As Apex Mountain turns 50-years-old on Saturday, it was the brainchild of a Penticton group that recognized a need as skiing began to boom.
Prior to Apex Alpine opening on Dec. 10, 1961 several groups, including boy scouts led by Jack Stocks, camped and skied on the mountain. Information provided by Apex Mountain said that the group which started Apex Alpine had chosen Mount Beaconsfield, the adjoining mountain to Mount Apex, since it had the proper elevation, snow quantity and road. Mount Beaconsfield was renamed since Apex Alpine was a better name for a ski hill.
Since then, it has served Penticton and area well.
“Apex really is a local hill to Penticton,” said Apex Mountain Resort general manager James Shalman. “The majority of skiers hail from Penticton. They do take pride in Apex. I constantly hear people talk about they have been skiing here for 25 years and never get tired of the terrain.”
Gordon Kenyon was a longtime skier of Apex. In his younger days, Kenyon spent time at a cabin near the top of the mountain with friends and they would have their gear dropped off by plane. Kenyon said it was “beautiful” to ski the mountain. When he settled down and had a family, the Kenyons skied together.
“I did enjoy going up with family and seeing the kids learn to ski,” said Kenyon. “I skied with them until they got too good.”
Kenyon said that Apex Mountain is important to the community. He described it as a very good family ski hill.
Two-time Canadian Olympic mogul skier Kristi Richards said the ski hill is celebrating a great benchmark. Richards, a Summerland native who spent countless hours on the hill, recalls spending every weekend with a group of five to 10 people crammed into a one-bedroom condo at Strayhorse.
“We would be the first on the hill in the morning, and usually get swept off the hill by the patrol in the darkness of the afternoon,” said Richards.
She also remembers her father, David, having a Tucker Snow Cat parked behind the ski patrol hut, and each spring when the lifts shut down, they fired it up to get an extra month of skiing. Her father rigged up eight poma lifts to tow everyone up.
“There were a lot of snowball fights and goofing around back there on the ride up,” said Richards, who is working towards competing in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. “At least one person got knocked off every ride.”
Shalman said it’s exciting that there has been 50 years of good times. This year in particular, Shalman said, is fantastic because it’s one of their best early season starts in terms of snow quantity and quality.
“Conditions are absolutely amazing,” said Shalman, as Apex opened for the season on Nov. 26. “Sometimes conditions don’t get this good until the middle of January.”
Shalman, who has worked at Apex Mountain Resort for 11 years, said he has stayed as long as he has for a few reasons.
“The fun thing I like about Apex is its size,” he said. “It’s the perfect sized mountain. It has enough terrain that I never get bored up here. The skiing is so fantastic. And boarding is so fantastic that I never feel like I’m missing out going somewhere else. More importantly, it’s the staff and the locals that are here that keep me here.”
Apex Mountain also welcomes elite world athletes, who have used the mogul site to train for the last eight years. Shalman said building a World Cup freestyle venue has been an incredible feat. Apex has hosted several world-class events from FIS Freestyle World Cup Competitions to NORAM Super G and Mars Cup Downhill and Super G races.
This weekend’s birthday celebration includes events such as retro attire (‘50s to 70’s, including hair and ski equipment), a birthday cake celebration in the village at 3:30 p.m. with hot chocolate and music, 50 Day at the Gunbarrel Saloon, which has different specials, a Match your Time race for anyone to enter. They want to see 200-plus centimeter skis and old school snowboards. The older the equipment, the more points you will receive. Entry fee is $10. Each month this season, Apex Mountain Resort will be having an event to celebrate its birthday. Check www.apexresort.com for details.