The season opening day for Apex Ski Resort has been pushed back to Dec. 9. Contributed photo

South Okanagan ski hills need snow

Apex and Baldy ski resorts plan second weekend of December openings

A Pineapple Express rain storm that hit B.C. last week left behind both good and bad news for local ski resorts.

“It was a good news-bad news situation with the rain but the fresh snow that comes from this point is going to have an excellent base to build from,” said James Shalman, general manager of Apex, which pushed back its opening from Dec. 2 to Dec. 9.

While Apex does have snow-making machines, Baldy does not so it leaves resort general manager Andy Foster hoping Mother Nature delivers some fresh powder over the next two weeks for ski season launch on Dec. 8.

Despite the weather, Foster remains enthused about Baldy’s rebound from receivership that saw the ski hill closed for the 2013-14 and 2015-16 ski seasons.

Related: New owners for Baldy ski resort

Foster said under new ownership, solidified in the summer, the skill hill worked quickly to have the mountain open for skiing last winter within a four-month window.

“This year we have more time to prepare. We are still in a solid place reading ownerships and we are now working on real estate options to expand our accommodation capacity,” Foster said.

“That is going to be a game changer for us.”

Plans call for both single family lots to be available along with a resort condo cabin project.

“There is a lot of work involved in this going forward but we are really stoked about the opportunity this presents for the resort at an affordable price point compared to other ski resorts,” he said.

Shalman said Apex went through a training day exercise for its 120 employees on Monday, with a number of major events planned for the 2017-18 ski season.

Among them will be a mogul competition staged on behalf of the Apex Freestyle Ski Club and organizing committee for the Canadian ski team selections Dec. 14 to 17 (find out more at Competitors will take part from Colorado, Japan, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and Whistler.

Related: New ownership at Apex Mountain Resort

The Canadian Olympic mogul team will train exclusively at Apex for the last 10 days of January prior to competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

A Toyo Tires Canadian Series event will also take place at Apex Jan. 14 to 15, 2018, part of the Freestyle Canada Cup series.

The Apex outdoor skating rink will also be the venue for four different hockey tournaments over the course of the winter, starting with the Apex Shootout on Jan. 11 to 14 followed by the 13th annual Penticton Firefighters Apex Mountain tourney Jan. 18 to 21.

Shalman said the resort has also added a new Japanese restaurant, wine and tapas bar, artisan gift shop to go along with some new ski hill runs.

Apex is expecting the American ski tourist influence to have an impact as well this year.

“There are a bunch of factors in our favour with the American influence. Canada is on sale right now at 25 to 30 per cent off on the dollar exchange,” Shalman said.

“Another factor to remember is that Washington and Oregon can’t offer the ski-and-stay experience because their ski hills are located in national parks where accommodation is not permitted.”

That is further bolstered, he added, by other area ski hills offering reciprocal discount deals for their skiers to visit other local ski hills, adding to the winter tourist experience.

Foster said Baldy will host ski season opening festivities Dec. 8 to 10 with a myriad of activities planned for both the kids and adults.

Related: Opening day approaching for Baldy Mountain Resort

“We’re calling it the First Chair Festival as our official opening celebration and we want it to become a legendary event that people won’t want to miss out on,” he said.

Baldy has also arranged a shuttle service for skiers in Oliver and Osoyoos to make the 90-minute driving trek to the ski resort.

“We have a sponsor on board for this bus service and we are looking to run it every weekend, during the Christmas holidays and the first week of spring break,” Foster said.

While Foster says he and his staff are super-excited for the ski season ahead, he acknowledges the ski resort has to grow in what he calls sensible steps.

“You can’t build an amazing ski resort overnight. Our goal is to keep growing it forward while maintaining our local friendly atmosphere,” he said.

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