Ski hills in the South Okanagan are patiently waiting for fresh snow to land on their slopes after going two weeks without, but at least the bluebird conditions are bringing the locals out.
It’s been a challenging year for the hills, facing ongoing restrictions, colder temperatures, highway closures and COVID-19 cases, but there’s some positive news coming halfway through the season.
“Our local numbers last year due to COVID and this year due to COVID are at an all time [high]. Where I'm really kind of referring to is our seasons pass numbers. The season's pass numbers have broken all records that we've ever had at Apex for skier visits and for numbers of people that bought season passes,” Apex Mountain Resort GM James Shalman shared.
“[Although] we've kind of hit this January dry spell, if we want to call it that, where it's been probably about 14 days now where we haven't had any significant snow. But it's absolutely gorgeous up here.”
Baldy Mountain Resort has also seen an uptick in local numbers, with schools coming out to utilize the day packages and families taking the opportunity to try out a hill.
“I can tell from the food and beverage revenue with what we sell and rentals are up. So more people are coming up for the first time,” Troy Lucas, operations manager with the resort said.
They’ve used the time without new snow to set up further parts of the hill.
“We were lucky because we got a really good first snowfall that gave us a great base that they groomed well. So that just gave us an opportunity to finish our terrain park.”
“We are really looking forward to this new [weather] system coming in to extend the season as far as we can. So it was challenging, and it did affect visits, especially powder Thursdays because we're closed Tuesday and Wednesday, so it absolutely affected visits, but it gave us a chance, believe it or not, to catch up on some work we had to do.”
Conditions on both the hills are favourable this time of year.
“The grooming is phenomenal. We call it hero snow where they just lay that corduroy down and you can really pick up an edge. So fun to ski…We’d just like a little more snow to get back into the trees and into that more advanced terrain,” Shalman said.
While the major highways have reopened to connect the Lower Mainland to the Interior, there are mixed reviews as to whether outsiders are making the trek.
“People are using the highways, there's still a little bit of trepidation on the highways. But I think all in all, now with the Coquihalla being open, I mean, we have to give huge props to Minister Fleming and Minister Mark for opening up the Coquihalla early and really going pulling out all the stops to get that done,” Shalman said.
“We used to walk the parking lot and just always checked where the license plates were from. That's how we figured out about tourism back in the old days,” Lucas added with a laugh.
“Now it's all you can tell they're the locals because A, you know them all, or B, because of a lot of the promotions we've done this year, they're bringing in some type of bounce back coupon.”
Both ski hills have big events this weekend, with Apex welcoming over 120 Freestyle mogul skiers for the FIS NorAm Mogul and Dual Mogul competition and Baldy hosting the 14 Annual Winemakers Cup.
Apex also had a visit from the Canadian Olympic team this week, running their pre-Olympic mogul camp.
“Snow is on its way for the next four or five days. So we're going to get back into a nicer trend here and for the rest of the season, there's still two months to go. We're actually looking forward to it.”