After a day on the slopes, explore the nightlife and events that make B.C. ski hills unique
The routine is the same at ski resorts around the world – when the chairlifts and gondolas shut down at the end of the ski day, it marks the beginning of après-ski, that time when people gather to swap stories about their day on the slopes or use the opportunity to sample other cold-season activities.
“Traditional après-ski was everyone getting together with drinks to recap the day,” says Steve Paccagnan, president and CEO of Panorama Mountain Resort. “The parents spent a couple hours around libations while the kids ran circles around the lodge. We’re going beyond that now. People are more into experiences.”At Panorama, that means keynote speakers with inspiring and motivational messages, fat biking, savouring long table-themed dinners, soaking in one of Canada’s largest hot tubs or attending fun events like the High Notes Winter Music Festival.
But the après trend Mr. Paccagnan is really excited about is the variety of options being offered by ski resorts throughout British Columbia. “It’s not just about cookie-cutter experiences, the ones that are the same at every resort,” he says. “Resorts are embracing what’s uniquely theirs and tying their geography and assets together to create new experiences. ”One example is Panorama’s heli-fondue at the Summit Hut. A helicopter shuttles groups of up to 24 people to the restaurant at the top of the resort for a cheese fondue dinner followed by a guided headlamp-ski back down to the base. It’s only possible because RK Heliski’s base is conveniently situated in the resort village. In another partnership with a local business, artistic-minded skiers can wind down the day creating jewellery out of glass beads they make themselves. “You can’t do either of those things anywhere else,” says Mr. Paccagnan.
On the culinary side, he says skiers and boarders are increasingly looking for the same thing: unique, authentic and differentiated food experiences.
In this area, Whitewater Ski Resort is a leader. “Their on-slope food offering is an iconic, boutique experience,” he says. “They pride themselves on a very strong culinary experience. ”The resort’s Fresh Tracks Cafe, at an elevation of 5,400 feet, serves everything from pub fare to gourmet offerings. The Whitewater Cooks series of nationally bestselling cookbooks by Shelley Adams showcases recipes from the restaurant’s menu.
Fresh Tracks Cafe closes its doors when the ski lifts shut down for the day, but Coal Oil Johnny’s Pub stays open for après and shares the same kitchen. Favourites include a portobello veggie burger and miso mushroom poutine. To wash it down, try Nelson Brewing Company’s locally brewed organic and traditionally styled beers.
Whitewater influences, and is influenced by, nearby Nelson. This vibrant city has more than 70 restaurants serving many ethnic flavours as well as a lively performing arts and culture scene. Kimberley Alpine Resort is also a foodie destination.
The village of Kimberley, population only 6,600, is home to 42 restaurants. Many are on the European-inspired walking street called the Platzl. Dinner menus offer everything from pub fare like fish and chips to a range of vegetarian options.
At Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, the food-related attraction is all about location. The Eagle’s Eye Restaurant at 7,700 feet is at the summit of the resort and is the highest-elevation restaurant in Canada. The 360-degree mountain views extend to three mountain ranges during the day, and at night the stars are spectacular.
Throughout the Christmas holidays and on select nights through the rest of the season, Eagle’s Eye opens for dinner. Reach it via the gondola, long after the rest of the resort shuts down – it’s a unique experience made better by extending your stay to overnight in the suite above the restaurant.
Another example of a unique experience is at Fernie Alpine Resort’s Ice Bar, where you can sample 20 varieties of vodka in shot glasses made of ice served on a frozen bar. Fernie also embraces the early settlers, loggers, homesteaders, coal miners and skiers with the annual Griz Days Winter Festival in February. The three-day event includes everything from parades to street hockey, bacon-eating contests and scavenger hunts. The main event is the Extreme Griz Competition, a quirky multi-stage test of mountain toughness.
Après takes on a decidedly active bent at SilverStar Mountain Resort. If a day on the slopes of the ski hill doesn’t tire you out, there’s snowshoeing, fat biking, skating, tubing and 105 kilometres of nordic ski trails, some of it lit for night skiing. Buy a My1Pass and it’s all covered under one ticket.
Revelstoke Mountain Resort’s reputation for extreme extends beyond the steep terrain, big mountains and deep snow to the sky. It’s one of the only ski resorts in British Columbia that allows paragliding off its runs and also offers tandem flights. Tethered to a guide, you’ll ski until you gain enough speed to lift off with the aid of a modified parachute and slowly float down to the valley.
Things get wild in a different way at Big White Ski Resort’s Happy Valley Adventure Centre. The hub of after-skiing fun caters to the whole family. Kids can try miniature snowmobiles and everyone can try ice climbing. There’s also ice skating on Canada’s highest outdoor skating rink, tubing, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Parents can nestle into the Kettle Valley Steakhouse, where hungry skiers can try the famous 50-oz. Tomahawk steak and sample the extensive Okanagan wine list.
There’s no shortage of places to party after a day on the slopes at Whistler Blackcomb. Dusty’s – the village’s first après-ski bar – GLC, and Merlin’s, famous for its presentation of a ski of shots, are at the base of the mountains. And if you want something completely different, consider the Winemaker Après Series at Steeps Grill & Wine Bar, where world-class wines are paired with meals featuring locally sourced ingredients in a truly spectacular setting at the top of Whistler Mountain.
Back at Panorama, Mr. Paccagnan says the range of après-ski options are all part of a shift in the way people spend their leisure time.
“They want experiences in tune with the mountains and nature that also connect them to place,” he says. “These experiences really add to the memories created on the slopes.”
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