When driving into Silver Star Mountain Resort near Vernon, British Columbia, you enter a colorful village modeled after an 1800s-era mining town that feels a bit like visiting a theme park.
The resort has a dizzying array of things to do.
With 3,282 acres of skiing and a vertical drop of 2,500 feet, Silver Star’s alpine slopes are legit. With Canada’s largest system of Nordic trails (62.5 miles), skinny-skiers will find days of terrain to glide upon.
Beyond the slopes, there’s an ice-skating pond, a tubing hill, fat biking, snowshoeing and even the world’s only ski-in, ski-out bowling alley – of all things. Among its creature comforts are 18 restaurants and drinking spots and an Aveda Concept Spa.
So, yes, everyone in the family will have plenty to do at Silver Star.
This year, there’s another reason to visit: Silver Star has a new gondola from its midmountain resort village to summit at 6,280 feet, offering a climate-controlled ride in the snowy mountains of British Columbia’s Okanagan region.
“Because our village is at midmountain, our accommodations are 100 percent ski-in, ski-out,” said Wesla Wong of Silver Star. “Once you get here, you never have to drive anywhere.”
That’s appealing after a six-hour drive from Spokane. If you choose to visit, consider the early season – the resort opens reliably in mid-to-late November every year.
Because its Nordic trails are so good, Silver Star is particularly attractive to families that enjoy alpine and cross-country skiing.
“Many of our families who stay for extended periods do both,” Wong said.
Silver Star’s cross country trails hook up with the extensive network in neighboring Sovereign Lake Provincial Park, home to the North America’s largest Nordic ski club.
On the alpine slopes at Silver Star, you’ll find a large Australian presence. The resort is owned by Jane Cann, from the Australian family that once also owned Silver Star and neighbor Big White, near Kelowna. In 2012, the resorts split up, with Cann getting control of Silver Star and her brother Peter Schumann getting Big White, and like many ski resorts in Western Canada, it is marketed heavily Down Under.
“We are very popular with Australian families,” Wong said. “We have many who come here and stay for a month or more.”
One famous Australian who visits is actress Nicole Kidman, whose family owns a home on the slopes of Silver Star.
“She’s been here numerous times,” Wong said. “I think she likes it because people don’t really bother her here.”
During a visit last winter, Kidman was seen at the Aveda spa, a new feature in 2018.
On its alpine slopes, Silver Star has a mostly intermediate front side and a steep, north-facing back side called Putnam Creek. The double-diamond, gladed terrain of Putnam Creek is challenging and feels like another world from the Easter egg-colored buildings of the village. At the top of Putnam Creek is a full-service restaurant called Paradise Camp, a cozy place for a midday meal.
The front-side groomers attract much of the skiing traffic at Silver Star, but even on a busy day last winter, the powder holds up on Attridge, an area off to the southwest of the resort’s summit. The Alpine Meadows fixed-grip quad that serves this section of the resort was nearly empty, delivering untracked turns all day.
“Some days are so quiet you feel like you’re skiing alone,” Wong said. “It’s not like skiing at a massive place like Whistler.”
That’s the attraction of skiing in British Columbia’s interior. While Whistler offers undeniably great skiing, it’s expensive and often crowded. Silver Star and neighbors Big White and Sun Peaks are great values comparatively, and many skiers will visit the three interior B.C. ski resorts in one trip as an alternative to Whistler Blackcomb.
For Silver Star, the new gondola will help separate itself from Big White and Sun Peaks. It will offer skiers an indoor ride to the summit of the ski area and allow nonskiers the ability to get to the top of the mountain.
“People who don’t ski will have the option of riding it up to the top just to see the view,” Wong said.
Once they’re on top, they can grab a hot drink at the new Lookout Cafe. Eventually, the resort plans to add a larger facility to attract year-round business, including weddings during the summer months.
For Nordic skiers, the gondola will offer the opportunity to ride to the top of the mountain to access the resort’s extensive trails system. Many of Silver Star’s Nordic trails wind through the top of the mountain, offering high-elevation skiing.
Silver Star’s Nordic trails connect with the trails system operated by Sovereign Lake Nordic Club, offering Canada’s largest groomed network with 105 kilometers of skiing. The combined trails attract Olympic-caliber skiers to train, particularly early in the season.