Elevated Experiences: Summer in British Columbia’s Mountain Resorts

No dust sheets on the downhill anymore, British Columbia’s ski resorts are keeping the gondolas going for hikers and mountain bikers by day and focusing on après-sun fun afterwards.

There’s a whole mountain menu of outdoor activities to suit every tastebud. As well as wildflowers, wildlife, and wilderness, dishes of the day range from mountain biking, ziplining, horse riding and even bear viewing.

Invermere, Kootenay Rockies - credit: Greywolf Golf Course/Don WeixlBritish Columbia is Canada’s number one golf destination and when snow melts in spring, golf emerges at resorts like Sun Peaks which houses BC’s highest course at 1200m elevation, aptly named ‘The Golf Course’. At Whistler there are four championship courses scenically surrounded by snowy peaks, with summer temperatures typically between 17-27 degrees. The Kootenay Rockies region of British Columbia boasts over 25 18-hole resorts, all part of a trail meandering through the mountains and pretty local towns. An infamous 6th hole at Greywolf Golf Course at Panorama Mountain Village is called ‘Cliffhanger’, ranked one of the best holes in the world, the course clings to a Purcell Mountain Range plateau with plummets on three sides. Après golf, everyone perches at the Cliffhanger bar followed by a dip in the mineral hot pools.

Many of BC’s ski resorts have created lift-accessed bike parks for use during the summer, with trail systems for every comfort zone. Highlights include SilverStar’s 35-km Beowulf expert trail through cedar forests and Whistler’s Bike Park, which gives newbies a head start in the Fitzsimmon Range, plus over 300km of biking trails.  For more leisurely exploration the Valley Trail provides a scenic paved pathway winding past alpine lakes with plenty of picnic spots. Uniquely, multiple BC resorts also offer gravity-assisted ‘heli-biking’ with incredible access to some of the mountains most remote trails and terrain.

Megaboard - credit: photographer Bodie ShandroAlpine water sports take place throughout BC on cool mountain lakes and wild river whitewater.  Paddle a traditional Voyageur canoe at Sun Peaks Resort on beautiful McGillivray Lake or try stand-up paddle boarding on a family-sized board at Heffley Lake, only minutes from the resort and home to turtle, loons, osprey and eagles. 

For thrill seekers, fly through the forest on a three-hour canopy zipline in the Treetop Aerial Park, 60 feet above the ground at Fernie Alpine Resort.  Kicking Horse Mountain Resort has carved itself an adventurous reputation during the winter, but summer visitors can also find themselves dangling off the Hanging Glory Suspension Bridge 1,000 feet above the valley floor, the ultimate adrenaline rush along with a Via Ferrata climbing course, both with spectacular views of the Rockies. Other inventive ways to get around the mountains include Sun Peaks’ off-road Segway tours or riding Revelstoke’s Pipe Mountain Coaster which drops downhill at speeds of up to 42km/hr whilst showing off some of the best views and is perfect for families.   Summer tubing on the bunny hill at pastel-perfect SilverStar is another family frolic, the buildings throughout the village and dotting the mountainsides are so prettily painted – a cross between Disneyland and The Sound of Music.

Kicking Horse Mountain Resort, Kootenay Rockies - credit: Destination BC/Ryan CrearyHotels at the resorts are also diversifying with unique activity offerings such as the Four Seasons Whistler’s tandem bike and picnic experience. And festivals are re-inventing in increasingly unique formats: for example, Big White’s Craft and Country Mountain Festival, with local beer tasting, live music and unique craft stalls;  SilverStar’s Mile High Wine Festival with art shows and music to complement Canada’s highest outdoor tasting event at 5,280 feet above sea level; and Sun Peaks’ Mountain Spirit Festival, with wellness workshops, yoga sessions and experiences to connect with nature, all in the fresh mountain air.  

Scenic gondola or chairlift rides throughout BC open up mountain tops and alpine meadows flush with wildflowers to independent alpine hikers and sightseers or those on guided tours. New this year, Revelstoke’s gondola accesses the mile-high peak and zigzagging trails all summer. Here you can soak up glacier views from The Mackenzie Outpost or linger over a panoramic brunch on the Revelation Lodge deck. And, for really remote R’n’R, there’s deluxe heli-hiking with CMH’s Summer Adventures, exploring their heli-accessed skiing terrain at the top of the world.

Kootenay Rockies - credit: Destination BC/Ryan CrearyThe magic of mountains in the summer means warm weather during the day, balmy evenings, but cooler nights, perfect for a good night’s rest. The incredible lake and mountain scenery, with swathes of untrammelled wilderness, makes for abundant wow-factor wildlife. And the ski resort standards of great gastronomy and easy-going hospitality continue into summer. The final bonus: the breath-taking scenery makes even the journeys an integral part of the exhilarating experience!

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Canadian Sky.

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Louise Hudson

Travel & ski writer

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