Celebrations reaching for new heights

There are generations of memories wrapped up in the Apex Mountain community, which passes the 50-year milestone in December.

Margaret Van Os shows off one of the old-style skis sold in the early years of the Apex Ski Shop

Margaret Van Os shows off one of the old-style skis sold in the early years of the Apex Ski Shop

There are generations of memories wrapped up in the Apex Mountain community, which passes the 50-year milestone in December.

In fact, three generations of memories are tied up in the Van Os, one of the founding families. It all started with an old Model A Ford in the fall of 1961, which Bob Van Os and Jimmy Cole brought up to the hill.

“They used that with a cable on the bottom part of the hill that they eventually cleared,” said Margret Van Os. “In the fall of 1961, they built a lodge that is still up there. There were 49 shareholders that put money in, and that is how they started it.”

That lodge, now the Gunbarrel Saloon, was built with green logs from the area, which led, Van Os said, to the old wooden skis stored there flattening out over the week.

“We only skied three days a week: Saturday, Sunday and Monday. So we would go up there on Saturday and our skis would flatten right out,” she said. The solution was to use juice cans to keep the curve and camber while the skis weren’t being used. But even getting to the lodge in those days was an adventure, she recalls, though it was only about 37 kilometres from town.

“We had to go out in four-wheel drives, most of us. We had fun. If you went up with Doctor Gibson, for instance, you had to stop all the way up the road and take the rocks off,” she said, recalling that they were sometimes packed six to a car. “You only had one-way traffic, you went up in the morning and you couldn’t come back down until two. Because that was all the road there was.”

Even the Apex Ski Shop has a long history. Though it’s been twice expanded, the little A-frame dates from the year after the Apex Lodge on the hill opened.

“We had the garage next door … Bob started selling skis out of there and we had the rental skis up at Apex. And then in 1962 we built this, moved into it in the fall of 1962,” said Van Os.

That kind of history is worth celebrating, and to do just that, a volunteer committee is organizing a major event at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre in January to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apex community.

“It’s pretty historic,” said organizer Dave Lieskovsky, who expects 1,000 people to turn out for the banquet and to share old stories and images. “There is plenty of enthusiasm for the anniversary celebration.”

The evening begins at 5 p.m. with displays of photos, fashions, equipment and a variety of memorabilia from Apex’s long history, with the banquet being served at 6:30 p.m. while speakers recall stories of Apex from each of the past five decades. Tickets for the event are $65 and will be available through valleyfirsttix.com starting Oct. 15.