The work at the bottom of the run is reflected in the goggles of local skier Kassidy Todd at the Canada Cup selection series event last season at Apex Mountain. Western News file photo

South Okanagan ski hills hoping Mother Nature will bring snow

Apex Mountain Resort opening some runs, Baldy still uncertain

Get your skis and boards waxed up, ski hills in the South Okanagan are hoping to have some runs open as early as this weekend.

Following one of the best snow years at Apex Mountain Resort, with a base of 300 centimetres, Apex Mountain Resort is gearing up to open on Friday but with limited runs available.

“We need everyone to keep doing their snow dance,” said James Shalman, general manager of Apex Mountain Resort. “We will have a very limited opening Friday, Saturday and Sunday as we wait for more snow to come down and for us to make more.”

One of the machines working recenlty to get Apex Mountain Resort rider ready. Some runs will be opening on Dec. 14.
Photo courtesy of Russil Raynier

The T-bar, Adrian’s Alley and Old Mill run will ready for Friday and Shalman said possibly the Okanagan Run will also be open. Tickets are at 50 per cent off until they can open more terrain. Shalman cautioned that this weekend will be more for intermediate skiers and boarders because the Magic Carpet lift will not be running.

Apex is sitting at about a 50 cm base at the top of the mountain and needs about 70 cm of good base-building snow to have everything running.

“We never know when conditions are going to be ideal to have our opening day. We have opened in late November and also had it where we struggled through Christmas. We aren’t worried about it, snow will always come. We had a record season last year and that is still possible because the most amount of snow we see is at the end of the season,” said Shalman. “People are definitely itching to get out there because they haven’t seen snow for so many months now. It is very exciting, but everyone will have to be patient until Mother Nature plays along with us.”

During the off-season, Apex purchased another Beast grooming machine, one of the biggest on the market. Shalman said this means they can free groom more runs, faster. A new panel was installed on the Triple Chair and new seats. As well, a company from Canmore was brought in to machine brush the lower aspect runs while the Apex crews did the higher aspect runs.

The outdoor ice rink is open for business and in the village, a candy store will be opening. The Wine and Tapas Bar that opened last year returns after a successful inaugural year. Shalman said the best way to stay tuned into what runs are open and when is by checking their website

While some freestyle teams from around the world have already been training at Apex, the Canada Cup Series — Freestyle Canada’s national competition circuit — takes place this weekend from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

On Dec. 22 the Christmas Artisan Market runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Apex Inn, in the Edge Bistro’s new event house. The Christmas Eve Torchlight Parade is on Dec. 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. Santa will make an appearance and you can warm up by the bonfire in front of the Gunbarrel before the fireworks.

Baldy Mountain Resort had to push back their opening to ensure the safety of everyone using the hill and have received about 12 cm of snow over Monday and Tuesday but they are still unsure if the forecast will bring enough snow during the week for them to open on Friday.

“We are waiting for the snow gods to do what they do because we don’t have the snow making machines that some other hills have,” said Andy Foster, general manager at Baldy Mountain Resort. “We are going to reassess over the next few days, but we do need a considerable amount of snow for us to open this weekend. We have about eight different forecasts that we watch and satellites, so we compile them together and are hoping for the best to open this weekend.”

Foster said as of Tuesday morning the base at the Eagle Chair is 48 cm and depending on how the snow settles they need anywhere from 60 to 70 cm to open the lifts on Friday to skiers and boarders.

Over the off season hundreds of man hours were put in to continue to improve the Baldy experience.

“We were looking at launching some summer programming, but we thought we really need to be focused on the winter for our third season with the new ownership. We improved a lot on the back end, so it might not be stuff you can just see but we have been working hard,” said Foster.

Some of the improvements done to prepare for this season include the Eagle Chair receiving an upgrade on 200 of the seat pads, the Sugarlump area received more contouring and cleaning up along with the Fenwick, Wilson’s Prospect, Jones and Fairweather runs. Snow fencing was put up in the Upper Dividend area to help catch the snow in the windblown area and additional ground cover to keep the popular area well-covered. There are residential lots still for sale at Baldy and once they get to 80 per cent sold, Foster said the goal is to then start construction next summer.

Baldy plans on hosting a number of special events this winter starting celebrating the Christmas season on Dec. 22 with their light up. Free toboggan rides from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Christmas movies at the lodge and a bonfire will be blazing to keep you warm. The Christmas tree will be decorated from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. and light up will be right along with celebratory fireworks. Jeff Piatelli will be jamming live music in the Baldy Bar from 3 to 6 p.m. A four-course Christmas dinner is featured on Dec. 23 and on Christmas Eve they are hoping for a mass costume run/ski with Santa from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with all participants getting a prize. Meet up at the top of the Sugarlump Chair at 11 a.m. for the group costume run and photo opportunity. Baldy will be closed on Christmas Day.

Later in the season they will celebrate the 50th year reunion weekend from Jan. 25 to Jan. 27 2019. Baldy is asking everyone who has ever carved a memory at Baldy to join them to celebrate at their classic lodge.

The Winter Wine Event, Feb. 9, 2019, pits the South Okanagan’s best vinters head-to-head in their first winter wine competition. The event will feature local wineries and guests will be able to close out their day of skidding by tasting — and selecting — their favourite wines.

Aprés ski will be elevated on March 23 with local craft beer on tap. Details of the event are still being sorted out, but Foster said they are tentatively calling it the Baldy Brew-ha-ha, mixing comedy with local hops.

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