Have you ever felt the lure of fresh powdery snow, crisp mountain air and wonderful panoramic scenery but are put off by the cost, crowds and queues at the big ski resorts? If so, I have the perfect solution. Just 30 minutes outside the city of Penticton in British Columbia you will find the less well known, but no less fabulous, Apex Mountain Resort.
With just one major hotel, a handful of eateries and only 4 ski lifts, it’s easy to overlook this winter wonderland, but for a newbie to the Winter Sports scene Apex is the perfect choice. The resort has won several prestigious awards including: Canada’s Best Small Destination Resort, Best Weather, and B.C. Alpine Resort of the Year, but its relative anonymity on the international scene means that even in the height of the ski season you won’t find yourself fighting for space on the slopes. The relaxed and open environment is much less intimidating for the first timer.
If you’re at all nervous about finding your snow legs, don’t worry, because Apex Mountain Resort has a friendly team of expert instructors to get you moving. You can choose from individual or group lessons and both include equipment rentals and a lift ticket for the nursery slope. You’ll find this slope is very gentle and wide, which really helps when practicing your turns, and once you reach the bottom you just have to step onto the ‘magic carpet’ lift and trundle your way back to the top. After a couple of hours you’re sure to have the basics down and will probably be itching to head up to the mountain top.
Once you are ready to go top side you won’t find any long lines for the lifts – in all my visits to Apex I’ve never had to wait longer than a few minutes. For your first couple of runs I would definitely recommend taking the high-speed quad, which will have you at an elevation of 2000ft. in just six and a half minutes. After taking a few moments to soak up the absolutely majestic scenery, you can begin your first mountain descent. This may seem daunting, but rest assured, the appropriately named ‘Grandfather’s Trail’ is a very leisurely 5km run to the village base that’s ideal for beginners.
As your confidence builds you might want explore some of the other trails and will find plenty to choose from among the 1,100 skiable acres at Apex. To make things easy there are colour coded maps and signs to show the ones most suited to your skill level. I would also heartily recommend that you join the Volunteer Mountain Hosts for a complimentary tour of the mountain. For those new to Apex Mountain Resort these informal tours are a great way to find out more about the history and personality of the area from friendly locals in the know.
If strapping planks to your feet and shooting down a snow covered slope is not for you then Apex Mountain Resort offers a wide range of other activities to whet your winter appetite. You could venture into the wilderness on a snow shoe tour, glide about the 1km ice skating loop or rediscover your inner child as you slide down the hill in a large rubber tyre at the tubing park. Even if you just want to soak up the atmosphere with a mug of hot chocolate, there are wonderful views of the slopes from the cozy fireside at the Gunbarrel Saloon.
Despite its size Apex offers everything you need for a comfortable and enjoyable stay. The Apex Mountain Inn is a family friendly, full service hotel that offers slope views and features two large outdoor hot tubs. There are also plenty of chalets, townhouses or condos available for rent and you can easily pick up whatever you need at the general store in the village centre. In the evening The Rock Oven Bar & Grill serves delicious international cuisine at or you can enjoy après ski at The Edge Bistro.
While all of this sounds very tempting, there is still the issue of the price tag to consider – lift tickets, rentals, food, accommodation – it soon adds up. However, one of the main reasons that Apex is at the top of my recommendation list, is value for money. The lift tickets here are around 15% cheaper than at the larger resorts and you can save even more money with a half-day pass (from 12.30pm -3.30pm). The half-day tickets are a good option for beginners; because skiing and snowboarding take a bit of getting used to and three hours on the slopes is probably be more than enough to tire you out.
When it comes to accommodation there are options available to suit almost any budget and all within a snowball’s throw of the village and runs. You should try to take advantage of the special offers, such as the’ ski and stay’ packages and will find the best deals in the early or late season, which runs from December to April. If you’re travelling in a larger group, renting a vacation property is definitely a more cost effective option and some are pet friendly. Wherever you choose to stay do make sure that you have access to a hot tub – for me this is a must have for any winter sport break. There is nothing more wonderful than relaxing in hot steaming bubbles after a day on the slopes.
I’ve visited quite a few ski resorts over the years, but am always drawn back to Apex. It’s just such a relaxed place and definitely easier on the wallet. I urge you to check out the website – www.apexresort.com, where you’ll find all the information you need to plan an awesome winter getaway. If you do decide to take the plunge and head for the hills of Apex, I am sure you won’t be disappointed.