Canada’s British Columbia province is renowned for its pristine natural beauty, from ancient fir forests in the capital, Vancouver, to the craggy coastline of the Gulf Islands. Things go into overdrive as the altitude rises, with snow-tipped mountains, glacial peaks and rugged ski slopes at every turn. For your next Canadian adventure, here are some of the best mountain towns in British Columbia.
Best for living the high life…
North America’s largest ski resort – and one of the most luxurious – Whistler Blackcomb (an hour and a half north of Vancouver) doesn’t do things by halves. Ski or snowboard more than 200 marked runs. Ride the longest and highest suspended gondola in the world, Peak 2 Peak? Push your limits with a heli-drop? It’s all possible here. But it isn’t just the world-class terrain that does it. At the base of the mountain, you’ll find fine dining (try the local caviar at Wild Blue), luxe spas (book a Swedish relaxation massage at Scandinave) and shopping (there’s even a lululemon outpost). The town transforms into a high-end adventure hub in summer, offering rock climbing, mountain biking, whitewater rafting and more.
No matter when you visit, splash out on a suite at the elegant Four Seasons Resort where you’ll admire magnificent mountain vistas from the heated outdoor pool, relax in the eucalyptus steam room and cosy up in front of your wood-panelled fireplace.
Best for foodies…
Set on the picturesque east coast of Vancouver Island, it’s a 45-minute drive from Comox to Mt. Washington Alpine Resort. At 688 hectares of terrain, the resort is on the small side, but what it lacks in size it makes up for with enchanting views across the Strait of Georgia and some of the best cross-country ski trails on the continent. During the warmer months, hike Strathcona Park, play a round of golf at Crown Isle and paddle across the glacier-fed lake with Comox Valley Kayaks.
Comox has also become a culinary destination with travellers venturing to try creative regional dishes at Locals, where nearby producers are name-checked on the menu, or touring acclaimed distilleries like Shelter Point. Book a charming cottage-style Airbnb (The Carver’s Cabin has an outdoor fire pit perfect for sipping single malt whisky) and head to the Saturday morning farmers’ market to sample wildflower honey and just-baked pastries.
Best for relaxation…
Just a 90-minute drive from downtown Vancouver, Harrison’s epic alpine scenery won’t disappoint. Of course, you can’t come without trying your hand at outdoor activities, from snowshoeing, skiing and tubing at Sasquatch Mountain Resort in the colder months to e-biking with Harrison Eco Tours in the warmer ones. But there are also fabulous ways to slow down, namely soaking in the famed hot springs. Make a beeline for the public indoor pool, which hovers around 38˚C, or stay at the Harrison Hot Springs Resort for access to the hotel’s five natural pools, each kept at a different temperature. There’s also an on-site spa should you want to book a private mineral bath or hot stone massage.
Don’t leave town without taking the Circle Farm Tour, a self-guided route on which you can try clothbound cheddar at The Farm House Natural Cheeses, snap a selfie at Harrison Lavender and stop for a grass-fed bison burger at Muddy Waters Cafe.
Best for thrillseekers…
If adrenalin-pumping activities are high on your wishlist, Golden has you covered. Surrounded by sharp peaks and national parks in nearly all directions, Kicking Horse Mountain Resort is home to some of Canada’s steepest runs and plenty of high alpine chutes (narrow sections of snow between rock walls). Maximise your time on the slopes by booking a ski-in, ski-out lodge like Glacier Mountaineer, right at the bottom of the Golden Eagle Express Gondola. Or stay closer to the action in town at the tidy Basecamp Lodge, a three minute drive from hearty pub fare and craft beers at The Golden Taps.
Come springtime, wobble your way over the Golden Skybridge. Slung 130 metres above a vast canyon with a towering waterfall, it boasts knockout views of the Purcell and Rocky Mountains. There’s also a 305-metre-long zipline, an all-ages ropes course, axe throwing and a hair-raising roller-coaster.
Best for family fun…
Of the eight ski resorts on British Columbia’s Powder Highway, Kimberley is one of the most family-friendly for its range of accessible terrain, for both beginners and broods looking to progress together. Hit up North Star Mountain’s blue and green runs, including Canada Way through snow-capped glades, and let the kids loose in the recently upgraded learning area. Kimberley’s Bavarian-style village centre packs a winning punch, too, with its cobblestone, pedestrian-only streets, huge cuckoo clock, boutique shops and excellent dining options (start with barbecued brisket and cheesy cornbread at The Shed).
Big groups can spread out at the Mountain Spirit Resort, where the one-, two- and three-bedroom suites come with a fully-equipped kitchen, separate living area and laundry. For something more adventurous, the 14,000-hectare Three Bars Ranch has log cabins and horseriding programs for all experience levels.
Image credits: Destination BC; Leanna Rathkelly/Destination BC (Whistler); Jordan Dyck/Comox Valley (Comox); Andres Beaumont/Tourism Harrison River Valley (Harrison); Reuben Krabbe/Destination BC (Golden); Kari Medig/Destination BC (Kimberley).