilities or services and any additional features (members) would love to see at the club.”

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Southern Interior ski hills ready for spring

Time for spring skiing

An avalanche of emails arrived recently with news from the Southern Interior's ski hills.

As the 2023-24 winter season slowly, inexorably winds down, the Sheriff asked the 12 downhill resorts and cross-country ski areas about their plans for the last major celebration of the year, spring break, for upcoming columns.

Christina Antoniak, director of communications at Sun Peaks Resort, provided an update on conditions there.

"Our current alpine snow base is 155 centimetres. Typically, we’d be around 200 centimetres, so we’re not far behind in the grand scheme of things. It was a slow start to the season with lower snowfall in November and December. January made up for it though with 98 centimetres that month, a higher-than-average amount of snowfall for January. We’re happy to see that February snowfall is on track to hit our normal levels," she said.

Skier visits were down until the new year, directly correlated to the lack of snow.

"Despite the big swings we’ve experienced in temperatures in January and February (polar vortex and an unseasonably warm stretch), our season pass-holder visits and destination skier visits have rebounded. Accommodation bookings are strong in February and going into March. People are realizing that there are very good snow conditions in B.C.’s Interior and our guests are having some of their best days on snow this season here in Sun Peaks,” said Antoniak.

"Our on-mountain teams did a phenomenal job monitoring the conditions and we saw minimal trail closures. Our grooming teams have been working their magic and getting rave reviews through our guest feedback channels. And our content team has been working around the clock to capture the true picture of day-to-day conditions with photos and video. It’s truly been a team effort to produce a quality ski and ride product, and to make sure people out there contemplating a ski holiday, know it!"

The Sheriff and Constant Companion Carmen took advantage of back-to-mid-winter conditions by checking out one of their favourite loops from the Kallis Creek parking lot (just past Big White Road) at Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club.

With three centimetres of new snow and -6.6 C, the groomed trails were excellent. Part of Backcountry Trail wasn't groomed (a true backcountry experience) but the downhills of Old Cedar Trail were glorious and refreshing after the climbs.

Kelowna Nordic had great news from the fourth annual (and final) Stride and Glide for cardiac care at KGH on Feb. 10, despite a major challenge.

"The weather was perfect, conditions were great and then Highway 33 was closed in both directions at Joe Rich due to accidents on the icy road. Amazingly enough, word got out and a steady stream of cars (and large trucks) made it up the backroads using McCulloch Road and we had over 80 people up for the event," said coordinator Lyle Nicholson.

"We raised almost $35,000 toward an intra-aortic balloon pump to support cardiac patients who have a depressed or failing heart function, or to support higher-risk cardiac procedures.," he said.

The four-year total from the event is just shy of $180,000.

In other news, Kelowna Nordic has already raised more than $20,000 toward a new $600,000 grooming machine, a great step toward this year's $100,000 goal.

The Cabins and Cookies tour will return from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on March 2, a fun-filled family event with homemade cookies at the four cabins, plus a winter scavenger hunt bingo. Guided ski and snowshoe group tours will leave at 9 a.m. with self-guided route maps available for distances from six to 20 kilometres. Registration will close at 9 p.m. on March 1.


Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre will have a Tails On Trails Skijoring event, in partnership with Pooch Partners, for teams of one person and one pooch at 4 p.m. on March 30. Registration is $30 plus GST for SLNC members and $40 for non-members, with a limit of 25 teams in two category levels—“Breathe Hard” and “Just Dog It.” The route is the stadium to Woodland Bell and back.

If you have any questions about skijoring, and whether you and your teammate might be ready for it, reach out to Shelly at [email protected]. For more about skijoring, go to the Pooch Partners website.


Friends of Black Mountain will hold its AGM at 6:30 p.m. on March 19 at the EECO in Mission Creek Regional Park in Kelowna and is hoping to find several new directors.

Last year, the third year of the regional park development project, the 6.7-kilometre Sntsk’il’nten Trail was completed and significant work was done to the Summit Trail, including the lookout at an elevation of 1,240 metres. An aluminum staircase was also installed. This spring, the Summit Trail will be completed, trail markers and bluebird boxes installed by FBM volunteers and a regional park grand opening will be scheduled.


Feedback on last weekend's column on snowshoeing:

"Nice article, but I have two comments. It's gaiters, not gators. Gators are found in warm swamps in places like Florida," said Rick Gee, snowshoe guru at Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club. "Kicking snow up the back of your leg is not a problem of the snowshoe, it's a problem of the user. You're flipping your tails up instead of keeping them down. Walk with your toes up and your heels down."

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

And introduction to snowshoeing

Snowshoeing 101

Snowshoeing is the ultimate Canadian winter recreation because it's easy to try, relatively inexpensive, you can do it almost anywhere there is snow and you can see what your favourite summer trails look like in the winter.

Snowshoeing has evolved from an essential mode of winter transportation into a popular recreational activity that is an excellent low-impact aerobic exercise, a great social activity and is suitable for all ages and abilities. The old adage is: if you can walk, you can snowshoe.

Everyone expressing interest wants to know how to get started. So the Sheriff prepared the following guide, humourously entitled “Snowshoeing for Dummies.”

The first step is acquiring snowshoes, but which to buy and what to look for? Rather than making the initial investment and perhaps making the wrong choice, borrow a pair (or two) from friends or rent from the 12 downhill resorts and cross-country ski areas in the Southern Interior to check out different brands, features and prices.

If trying a friend's pair or renting, bring the insulated, waterproof winter boots that are comfortable for several hours of hiking to make sure the bindings work for your footwear. The snowshoe footbed has a swivel point in front where you put the ball of your foot but not so far forward that your toe hits the snowshoe base.

Tighten the toe first, then cinch up the back strap, says former guide Roseanne Van Ee of Vernon aka The Okanagan’s Nature Nut.

Snowshoes vary in size from small trail runners (if you want to jog) to larger models effective in deep snow floatation. As a general rule, multiply the width in inches by the length in inches to match your weight in pounds, including your clothing, boots and backpack. (Sorry, it just doesn't work in centimetres and kilograms.)

The Sheriff has several pairs for different conditions. His small Tubbs are eight inches by 20 inches or 160 pounds. The large Snow Mountain (Costco) pair are nine inches by 30 inches or 270 pounds. If you plan to only go on packed trails, buy the small, narrow snowshoes. For deep snow trekking, buy big. If you have both and don't know the conditions, one pair can always be attached to your backpack for switching.

Crampons, the teeth on the bottom of snowshoes, are crucial for climbing, descending and icy trails. Usually the larger, the better. Some come with saw-like rails for even more traction. Get a snowshoe bag because those crampons are murder on floors, vehicle upholstery, etc.

You can try them out by first walking around your backyard, local park or nearby trail.

You don't have to walk with a slightly wider distance between your feet, says Van Ee.

"Just get used to one snowshoe stepping ahead of the other she “says.

In deep snow, raise your feet higher than you would normally.

Many instructors say poles are optional. The Sheriff, unbalanced for most of his life, feels they are crucial for balance and control, especially when snowshoeing up hills, down hills and going cross-hill. You might have two sets of poles with adjustable lengths (keep your arms at a 90-degree angle)—one equipped with small snow baskets for packed (and tight) trails, and one with large baskets for deep snow.

If packed trails are tight, you don't want large baskets catching on every branch beside the trail. Some hiking poles come with optional baskets so they can be used year-round.

If your footing is uncertain, spread your arms with poles out to the side. Plant your poles for stability before putting your snowshoe on that downed tree trunk.

When climbing a hill, lean forward and use your toe crampons for grip (point your toe into the hill). With soft snow, "slide the front of your snowshoe up," says Van Ee. Some snowshoes come with a heel lift, climbing bar or televator which raises the back of your foot to a neutral position when doing a long climb.

When descending a hill, bend your knees, weight slightly back, poles a little longer and forward for balance, and make sure your crampons are digging in the snow. If your snowshoes start to slide, sit down. If you fall on a hill, remove the pole straps, place your body uphill of your snowshoes, turn your snowshoes sideways to the hill, push onto your knees and stand up. If the snow is soft, grab the middle of your poles and push them against the snow as you rise. In really soft snow, cross the poles.

If you are traversing or going sideways across a hillside, the uphill snowshoe should dig into the slope to make a flat surface to stand on and then keep your weight mainly on that snowshoe. If you have adjustable poles, shorten your uphill pole and lengthen your downhill pole.

Don't try to walk backwards (dare your friends to try) but do a U-turn by shuffling in a semi-circle.

As for attire, dress for winter conditions using non-cotton layers which can be removed before you start to sweat and get cold. Use a waterproof, breathable shell jacket and pants on top. "Good warm mitts or gloves are much more environmentally-friendly than disposable handwarmers," says Van Ee.

The Sheriff highly recommends gators if your snowshoes always seem to kick snow onto the back of the legs.

"A good pair of snowshoes shouldn’t kick snow onto your legs. That’s why I like Tubbs," says Van Ee.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


Southern Interior now a B.C. mecca for skiing

Colder, new snow at ski hills

The return of cold temperatures and new snow this week have Southern Interior ski hills very optimistic for February and March.

Last Tuesday morning, for example, Big White Ski Resort issued a “Powder Alert” after 17 centimetres of fresh snow fell during the previous 24 hours for a base of 171 cm. The quality of snow is always dependent on temperature, in this case -4 C at 7 a.m., i.e. soft powder.

The cumulative year-to-date total was 3.57 metres compared to the 10-year average for Feb. 1 of 4.14metres (a range of 3.23 metres to 5.26 metres) and an average base of 1.87 metres (a range of 142 metres to 2.35 metres). "We've had plenty of years better and a few not so much," noted senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall.

SilverStar Mountain Resort reported seven centimetres during the previous 24 hours, 19 cm in 48 hours and 24 cm during the past seven days, so most of it fresh powder. The cumulative total was 3.46 metres. Nearby Sovereign Lake Nordic Centre had similar numbers.

Apex Mountain Resort had 14 cm in 24 hours, 17 cm in seven days on a base of 1.14 metres and total accumulation of 2.57 metres. Sun Peaks Resort had eight cms in 48 hours, 19 cm in seven days and an alpine base of 1.41 metres.

Compare that to the three Lower Mainland ski hills and and one on Vancouver Island, where warm, wet weather stripped much of the snow from Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain, Cypress and Mt. Washington. They all closed for several days last week. Mount Seymour was still temporarily closed Wednesday. Grouse had half of its six ski lifts open with early-season conditions. Cypress had just one out of more than 30 runs open and one lift of six operational. Mt. Washington received nine cm on Wednesday but still had numerous runs and lifts closed.

"Our current base is down 70 cm comparing Feb. 5, 2023 to Feb. 5, 2024," said Apex GM James Shalman on Monday, noting skier visits were down 35% comparing those two dates.

Early snowfall last season allowed Apex to open every run on the mountain on Dec. 2, 2022, one week earlier than the scheduled opening date what was described as amazing conditions and a base more than 100 cm. This season saw a slow opening, with discounted lift tickets and reduced terrain open for most of December.

"We're in a mountain environment. We take the good with the bad,” Shalman said. “This one, we've had a lot of swings from extreme warm to extreme cold. But that's fine, you roll with it.” .

He said the numbers are definitely down, “especially if I'm comparing to last year because last year, we had a phenomenal opening. I'm hoping we have quite a bit more snow just to set us up for the last half of the season, February and March can be absolutely fantastic as far as snowfall and snow quantity."

Baldy Mountain Resort services manager Brandan Datoff said rain definitely didn't help his South Okanagan hill but thanks to groomers, all runs remained open.

At Kelowna Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club, this has been a trying year, said president John Davina. "Last year, we had an early snowfall, skiing by mid-November. This year, the snow was almost a month late. As such, our membership is down a little as well as our day-use passes."

The club also has to deal with old grooming equipment that had numerous breakdowns to date causing financial hardship. As such, the club is full steam ahead in fund-raising for a new $600,000 groomer.

At Nickel Plate Nordic Centre, this season has been “amazing” in many respects but challenging in others respects, said Kevin Dyck, marketing and communications manager.

The ski area's higher elevation had sufficient snow for exceptional skiing as the season began. As a result of extensive advertising, skiers came from throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as from eastern provinces and U.S., he said.

Even with those new faces, overall numbers are down, causing financial pressure, so grooming was halted on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the ticket and rental office is closed those days. The centre itself, including the day lodge and bathrooms, remains open without office staff. The base, usually about 100 cm and lasting into May, is currently at 45 cm.

At Telemark Nordic Centre it has been a challenging year in terms of the weather and snow, said GM Mike Edwards. "It has definitely resulted in fewer people coming out,” he said. “The number of season pass holders is pretty close to last year (longest season ever) but the number of day-users buying passes and renting skis is down 30% to 50%, a bit of a challenge financially. Last year, we had a 90 cm base, while this year we just have 50 cm."

Extensive trail work and summer grooming and brushing using a flail mower purchased two years ago allowed skiing on low snow starting Dec. 16. The club used its new e-snowmobile, two other snowmobiles, a side-by-side machine and a new grooming roller purchased last year for manual grooming (not the big Pisten Bully) until Christmas.

"With normal temps and snowfall over the next few weeks, we hope to have a good second half of the XC ski and snowshoe season with great conditions to at least the middle of March," he said.

"Although we've been hit with some drastic fluctuations, all things considered, RMR has a decent snowpack up top thanks to our elevation. It appears that the Interior will be bouncing back this week so we will continue to look forward to the snow and 2.5 months of winter we have left to enjoy," said Laura Meggs, Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s communications manager in the marketing department.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

More Making Tracks articles

About the Author

J.P. Squire arrived in the Okanagan Valley from flatland Chatham, Ont. in the middle of the night in the spring of 1980. Waking up in the Highway 97 motel, he looked across the then-four-lane roadway at Mount Baldy and commented: "Oh my God, there's mountains." Driving into downtown Kelowna, he exclaimed: "Oh my God, there's a lake."

The rest is history. After less than a month in Kelowna, he concluded: "I'm going to live here for a long time." And he did.

Within weeks and months, he was hiking local hillsides, playing rec hockey at Memorial Arena and downhill skiing at Big White Ski Resort. After purchasing a hobby farm in the Glenmore Valley in 1986, he bought the first of many Tennessee Walking Horses. After meeting Constant Companion Carmen in 1999, he bought two touring kayaks and they began exploring Interior lakes and B.C.'s coast.

The outdoor recreation column began with downhill ski coverage every winter as the Ski Sheriff but soon progressed to a year-round column as the Hiking, Biking, Kayaking and Horseback Riding Sheriff.

His extensive list of contacts in Okanagan outdoor recreation clubs, organizations and groups means a constant flow of emails about upcoming events and activities which will be posted on Castanet every Sunday.

You can email the Sheriff at: [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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