Okanagan High – six ski areas within a three-hour drive
One of the reasons we moved to Kelowna from Calgary four years ago was the city’s access to outdoor activities, especially downhill skiing. There are six ski areas within a three-hour drive of the city (and three of them you can reach in 90 minutes or less) and we vowed to ski them all with our kids.
We did the ski-in/ski-out thing, signed up our son for lessons, schussed with snow hosts, and got the feel of each unique resort; from the rime-encrusted ‘snow ghost’ trees atop the summit at Big White, to the mantles of downy fresh-fall covering the glades at Baldy Mountain Resort near Oliver.
Located just 35 kms southwest of Penticton, don’t let Apex’s location close to wine country fool you—its base elevation a mile above sea level means it receives plenty of snow, and its northeast-facing runs hold that light Okanagan powder all winter.
I’d heard the small ski area (just over 1,000 acres, and 2,000 feet of vertical) boasts fantastic fall lines and a lot of steep, advanced runs through glades and down chutes, and we weren’t disappointed. While my husband and I did laps on the challenging runs off the high-speed quad, our daughter practiced linking turns on her snowboard on the groomed beginner and intermediate trails accessed from the triple chair.
What we liked almost as much as the snow and terrain, though, was the old-school feel of the resort . It seemed like everyone in the lift lines knew each other, and given the fact there are only two chairlifts, we hardly had to wait before loading.
Another highlight was hitting the Gunbarrel Saloon for lunch. This monument to retro debauchery (there’s a taxidermy moose whose antlers hold women’s brasiers) serves up great burgers and après ski drinks. Insider’s Tip: Order the ‘Chaesar,’ which is basically a Caesar garnished with a slider and onion rings.
Baldy Mountain Resort, 37 kms east of Oliver in the South Okanagan, is even smaller, more quaint, and with fewer skiers, than Apex. This is truly a community hill—it’s only open five days a week (Thursday through Monday) and is frequented mostly by families from Oliver, Osoyoos and Penticton.