For over 40 years, Ken Mutcheson has made the annual pilgrimage from his home in Winnipeg to SilverStar Mountain Resort, near the city of Vernon in the North Okanagan. Despite having explored many other ski resorts across British Columbia, Mutcheson remains loyal to SilverStar for its unique charm, reliable snow conditions, and friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
While British Columbia boasts numerous exceptional snow sports destinations, SilverStar has remained somewhat under the radar. It may not have the grandeur and glamour of Whistler Blackcomb or the rugged reputation of mountains like Revelstoke and Kicking Horse. It’s not even a stop along the legendary Powder Highway that winds through the West Kootenays. However, what SilverStar lacks in visibility, it more than makes up for in its offerings.
With 132 runs spread across 3,282 skiable acres of diverse terrain, SilverStar caters to all types of skiers and snowboarders. From gentle groomers and challenging moguls to thrilling steeps and powder-filled chutes, the mountain has it all. What really sets SilverStar apart is its mild microclimate, which creates optimal skiing conditions without the bone-chilling cold experienced by neighbouring resorts. This geographical blessing blankets the mountain with over seven metres of the finest champagne powder each year, all of it 100 per cent natural.
Mutcheson’s lifelong love for SilverStar’s powder is evident. “The mountain provides me with both comfort and excitement,” he says. “I measure my powder experiences by the thrill of being the first to carve through 20 inches of fresh snow on Holy Smokes.”
Adding to the resort’s understated allure is its colourful and compact midmountain village, designed to resemble a 19th-century British Columbian mining town. Entirely car-free, Silver Star Village resembles a movie set, with reasonably priced accommodations that mostly provide ski-in, ski-out access and authentic, uncontrived ambience.
Adventurous locals first started flocking to SilverStar Mountain in the 1930s. The first downhill race took place in 1938, coinciding with the formation of the Silver Star Ski Club. As time went on, the mountain continued to evolve. By the early 1960s, a day lodge was established, and 20 years later, the first hotels and quad chairlifts were introduced.
In 1991, the Putnam Creek area opened on the mountain’s back side, unveiling a plethora of double black diamond runs with names like Gowabunga and Gong Show. These runs, along with the existing bowls, glades, groomers, and terrain parks on the Vance Creek side, are now easily accessible via a gondola and Canada’s largest six-passenger chairlift. This extensive terrain has transformed SilverStar into a highly sought-after destination for winter holidays.
But SilverStar isn’t just a paradise for downhill enthusiasts. It also caters to cross-country skiers with over 100 kilometres of world-class Nordic trails shared with nearby Sovereign Lake. Boasting the most expansive cross-country trail network on the continent, the area is one of North America’s top Nordic skiing destinations, where many international cross-country and biathlon athletes flock to train.
Many multiuse trails are also open for fat bike riding and snowshoeing, guaranteeing that everyone can revel in this winter wonderland. And for early risers seeking the ultimate powder hound experience, a guided Fresh Tracks program provides exclusive preopening access to both sides of the mountain.
After an exhilarating day on the slopes and trails, visitors can unwind and indulge in après-ski delights at one of the 13 locally owned cafés, eateries, pubs, and restaurants inspired by the surrounding wine country and rich farmland to craft unique menus. The resort’s newest hot spots, D’Argento and Spice House, offer upscale Italian cuisine and Indian fusion-inspired dishes, respectively.
For an unforgettable dining experience, guests can hop aboard one of the resort’s snowcats and ascend to the newly renovated Paradise Camp. This lantern-lit mountain hut, near the top of the Powder Gulch chairlift in the Putnam Creek area, offers a romantic three-course dinner featuring Okanagan-inspired cuisine paired with an extensive selection of wines and cocktails to savour with breathtaking moonlit views of the Monashee Mountains.
Families visiting SilverStar have an array of evening entertainment options. They can enjoy the thrill of night skiing on nearly five kilometres of groomed and illuminated trails or embark on a magical snowshoeing adventure through serene forests to the Wild Horseman’s Cabin. There, they can warm up with a steaming mug of homemade cocoa or hot apple cider. Skating enthusiasts can lace up and glide across the natural ice rink at Brewer’s Pond, while pint-sized thrill-seekers can experience the excitement of zooming down the bunny hill on oversized inner tubes equipped with safety handles.
Wellness is also an integral part of the SilverStar experience. Elevate Spa, in the heart of the village, offers a range of pampering treatments to rejuvenate the body and mind. Guests and residents can also join weekly group classes taught by resident Lisa Brown of Ritual Wellness and Yoga or arrange private in-home sessions. For those seeking a more intense workout, the NATC Fitness Centre is equipped with everything needed to work up a sweat.
Ultimately, what keeps visitors returning to their favourite ski hill each winter is not just the snow quality, the terrain, or the après-ski scene. It’s that serene feeling you get when you know you are in the right place, at home away from home, able to truly relax with your family. SilverStar is such a place.