Translating Meteorology into Slope Selection (Big White Weather Part 2)

In Part 1 of my (all too Canadian) Big White weather series, I mentioned that I learned that dressing for the weather was not as vitally important as I once thought. Not going to lie, it’s still important to know that booty shorts in the snow are inappropriate (except on Australia day, where “Aussie rules” apply like its football and it magically becomes warm enough to board in a bikini without instantly freezing). In Big White as a whole however, knowing how to dress for the weather pales in comparison to knowing how to ride for the weather.

In Big White, each area of the hill has a very particular type of terrain and a particular type of weather that suits each area best. Fortunately for all of you, I’ve evaluated Big White’s weather and runs well enough to be able to tell which type of slope you should attempt to conquer in each meteorological condition. I’ve divided everything up by lift, but in case you’re not familiar with the hill, here’s a map:

With numbers for easy labelling and everything!

With numbers for easy labelling and everything!

Here’s the breakdown:

 (1) Gem Lake Express and Falcon Chair: Ride through the snow: Gem Lake and Falcon are great on days when it’s actively snowing. Gem Lake has a huge selection of blues and blacks, which are great when you can spend long runs gliding over top of them when they’re covered in fresh powder. Unless you’re doing Kalina’s rainbow (which is a great introductory run to the area), everyone tends to disperse fairly quickly, so if it’s snowing, early tracks can quickly get covered, giving you a fresh route all day long.

(2) Powder Chair: Ride on cloudy powder days: the pistes down powder and fairly tight and flag pole, corkscrew and powder glades offer great riding when low-lying clouds white out most of the hill (the clouds can’t get between the trees – muwa haha).

Also, it just feels depressing to be on powder chair when there’s no powder snow. It’s like the hill is lying to me!

Trees > clouds

Trees > clouds

(3) Snow Ghost and Ridge Rocket Express: Ride on weekdays: these two lifts offer something for everyone, from cruise-y green runs and loose trees down Serwa’s to tight, steep moguls down the black piece of cake (along with a massive selection of blues). As a result of catering to everyone however, everyone wants to ride these lifts and although Big White is usually good at keeping lift lines down, these two are the most likely to keep you waiting, then have you weaving in and out of other riders on your way down.

With that, weekdays (other than during Christmas holidays) are always less busy and mornings especially will allow you to have some extra space.

(4) Alpine T – Bar and Bullet Express: Ride in high visibility and low winds: the runs around here are very open, so you’re literally skiing blind if you run into low-lying clouds. Seriously, I’ve had days where skiing through trees on black runs was less terrifying than the green Highway 33 (it’s hard to avoid crashing into newbie boarders if you can’t see them until you’re on top of them). The Bullet express lift itself is also infamous for freezing riders on the way up, since it’s got about 1/100 of the tree cover of any of the other lifts.

That being said, the Alpine T – Bar’s got other worldly views from the summit and Bullet Express is usually far less busy than Snow Ghost, Ridge Rocket and Black Forest Express.

I always feel a little bit like I've somehow ended up on Mars' north pole whenever I'm at the top of the Alpine T - Bar

I always feel a little bit like I’ve somehow ended up on Mars’ north pole whenever I’m at the top of the Alpine T – Bar

(5) Cliff Chair: Ride on a bluebird after a powder day: this chair is called “Cliff” for a reason. If you’re going down any of the double black diamonds, you have to start off by literally throwing yourself off the side of a vertical cliff, then proceed to traverse down a 89 degree slope. Like the (stupidly calm in comparison) Alpine T – Bar, the snow at the summit tends to freeze more often than the rest of the mountain and since the top section is an open bowl, you’re blind again in bad visibility.

Basically, ride in weather you’re prepared to die in; the runs at cliff are short, but intense.

The photo doesn't even begin to do it justice, it's a full run of nothing but screams (awesome, adrenaline filled screams, but STILL)!

The photo doesn’t even begin to do it justice, it’s a full run of nothing but screams (awesome, adrenaline filled screams, but STILL)!

(6) TELUS Park Chair: Ride at night: I’ve only been to the terrain park a couple times, but the point of the area seems to be to look cooler than everyone else there. So naturally, riding at night under the park lights ups your coolness by +10 automatically. Also, lots of the day-tripppers have taken off by this point, so it won’t be anywhere near as busy.

(7) Black Forest Express: Ride when the terrain’s icy: when covered in a layer of fluffy powder, Black Forest Express is the go-to lift for intermediate riders. However, since over half the runs are intermediate blues, there’s no point restricting yourself to Black Forest on these days.

If it’s been warm and less snowy however, the west side of the hill really suffers, but Black Forest comes into its prime. The runs are always well groomed, and on days where the snow is well packed, you can zip to the bottom at breakneck speeds.

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