Friday, March 28, 2014

Silver Star

Silver Star by Louise Hudson
All ski resorts are by nature beautiful, with the snowy white blanket smoothing out manmade imperfections and fir trees adding dark perspective. But Silver Star near Vernon, BC, Canada, goes one step further to postcard perfection: The whole town is gorgeous with bright colours and pretty pastels adorning every building.
Influenced by San Francisco’s colourful rainbow row houses, the Victorian-style architecture reminded me of Whoville (from How The Grinch Stole Christmas). Porches and boardwalks, paned glass, cute window and door frames are all festooned in every shade of a kids’ paintbox, making for a vivid contrast with the monochromatic black-and-white of the winter backdrop.

Silver Star village centre
It’s not just the town centre that creates a rainbow effect. All the residences, hotels and delightfully different family homes which speckle the ski slopes are multi-coloured to conform to an architectural blueprint designed in the early ’80s. When you’re skiing, even the lift stations stand out from the white in their cheerful oranges and yellows.

And the skiing is as multi-faceted as the facilities at Silver Star, with 115 runs over 3065 skiable acres, a progression park, night skiing, Nordic and – brand new for the 2013/14 season – heli skiing over 117,000 acres with pickups from the resort. Averaging minus-3 in winter, the Okanagan resort is as temperate as European ski hills but with central B.C.’s dry, champagne powder.

As a newbie to the terrain, I was guided around the mountain by ski host, Brett Barker, who showed me his favourite powder stashes, giving me a local’s eye-view of the hill. I relished in the knee-deep snow on Gowabunga, one of the hill’s toughest double diamonds. And I loved the backside of Silver Star, dappled in black and double-black glades and bowls, accessed by the Powder Gulch Express and Home Run Tee.

Silver Star’s daily ski partner service means anyone can join free guided tours of the mountain every morning and/or afternoon. Brett is just one of the team of hosts who show skiers and snowboarders the best places to ski for every level. He recommends Paradise Camp as a mid-mountain stop-off for breakfast and lunch. For fine dining at high altitude, take a cat-ride up to the restaurant in the evenings. 

Courtesy Silver Star
So what type of skier or boarder would love Silver Star? Well, I do, and I am an advanced skier with a penchant for powder and glades. The hill also appeals to intermediates and families with young kids. The ability split is 15% easy, 40% more difficult, 35% most difficult and 15% extreme. There are well-spaced, gentle glades in the Silver Woods for intermediate skier progression. The area also boasts wide, undulating blues and greens. All of the runs, right up to the 1915-m summit, are tree-bordered, providing natural guidelines during snowstorms.

Staying on-hill doesn’t get better than at Snowbird Lodge. Voted best new slopeside accommodation by Ski Canada when it was first built, the two-bedroom apartments have every necessity and luxury, including heated bathroom floors and huge decks overlooking the slopes with private, roofed hot tubs. 

Part of Silver Star’s attraction is its compact community of dedicated staff working in an environment they love. Most came to ski there in their youth, lured by the reputation for 700 cm of 100 % snow per year, and found a way to stay. Under Australian ownership originally, 20% of the seasonal staff annually is recruited from Down Under, giving a lively multi-cultural panache to the customer service and merry après-ski. From the helpful shopkeeper at Valhalla Sports to the bakers at Bugaboos, everyone is cheerful and thoughtful of the guests — and without that robotic veneer characteristic of textbook North American service training.

Courtesy Silver Star
The compact village centre has every facility a skier could need whether you enjoy downhill or Nordic or are just there to take in the mountains. Silver Star communications manager, Tim Fitzgerald plays ice hockey regularly on the village’s skating pond and takes his two daughters snowshoeing around the town. He also loves the 58 km of Nordic trails which punctuate the alpine area and are linked to the separate Sovereign Lake Nordic Club, which offers another 40 km of international competition-level trails.

Three cheers for no chains, since all the restaurants at Silver Star are individually owned and managed, with great chefs and differentiating cuisine. The Den is calm and cozy early evening, when you can tuck up on leather sofas by the fireplace and peruse the extensive exchange library. As diners start arriving, the atmosphere evolves into animated party mode with live entertainment and activities, such as Salsa dancing. The blackboard menu changes daily with a mix of carb fixes, such as nachos and wings, and culinary highlights, including paella, pork tenderloin and top-shelf steaks. And, of course, wash it down with local Okanagan wines.


Visit www.skisilverstar.com or call 1-800-663-4431 for ski and stay packages. If you like ski safaris, combine it with a visit to neighbouring Big White

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