The secret is out. Winter is one of the best value seasons to meet in Kelowna. A leading centre of excellence for agribusiness, digital tech, and advanced manufacturing and aerospace, Kelowna bustles during spring, summer and fall conferences and events, but for event organizers seeking an uncrowded destination with all the amenities and cultural experiences of an urban resort, winter (November through March) is one of the best times of year to consider meeting in Kelowna.
“Off-peak conferences won’t have to compete with as many visitors and guests,” says Jennifer Horsnell, Director of Business and Destination Development with Tourism Kelowna. “Kelowna can feel a bit crowded during our peak seasons, so groups like meeting here in winter when it feels as though they have the whole valley and mountains to themselves.”
“Fewer crowds mean greater availability in terms of booking dates and meeting spaces,” says Shannon Bruckshaw, Director of Sales and Marketing with Delta Hotel by Marriott Grand Okanagan Resort, the city’s landmark conference resort. “Not only do you get the benefit of one of the best value seasons and some incredible rates,” but, Bruckshaw notes, delegates can experience some of the mildest winter weather in Canada. Indeed, while other Canadian destinations are fending off winter well into March or April, Kelowna is often opening golf courses as early as late February.
Photo by: Geoff Holman & Big White Ski Resort
For those who are seeking a bit of winter chill, it’s just a 45-minute drive away at Kelowna’s backyard mountain resort, Big White Ski Resort. There’s a reason it’s called Big White. At 2,700+ acres, the mountain is huge, the vertical is awesome, 119 runs offer a variety of terrain for every level of skier, and the champagne powder is famously deep, averaging 750 cm (24.5 ft). Even better? There’s no need to haul all your ski gear to your conference.
“You just need to bring your boots and we’ll look after everything else,” says Michael J. Ballingall, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Big White Ski Resort. “People come from all over the world to visit Kelowna in convention season…and if they’re skiers, they know to extend a day or two to hit the slopes at Big White.”
Whether you head to Big White, pre- or post-conference, or spend a day making turns during your event, alpine skiing isn’t the only activity you’ll find atop Big White. Test your boarding and ski-cross skills at Big White’s TELUS Park, cross-country ski 25 combined kilometres of Nordic and wilderness trails, get off the beaten track snowshoeing Big White’s back-country trails, skate Canada’s highest outdoor rink, or make like a kid again flying down the tubing run.
Photo by: Meghan Reading
Not sure you can schedule a whole day for your group at the mountain? Snowshoe, or ride a fat bike across the Myra Canyon Trestles. Ice skate at the outdoor rink in Stuart Park, adjacent to Okanagan Lake in the city’s downtown Cultural District. No skates? No worries. Skate rentals are available, fire pits help keep everyone warm off the ice, and nearby cafés and coffee shops offer plenty of grab-and-go fare to keep everyone full and smiling.
Of course, not every delegate is into outdoor recreation, but there’s still plenty to see and do before, after or in-between meetings. The Kelowna Art Gallery and the Rotary Centre for the Arts both offer delegates a quiet respite after a busy day of active learning and are excellent locations to host a team-building art class or a private networking reception.
Guests can also explore the city’s museums, wineries, cideries, and craft breweries and distilleries, explore the region’s famous farm-to-table culinary scene, or get chill in one of Kelowna’s relaxing spas, all of which will be happy to customize an experience exclusively for your group. Notable this year is the re-opening of Cedar Creek Estate Winery (part of the Mission Hill family of acclaimed wineries) and its new restaurant, Home Block. Perched mountainside with sweeping tasting room, patio, and restaurant views down Okanagan Lake, the venue is the perfect backdrop for receptions and group celebrations.
Curious about what else Kelowna offers your next event? Connect with Tourism Kelowna for insights, inspiration, introductions, and assistance in facilitating your event RFP.