I recently had the opportunity to take my family to Apex Mountain Resort for the first time. Being a longtime BC resident, I’ve built up a some pretty good references for BC ski experiences at places like Big White, Whistler Blackcomb, Silver Star, Grouse, Cypress, etc. Apex, as it’s referred to by locals, now ranks high on my list of places to return to.
Apex is a mere 30 minute drive from Penticton, BC. The resort itself sits on Beaconsfield Mountain, and has a summit elevation of 2187M and averages a whopping 600 cm of snow annually. There are 67 named trails (not to mention many more great routes through the powder-packed tree lines), and four lifts including a high-speed quad. With 1112 acres (4.5 km²) of skiable terrain, it’s not the biggest mountain, but where it lacks in overall size it more than makes up for it in varied terrain that caters from beginner to intermediate to advanced. There is also another 50-km of groomed cross-country terrain if that’s your thing.
As someone who grew up skiing Whistler and local mountains in Vancouver, the very first observation I had upon heading out at Apex was the lines, or rather the lack thereof. Not once did I have to wait more than 5 minutes to get onto a lift, yet there was a steady stream of people entering the line up to keep the atmosphere lively.
Another thing I noticed right away in the line-up: The resort staff are super-friendly. The entire resort almost has that small town feel to it where someone you met briefly the day before still remembers you the next time they see you. They are outgoing, and courteous.
Once up the main quad, there are numerous options for us to try, and once you start heading down the runs, you realize that there are almost endless new lines to try in a series of in-bound ski trails that connect runs to one another through the glades. There are so many options: there’s steep, there’s deep and there are also nice groomed progressive runs for beginners and tired old dudes (like me at the end of the day).
The weekend we were on mountain there was fresh snow coming down each morning, and the conditions were great. One of the advantages of a quieter mountain like this is that it doesn’t get completely skied out an hour after the lifts open. There were still plenty of fresh tracks to me made right through to closing.
Our great on-mountain experience continued into the village. The coffee shops and pubs are filled with more outgoing and extremely friendly staff. Everyone wants to know how your day is going, and whether there’s anything else they can do to make your experience better. The professional culture here is great.
I had the job of waiting in the cafe with my sleeping daughter (she’s 13 months old, and crashes pretty hard mid-day) while my wife went for a mountain tour with one of the locals. I did lunch at the Longshot Cafeteria, and the paninis and coffee were amazing. The family atmosphere was great as I had many fun conversations with people as they came and went while my little princess was counting sheep.
Once my parental duties were over and my daughter went off to play on the inner tubes with my wife, I had a chance to check out some more of the resort. In the heart of the village there was a tent kiosk set up by Freedom Bike Shop (Penticton) where they were renting out mountain bikes. We rented a couple of fat bikes (mine was a Surly) and I was blown away with how cool they were. Fat bikes have huge tires with low air pressure (PSI) which allows the rubber to flatten out and create a type of buoyancy on almost any terrain. It was like trail riding on a two-wheeled dune buggy over the snow. If you haven’t tried these yet, you need to.
That evening we were lucky enough to be able to get tickets to an amazing event, The 3rd Annual Brewski, a Craft Beer, Cider and Spirits Event. The event was held at the Gunbarrel Saloon Restaurant (a super-cool on-mountain ski pub/restaurant) and tickets were $40, and included 8 drink tokens, lot’s of amazing free appies, and access to the after-party and live entertainment.
We had the opportunity to experience some of BC’s best craft breweries, including: Arrowhead Brewing, Bad Tattoo Brewing, Barley Mill Brewpub, Cannery Brewing, Dominion Cider, Dubh Glas Distillery, Firehall Brewing, Howling Moon Cider, Left Field Cider, Legend Distilling, Maple Leaf Spirits, McLelland Imports, Mt. Begbie Brewing, Old Order Distilling, Parallel 49 Brewing, Phillips Brewery, Rustic Roots Cider, Steamworks Brewery, Tin Whistle Brewing, and, Tree Brewing and Twisted Hills Craft Cider.
The food was also incredible: fresh tacos, chilli with baguette and melted cheese, deep friend prawns, chess and cold cuts, and more. We actually didn’t need dinner after this.
Apex has a great balance of fun and challenging terrain, breathtaking mountain top views, on-mountain activities and amenities (including a well-stocked rental shop, stores, restaurants, pubs and the cafe), entertainment, and charm. It’s definitely one of those places that once you experience it, you’ll want to take your family back again and again. It’s the perfect hidden gem, nestled close to Penticton, in the heart of the Okanagan Valley.