The anti-mega-ski-resort experience
Baldy Mountain Resort, near Osoyoos B.C., has world-class ski terrain and snow with an unplugged vibe
Osoyoos, B.C. – 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. 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 Powder Keg and then some black-diamond powder turns through the tranquilly gladed Southridge and Honky Tonk.
Here some things you might not have known about this resort that flies under the radar, but really shouldn’t.
1. The history
Baldy is the little mountain that is 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.
2. The vibe
Baldy Mountain Resort has two chairlifts serving 35 runs over 600 acres.
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."
3. The operation
Jamey Madden works in the Baldy rental shop, which has all new Head brand skis, boots and poles.
Baldy has the aforementioned world-class terrain, 600 skiable acres of it, just two chairlifts, an A-frame day lodge with Corduroy Cafeteria on the ground floor and Baldy Bar upstairs. There’s also 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 offers a variety of terrain for everyone: sweeping greens to off-piste gems through the trees. And beside the skiing, it has nice family-friendly, chilled vibe.
4. Local, but world-class
Flocked trees along the Sugarlump quadruple chairlift at Baldy.
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 Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest.
That means 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, and an adult lift ticket is just $57.
6. The culture
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 apres at Baldy Bar, we drive for 45 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 bed down at elegant Walnut Beach Resort, which has an overnight-accommodation-and-two-Baldy-lift-tickets package starting at $178.
Walnut Beach is also handy for some next-day wine touring at nearby Adega, Nk'Mip and Bordertown wineries.