Exploring Big White’s Backcountry Project


As I first wrote last summer, Big White Ski Resort is eyeing its most ambitious expansion since the 1996 Gem Lake megaproject.  This time, a pair of quad chairs are planned for east of the Black Forest Express, servicing 300 acres of new intermediate trails and glades within the mountain’s existing controlled recreation area.  The expansion is in place of one once planned for west of Gem Lake.  “The Black Forest Connector and Backcountry chairs will build on and complement the Black Forest ski pod, the most popular area at Big White,” notes Brent Harley and Associates, which prepared the plan.  “Together, these chairlifts represent the full realization of the vision described in the 1999 Master Plan, and the fulfillment of the Controlled Recreation Area’s physical potential to offer a world class alpine skiing experience.”


A gorgeous new daylodge and parking lot opened at the base of Black Forest in 2015, encouraging regional guests to bypass the congested village portal.  The upcoming lifts are envisioned as gateways to even more terrain planned for East Peak eventually.  Both lifts would be 2,400 passenger per hour quads with Backcountry being detachable and Black Forest Connector being fixed grip.  The former would rise 1,250 feet over a slope length of 4,977′ in under five minutes.  The smaller lift would be about 4,354 feet long with a vertical of 666′ and ride time just under nine minutes.


Big White operates a mix of mostly older Doppelmayr lifts and a few newer Leitner-Poma models, so I could see either company winning the next contract.  Just last year, the resort’s Powder triple was replaced with a Leitner-Poma Alpha quad.  Big White initially intended to build both Backcountry lifts in 2019 but the project is still listed as “Under Review” by the province.  Not to worry though, the resort is focusing on new bike trails, Gem Lake base area improvements and new employee housing this summer.

11 thoughts on “Exploring Big White’s Backcountry Project

  1. alex June 3, 2019 / 9:11 pm

    I wonder if they will regret building such a long fixed grip quad. Perhaps its a placeholder to eventually be replaced.


    • Thomas Jett June 4, 2019 / 11:44 pm

      Maybe they’d build it so that they’d just need to replace the terminals to upgrade to a D4C, while leaving the line intact.


      • Donald Reif June 5, 2019 / 2:05 am

        That lift could be modified to a high speed quad in the proposal by next spring.


  2. Ryan Murphy June 3, 2019 / 11:12 pm

    Looks like a great expansion, and Big White is one of the BC areas still on my list. Can’t say I can get behind “Backcountry” as a name though, going to get really confusing, really fast.


  3. Milan S June 4, 2019 / 4:50 pm

    Why didnt they just use the old Powder Triple if they are so desperate for this project. One used lift and one new would of been perfect for the expansion. I mean the money made from powder being sold to Red Mtn was most likely the driving point for this project.


    • Kokonut June 28, 2019 / 4:36 pm

      I agree at Lookout Pass in Idaho they are going to reuse chair 1 and build a new quad for their eagle peak expansion


  4. Mike B June 5, 2019 / 3:35 pm

    I personally am incredibly disappointed that Big White didn’t take the opportunity to name the Black Forest Connector (boring!) something a little more engaging and appropriate. Might I humbly suggest, Black to Back.

    Come on people – this isn’t that hard.


    • Donald Reif June 5, 2019 / 6:20 pm

      That could be a placeholder name and the actual name will be revealed around construction time. I mean, there’ve been lifts that didn’t receive their official names until very very close to opening time (the Kensho SuperChair comes to mind for me, as it only received its name less than three months before it opened).


      • Kokonut June 28, 2019 / 4:38 pm

        The peak 7 infill which is proposed for 2020 is probably just a placeholder name


        • Donald Reif June 29, 2019 / 8:14 am

          Yeah that too.


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