August 17th, 2018

The anti-mega-ski resort experience

By Medicine Hat News on January 20, 2018.

Baldy Mountain Resort marketing manager Stephanie O'Brien shows how it s done on the intermediate Powder Keg run.

Steve MacNaull

Special to the News

It’s otherworldly here at the top of the Eagle Chairlift.

The sun is seeping through the broken cloud above, yet there’s also a layer of cumulus below shrouding the Okanagan Valley.

In between, atop Mt. Baldy, at 7,000-foot elevation, 2,133 metres for those thinking metric, the light is surreal.

The snow glistens, the frost on the flocked trees twinkles and the vibe is definitely dreamy top-of-the-world.

My wife Kerry and I are at Baldy Mountain Resort for a completely unplugged day of skiing.

So, after oohing and aahing at the scene and snapping a few photos we swoosh down Baldy Trail, an easy, sweeping, groomed run that follows the top of the mountain westerly, then veers east back to the base.

Baldy is the little mountain that could — located just east of Oliver and northeast of Osoyoos in the southern Okanagan Valley.

The two-chairlift, 35-run ski resort has a history dating back to 1968, but after falling into bankruptcy five years ago, it was closed for the 2013-14 season, opened partially in 2014-15 and roared back in 2016-17 under a new ownership group headed by Chinese-Canadian Victor Tsao of Vancouver.

This season, Baldy is really hitting its stride, positioning itself as the non-corporate winter haven that will remind you why you got into skiing in the first place.

“We don’t want to call ourselves a small resort, because we have big terrain,” said Baldy general manager Andy Foster.

“You won’t find all the other distractions here (like tubing, dog sledding, ice tower climbing, snowmobiling, condominium blocks and shopping). But you will find amazing powder snow, minimal to no lift lines and a local-mountain experience like no other.”

As such, Baldy has the aforementioned world-class terrain, 600 skiable acres of it, just two chairlifts, an A-frame daylodge with Corduroy Cafeteria on the ground floor and Baldy Bar upstairs, a kiosk selling tickets, rental shop and offices located in trailers and 100 cabins in the village, many of which are available for overnight rentals.

Baldy draws skiers and snowboarders mostly from Oliver, Osoyoos and nearby Penticton.

But it wants to share the local-mountain treasure and is starting to lure skiers from throughout Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.

Therefore, Baldy can be the uncommercialized stop on a multi-resort ski trip along the so-called Powder Highway of British Columbia’s Southern Interior, which includes Apex near Penticton, Big White outside of Kelowna, Silver Star near Vernon, Sun Peaks outside of Kamloops, and Revelstoke Mountain Resort.

Or, Baldy can be the perfect day, weekend or long-weekend ski getaway.

Kerry and I also ride the Sugarlump quadruple chairlift so we can glide down Beaver Trail, Fairweather and Wizard.

When we bump into Baldy marketing manager Stephanie O’Brien, it’s back up the Eagle chair for an intermediate run down Power Keg and then some black-diamond powder turns through the tranquilly gladed Southridge and Honky Tonk.

While on the chair, O’Brien tells us something we’ve already picked up on.

“British Columbia has its own ski culture, but Baldy takes it one step further with its own unique twist,” she says.

“It’s the extremely family-friendly, groomed and powder non-mega resort for today with a bit of a throwback-1968 feel.”

After some apre at Baldy Bar, we drove the 40 minutes down to Osoyoos for a dinner of blackened tuna and glasses of Cabernet-Merlot from nearby Hester Creek Winery at Wildfire Grill on Main Street.

And then we bedded down at elegant Walnut Beach Resort, which has an overnight-accommodation-and-two-Baldy-lift-tickets package for just $178.

Walnut Beach is also handy for some next-day wine touring at nearby Adega, Nk’Mip and Bordertown wineries.

A day pass for Baldy is $55.

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