The last thing I expected when I schussed up to the door of the Final Run Bar and Bistro after shredding pow all day was to exchange my ski boots for a pair of bowling shoes.
But after I banged the snow off my boots and wandered along a short hallway past mouth watering deli displays I encountered laughter, cheers, and groans mingled with the swoosh of bowling balls careening down four polished wooden lanes.
Pinheads Bowling is now the world’s first ski-in, ski-out ten-pin bowling alley, offering a fresh alternative to more mundane après-ski activities.
Nosy locals peering in the windows during construction envisioned this space on the ground floor of Firelight Lodge at Silver Star Mountain Resort in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, Canada, as a location for T-shirt shops and latte establishments. But a savvy Australian entrepreneurial couple, Duncan and Jenny Miller, saw things differently. To them the long, narrow, yet-to-be partitioned expanse screamed big-ball bowling.
I arrived just after 4 pm. A jumble of downhill and Nordic skiers had abandoned the slopes and trails and clicked out of their bindings right at the door. The place was mobbed. Those in the know arrive immediately after the lifts close to snag a stool at the martini bar illuminated by the slick, backlit wall of wine. Next step, a bit of fortification in the chic bar and bistro, then the swap: snowy boots for bowling shoes.
Family members who had escaped the cold outdoor world of tubing, skating and snowshoeing hurled balls down computerized lanes, complete with automatic bumper rails for the kids, 70 inch LCD screen entertainment and touch screen automatic scoring pads.
Just off the lanes, kids chowed down on gourmet hot dogs like The King Pin or The Big Lebowski with milkshakes or hot chocolate to wash them down. Adults sampled local Okanagan Springs Pale Ale and the Canadian classic poutine and fries. Small children stuffed their fingers into the kid-sized holes in the light neon pink and yellow orbs while parents manhandled heavy-duty brown and black spheres designed for hardcore competitive bowlers. Some adults left their kids for a custom bowling party and wandered back to sip a cappuccino in the bistro and check email at computer screens supplied at every booth.
Locals flock to this unexpected off-piste enterprise. Groups of volunteer firefighters, ski patrol members and mountain staff have formed leagues. Competition for lane time is fierce. Vacationers make reservations and bowl next to the locals. Full-time mountain residents; retirees, construction workers, ski instructors and mountain hosts reserve three of the four lanes every Wednesday for their weekly après ski game and gossip. Experts coach wannabes, wine is sipped, flatbread pizza is consumed and laughter is the order of the day. Keeners staying a few weeks can grab a guest spot on a team.
The ski-out part of the experience, returning to Silver Star’s 1890’s gaslight themed village or a colorful Victorian rental home in one of the residential neighborhoods, completes the magical experience. The shuttle bus runs every half hour until 10 pm.
WHERE TO STAY
Firelight Lodge: Above the bowling alley, beside Brewer’s Pond outdoor skating. (800)-663-4431. www.skisilverstar.com. One bedroom premium with full kitchen plus personal hot tub. $280 CAD during ski season.
Samesun Backpacker’s Hostel: Slopeside ski-in, ski-out village accommodation. (877)-562-2783. www.skisilverstar.com. Affordable dorm rooms start at $36 CAD and private rooms at $74 CAD during ski season. Great for large groups.
WHERE TO EAT
Isadore’s Swiss Cuisine: Main Street in the village. (250) 549-5126. www.isadorescuisine.com. Specialities include Swiss cheese fondue for two, wild BC cedar plank sockeye salmon and anything with Izzy’s hand-picked local mushrooms. Lopen daily for lunch and dinner during the ski season. www.winter.skisilverstar.com.
HB Pizza: Aberdeen Hotel boardwalk, Silver Star village. (250) 542-5150. www.winter.skisilverstar.com. Whole wheat dough and sauces made in house. Variety of classic and gourmet style pizzas made with local produce. Salads and desserts. Winter only.
WHAT TO DO
Pinheads Bowling: Ground floor of Firelight Lodge at 30 Monashee Road next to Brewer’s skating pond. (778) 475-2695. www.pinheadsbowling.ca. Open summers for mountain bike season Wednesday to Sunday and every day during the ski season. $11 CAD per game includes shoe rental.
My Mountain Pass: Canada’s first all inclusive ticket. All alpine season pass and day tickets include skiing on 3,065 acres as well as free upgrades: unlimited access to 55 km of groomed Nordic trails, 16 km of marked snowshoe trails, fun times at Tube town Adventure Park and ice skating on Brewer’s Pond. Adult single day ticket $85 CAD.