Smitten by Baldy

Meet the little Okanagan resort where families ski for the pure joy of being outdoors together

Lisa Kadane

At the top of the bunny hill, my daughter Avery cajoles her reluctant little brother Bennett into sitting on a Snow Boogie sled. A minute later the kids are flying down the hill, laughing and screaming and leaving a trail of frosty crystals behind them like the contrail from a jet engine. After the icy rush, we all warm up with cups of hot chocolate sipped around an open fire at the base of Baldy Mountain Resort.

Every Saturday afternoon when the lifts close, the moving carpet conveys families to the top of the learning area for some epic sledding at this small ski hill in B.C.’s South Okanagan. Most of the resort’s guests are locals; they come from the nearby communities of Osoyoos, Oliver and Penticton. They love the sport and support the hill, and they’re a friendly bunch — we’ve only been here a day, but it already feels like we’ve been welcomed into the Baldy family.

Baldy is a little mountain with big terrain located east of Oliver between the Okanagan Valley and the Monashee Mountains. With its lone day lodge and two fixed-grip chairs, it’s a nostalgic nod to a simpler time when families skied for the pure joy of being outdoors together. It reminds me of the ski hills of my 1980s youth — before high-speed quads started pouring skiers onto the runs — with prices to match ($55 for an adult day pass). I’m smitten.

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We’re here for a ski weekend and to explore the town of Osoyoos, which makes a good base for hotel and dining options about a 50-minute drive from Baldy. Skiers and snowboarders gain almost a mile in elevation as they ascend from Canada’s only desert, through the dry scrub of Osoyoos Indian Band land, up into a white world of rime-covered fir, pine and spruce trees punctuated by rocky outcrops on the mountain’s rounded — and, yes, bald — summit.

Terry Rand, the head of ski patrol, initiates us into the Baldy experience.

Baldy Mountain Resort
Photo: Blake Ford

“My son grew up riding this hill,” she confides as we ascend the Eagle Chair, a sturdy double that allows time for some good conversations between runs. “It’s a safe family hill with a really cool vibe. And wait till you ride the terrain.”

Photo: Blake Ford

From the summit, I can see why you’d let your kids loose here — all of the resort’s 35 trails funnel back to the base. We traverse east along Baldy Trail toward what appears to be an ocean of clouds with “islands” of distant peaks poking up through the mist. At 7,000 feet we’re above the valley gloom, with postcard alpine views illuminated by a pale winter sun.

But when my husband, daughter and I follow Terry into the rollicking glades of Chix Dig It and, later, Ponderosa Glades (where we find plenty of powder stashes a whopping four days since the last big dump), we quickly realize the scenery is just gravy. Baldy’s main course is the compact 600 acres of terrain, served up over runs that range from groomed cruisers to tight chutes for thrill seekers and, after a big storm, open trails of virgin snow with perfect fall lines, like The Face and The Kettle, for practising powder 8s.

Baldy Mountain Resort
Photo: Lisa Kadane

"The mountain is really set up to have beginner, intermediate and even advanced skiers,” says Bryce Beckett, a Baldy instructor who teaches regular and adaptive lessons. He spends Saturday afternoon helping our autistic son Bennett get more comfortable turning right on the gentle grades of beginner trails Beaver Tail and Jolly Jack, accessible from the Sugarlump quad chair.

“I hear it from a lot of people that they like Baldy over other mountains. It's a good atmosphere. Everyone who works here is so genuinely here, and it pours out into the skier experience,” he says.

It does. We return the following day to snowy skies and big smiles from everyone on the mountain. We ski easy trails with Bennett and sneak in some powder turns with Avery. Somewhere in between, Baldy has become our hill, too, at least for a weekend.

If you go

  • Baldy Mountain Resort offers ski and stay packages with two hotels in Osoyoos. The Coast Osoyoos Beach Hotel features an indoor pool and water slide, plus a hot tub — perfect for après with kids. Packages start at $159 for a room (double occupancy) plus two adult lift tickets.

  • Ski for half price on Family Day (Feb. 12), when adult lift tickets are just $27.50.

  • More family fun: We loved the Osoyoos Desert Model Railroad, which features 45 computer-controlled model trains and 19,000 hand-painted people living and working in a mountainous landscape of German towns (and two ski areas!).

  • Catch an Osoyoos Coyotes Junior ‘B’ hockey game if the team’s skating on home ice when you’re in town. The fans’ enthusiasm for their local club is infectious.

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