Since we couldn’t travel last winter, my husband and I decided to get outdoors with our two kids as much as possible. Rather than hibernating inside, we visited new-to-us ski areas and snowshoe clubs, and took winter hiking to a new level thanks to snow cleats that fit snugly over our hiking boots.
Kelowna’s mild winter temperatures and light Okanagan powder cooperated, whether we were cross-country skiing at Telemark Nordic Club or hiking to chop down a Christmas tree high above Kettle Valley. Not only did these micro-adventures keep our spirits up, we had a ton of family fun. Here are some of our favourite ways to spend winter days in Kelowna.
Play at a winter resort
Big White Ski Resort
SilverStar, Big White, and even Apex are a quick drive from town and offer lots to do beyond downhill skiing and snowboarding. Last winter we had a blast zooming down the track at SilverStar’s Tube Town, and this winter, tubing and ice skating are back at Big White.
Both resorts also offer sleigh rides, plus winter activities like fat biking and snowmobile tours. And if you work up an appetite there’s no lack of kid-friendly après spots to grab a snack. Cantina del Centro is opening a location at the Inn at Big White, and be sure to check out the kids’ menu at the new Black Pine Social at SilverStar.
Ice skate in downtown Kelowna
Stuart Park Skating Rink. Photo by: Matt Ferguson Photography
From Dec. 1 through late February, Stuart Park on Water Street transforms into a rink aglow with twinkle lights and public skating daily (weather permitting). After a Covid hiatus last winter, rentals will again be available from an on-site mobile operator. When the kids get tired, cold, or hungry, walk over to Bernard Avenue for a bite to eat from one of the many family-friendly restaurants such as Antico Pizza Napoletana. (Pre-booked and drop-in public skating is also back at Rutland Arena, Memorial Arena, and the Capital News Centre.)
Hike to chop down your own Christmas tree
Rumour has it that with supply chain issues, there might be a shortage of Christmas trees this season. With this uncertainty, why not be like the Griswolds from Christmas Vacation and trek into the wilds to chop down your own tree?
This is a fun family activity that we have done for the past four years. It’s perfectly legal, too, so long as you print off a permit for the Okanagan and make sure you are felling a tree on Crown Land. We like to drive up to the Gillard Trails parking lot off of the Gillard Forest Services Road and hike in from there. Douglas fir trees are the best as they hold their needles for a long time. Happy tree hunting!
Sled at a local park
Kelowna locals all have their favourite spots for hurtling downhill like Clark Griswold on his old-school saucer sled (another great scene from Christmas Vacation). To join the fun, all you have to do is pack a crazy carpet or toboggan into your vehicle’s cargo hold and head for the hills in parks around town.
In Southeast Kelowna, we’ve had our pick of runs in Myra Bellevue Provincial Park—most steep paths turn into tubing trails when there’s enough snow. Behind Chute Lake Elementary in Kettle Valley, Curlew Park has a steeper hill for adrenalin-seeking teens and a gentle slope for little ones. And Jack Robertson Memorial Park is a top spot in Glenmore, where the sledding hills are adjacent to a playground. Afterwards, warm up with hot chocolate from a local café like It’s a Bakery in Lower Mission or Bright Jenny Coffee near Glenmore.
See the holiday lights
Festival of Trees at Mission Hill Family Estate. Photo from a previous year.
Unless I’m imagining things, people have been stringing up Christmas lights and decorations earlier than usual the past couple of years. It’s a festive way to add light to the year’s darkest days, and our family likes checking out the different ways people shine up their homes and businesses.
Last winter we finally drove to see Candy Cane Lane and were impressed by the lengths residents of Rutland go to when it comes to seasonal sparkle. Another top spot to get decoration inspiration is Mission Hill Estate Winery, which is running its 5th annual Festival of Trees through Dec. 23 in support of the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation. And no matter where you drive in Kelowna, you’ll be able to see the 120-foot tall Tree of Hope in the Landmark District, which has been lit since Nov. 25.