Get outside and play in the snow. This is the single best mantra you can repeat to yourself the next time you visit Silver Star Mountain Resort.
I grew up in Vernon, just 20 minutes away in the valley below the snowy peak and learned to ski and snowboard on the 115 runs and 1,240 hectares of vastly varied terrain of the North Okanagan mountain. (Today's newer, faster lifts reach more expansive territory since the time I was a kid.)
I'm biased but I still want you to know how much I love these slopes. Silver Star is one of Canada's best winter playgrounds.
I'm not the only one who believes this.
In the November-December issue of Okanagan Life magazine, readers voted Silver Star the best ski hill and the best family resort, favouring it over Big White and Apex. The magazine's cover shows a candy-coloured village in front of a robin's-egg blue sky and the region's unique snow-capped ghost trees. A child's beaming face fills one corner.
The image does the resort justice. Owners of family homes, hundred-room hotels, restaurants and shops embrace a local bylaw and each slather their building in at least five riotous hues. The buildings are turquoise, amber, scarlet, violet and more. (Some newer condos, to my disappointment, have dulled the landscape with shades of beige, brown, khaki, eggshell and off-white. Some fuchsia trim would go along way, just saying.)
Silver Star positions itself as a family friendly resort. It is very much this, but the resort's appeal isn't limited to mom and pop on a weekend getaway with 2.4 kids. When I was four I started skiing with my parents, who left me in the hands of ski instructors until I was good enough to join them.
Today the school is renowned internationally and its skilled instructors draw elite skiers and boarders of all ages from around the globe.
Putnam Creek, the north-facing backside called the Dark Side, draws advanced skiers and boarders hungry for deep powder and steep drops on narrow chutes on runs like "Gowabunga," "Gong Show," "Three Wise Men," and the always alluring "Free Fall."
On the other side of the hill (where you can see the northern end of Okanagan and Kalamalka lakes below near the town of Vernon), the Attridge face has the yawning "Christmas Bowl" and the kinds of tree-tight terrain custom-made for first tracks in Champagne powder. This is where I came as a teenager in my oversized man's Concept jacket (remember them?). I'd drive up with friends on a school day and return to class in the afternoon wearing my flannel underclothes.
My favourite run, however, isn't black diamond or mogulled. It's a free and easy ride down Far Out. This is a green run, one of the easiest and also longest, at Silver Star. I like to coast down the hill like it's a breaking wave and meander the roller-coaster of this wonderful, laid-back ride at the fastest speed possible.
Playtime isn't limited to vertical slopes, which I'm reminded of every time I visit. I was back in December and this time treated my parents to treats at Bugaboos, a ski-in-ski-out pastry shop whose baker was the hand-chosen prince of his Dutch city in 1998. I can't recommend just one, but, savoury or sweet, everything is delicious and custom-made to rise at high altitude.
You'd do yourself a disservice to visit Silver Star and miss out on cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating or tubing. Oh, and there's bowling, too. With four lanes, Pinheads Bowling Alley is the only 10-pin game operating at a mountain resort in Canada.
Nordic skiers have access to more than 105 kilometres of tracks, which are groomed daily and suited to both classic and skate skiers. These wide-ranging trails lead athletes all over the mountain and draw elite competitors training for world championships and winter Olympics. The network of trails also caters to shorter jaunts and crisscrosses the forest to reach mountain cabins accessible only on foot and warmed by cast-iron stove.
Step off the open tracks of Nordic pathways and disappear into the woods where, on snowshoes, you can explore forest that is virtually unreachable in summer. You can follow packed trails or take a guided tour from passionate naturalist Roseanne Van Ee. Her reputation and effervescence are second to none.
When you go tubing, take my advice and hit these chutes on a clear night. This is when they're at their icy finest.
In the video posted with this story, you can hear my delighted screams.
I've grown up playing in the snow at Silver Star and won't soon be stopping.