Situated within easy access of the sandy beaches and big city amenities of downtown Vancouver are thousands of acres of alpine skiing, snowboarding and a multitude of winter sport venues for all levels of ability. Host region for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, British Columbia offers a stunning array of world-class options year round. The 2011 Ski Season is shaping up to be an exciting time, with early openings for Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain, Whistler Village and Sun Peaks and Whistler Village will be host the 20th Anniversary of Whistler gay ski week, known as WinterPride.
Just 15 minutes from downtown Vancouver is the fabulous Grouse Mountain Resort known as The Peak of Vancouver. This incredible mountaintop area offers a vast array of services and activities including skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating, sleigh rides, shopping, dining and more. All this is yours to enjoy after experiencing the breathtaking one mile aerial journey via the Grouse Mountain Skyride.
Photos courtesy of Tourism Whistler
Whistler Village, a world renowned, world-class ski resort located within two hours of downtown Vancouver, is easily accessed by car, motor coach or rail. Whistler and it's resort partners are regularly rated #1 in North America on numerous levels by such prestigious publications as Conde Nast Traveler, Freeskier Magazine and Skiing Magazine among others. Over 7,000 acres of ski-able terrain on Whistler and Blackcomb mountains can be reached directly via lifts originating in the heart of Whistler Village, just steps from major hotels. Whistler Village is world-class in every sense, with fabulous accommodations, excellent restaurants and pubs, a thriving nightlife and shopping galore.
Photo Credit: Silver Star mountain / John Ajersch Photo Credit: Silver Star mountain / Brian Sprout
Gay travellers from all over the world are well aware of the Okanagan Valley’s world famous wineries, shimmering lakes and outstanding scenery. In the winter, the action moves up to Big White and Silver Star – Canada’s largest ski-in and ski-out villages. Experience the difference that 100 per cent natural snow makes as you carve and glide around the infamous ‘snow ghosts’ – powder-caked trees that are our signature feature.
Silver Star’s colourful mid-mountain village is truly one of a kind! Stay in the luxurious Snowbird Lodge – located right on the slopes and steps away from bars, cafes and restaurants. Ski or board on three mountain faces – mild, immaculately groomed intermediate trails on the Vance Creek side, or wild, double-black diamond expert thrills on the Putnam Creek backside.
At Big White, “it’s the snow” is the motto, with over 700 centimetres of dry Okanagan powder falling annually. Choose from 118 marked trails or carve first tracks in the five alpine bowls. Big White boasts room for 17,000 guests on virtually every budget. Many condominiums and luxury accommodations feature ‘hot tubs on the deck’ – the perfect way to soothe sore muscles after a day on the slopes.
Big White and Silver Star both offer a variety of adventurous non-skiing activities as well. Bundle up under the heavy blankets and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride. Don a pair of snowshoes and take a tour with a naturalist. At Silver Star, you can combine a snowshoe trip to the Wild Horseman’s Cabin for a luxurious dinner, and take a horse-drawn sleigh ride back to the Village.
Fancy cross-country skiing? It’s a great way to get some exercise and breathe in that crisp, invigorating alpine air. Silver Star features over 100 kilometres of track set trails, while Big White 25 kilometres of track-set trails are awaiting exploration.
Nothing beats a snowmobile tour for a heart-pounding adrenaline rush! Snowmobiles are easy to operate and guided tours are available that will take you deep into the wilderness.
The Okanagan, as it its known locally, is also home to a diverse GLBT community that operate a wide range of businesses and services throughout the region. Unlike larger urban centres, there are no obvious focal points such as a gay village, or bar scene, however, the Okanagan Rainbow Coalition proudly hosts the Annual Okanagan Pride Festival each June, and offer a current website with an calendar of events: www.gayokanagan.com .
Located in a valley surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, the Monashee Mountains and the Cariboo Mountains, the village of Valemount, population 1,500, is a year-round outdoor adventure destination. Local amenities include a bar, retail shops, restaurants, bar & pub, post office and a number of accommodation options.
Valemount is the home of Mount Robson, the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies (3,954 metres) and the origin of the Fraser River. This region offers a wide range of activities, including snowmobiling and heli-skiing in winter, as well as hiking, camping, and trail riding in the summer.