As more and more Aussies flock to Canada each year, in search of those perfect powder days, epic tree runs and delicious post-ski poutines, we get more and more interested in the resorts to be found off the beaten track.
The ones where you’re more likely to find locals on the chairlifts and in the bars than fellow Aussies, and where the runs may be few but the snow is about as good as it gets.
Canada has a plethora of quiet achieving ski areas perfect for those wanting to stay under the radar. Just don’t tell anyone (yes, that’s irony).
If you hate crowds even more than you hate people who stop in really inconvenient spots on the mountain, you need to rent a car in Vancouver and take the 12 hour drive north to head straight to Shames, located just out of the tiny town of Terrace. Lucky for you there are also direct flights from Vancouver to this tiny town. Either way, it’s remote which means no crowds.
This is a mountain so loved by the locals that they helped to fund it under a co-op model to keep the three lifts running. You can now go between Friday through to Monday (or Thursday through to Monday in peak season) and explore the 28 runs, which get an incredible average of 12 metres per season.
Backcountry lovers will especially love this mountain for the 7800 acres of backcountry on offer – just be sure to be well-prepared, as always, with the right gear and hopefully make friends with a local along the way who can point you in the right direction for the best turns.
It’s rare to hear Castle Mountain mentioned in any conversations about ski resorts in Canada, but that’s because the mountain’s biggest fans aren’t talking about the resort – they’re way too busy skiing and snowboarding the 94 trails, serviced by six lifts and covering 3592 acres.
An average of 9 metres of snowfall per year doesn’t hurt, either – it’s the ultimate stop on a road trip across the Powder Highway, and it’s bound to make you happy with some fresh snowfall and beautiful views. You’ll find it at the end of a long, long remote road and everyone you meet will own part of the mountain as the resort has over the years been funded by hundreds of local skiers. So you know it’s good.
Even better, those who’d like to mix it up with some cat skiing can opt for a day with Powder Stagecoach Cat Skiing for just over AU$400 per day. With a hot buffet breakfast, packed lunch, your avi gear and a full day of cat skiing, they keep costs down by making use of a chairlift to meet the snow cat at the top of the mountain, where it’ll take you higher up into sidecountry to make the most of the freshies.
Whitewater (and – bonus – Red Mountain)
My personal favourite Canadian mountain, Whitewater is about as authentic as it gets – plus it gets some of the best powder to be found anywhere in British Columbia. There are 82 runs to explore and four lifts to take you to them all, and you can expect about 12m of snow to fall throughout the season.
Bring your strongest ski legs, your appetite (there’s a great ski lodge at the base serving up all the Canadian favourites so buy their cook book, it’s famous) and be sure to be in the mood for plenty of tree runs, because you can spend all day here without ever laying skis on a groomer.
Better yet, make a weekend of your time in Whitewater and stay in nearby Nelson overnight, which is like the Byron Bay of interior British Columbia – except without the crowds.
Then head to Red Mountain, not far from Whitewater, a ski resort that was once crowd-funded by locals and maintains a low-key presence that makes the absolute most of its natural environment. Try 110 runs spread across 4200 acres, 7 lifts and beautifully open bowls, one of which is accessible by what may be the cheapest cat in the world. Climb on the Mt Kirkup cat as many times as you like throughout the day for just $10 a lap.
If you’re skiing at Big White or SilverStar in interior British Columbia this upcoming season, find a day in your schedule to head to Apex. It’s a truly hidden gem and much-loved by locals, who make the most of the fun variety of terrain and the light, dry, fluffy powder across 73 runs.
While there’s some great (and steep) tree skiing to be found, Apex is also known for its groomers. If you love carving down a steep section of perfectly maintained corduroy, Apex will be your ultimate playground. For skating lovers, be sure to stop by the beautiful kilometre-long skating loop that winds through the forest there.
When it’s time for après, head to one of the best bars you’ll find anywhere in Canada, the Gunbarrel Saloon. That’s not even hyperbole – it’s been voted the best ski bar in Canada a bunch of times over by those in the snow. Be sure to try the Gunbarrel Coffee, which is a particularly toe-warming beverage involving fire, Grand Marnier and the barrel of a shotgun.
Mt Baldy is about as shhhhhh-don’t-tell-anyone-about-this-killer-resort as it gets, and with good reason – having just re-opened a few years ago, it’s quickly gaining a local reputation as the only place you want to be on an incredible powder day. Watch the forecast and then do whatever you can to get over to Baldy when they’ve had anything over 10 centimeres.
Even better if it’s on a Thursday, because they close on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to allow for powder accumulation.
Although there are only 37 runs serviced by two chairlifts, you can essentially explore the entire mountain, including 240 acres of glades. Bonus? You’ll have the mountain all to yourself. Double bonus? Your adult lift ticket will only cost you CAD$57 for the day.
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