Then and now: Apex

The not-so-secret Apex Mountain Resort

PENTICTON – Maybe Penticton wants to keep this ski resort all to itself. We can’t blame them, actually.

Imagine having a secret stash of powder only 30 minutes from your home. Because it is a secret, you pull into a quiet parking lot and walk into a non-existent lift line to ski fresh powder. All day long. That’s Apex Mountain Ski Resort 50 years ago – but also the Apex of today.

In the late 1950s, the Okanagan Valley was full of fruit trees and cattle. Penticton had only been deemed a city for a decade. The small but enthusiastic community of local skiers decided the timing was right to develop a ski resort to call their own. They methodically went about finding the perfect slopes on the perfect mountain accessed by a road that any auto of the day could handle.

Apex grows quietly

Many of them had been making the trek to the powder on Mount Beaconsfield since the end of World War II and knew it would fall nicely into the criteria. In 1960, a road was cut to meander with the contours of Shatford Creek to the base of Mount Beaconsfield. It was a test of nerves for any driver because the road was only a single lane.

The original Poma lift.
Photo by

In December of 1961, Apex Alpine opened with a tow rope and one 3,800-foot long Poma lift. At the time, the Poma was the longest of its kind in Canada. Two seasons later a T-Bar was pinned from bottom to top using wooden structures adding more terrain for the intermediate skiers.

As new T-Bars and chairlifts were added to the slopes, chainsaws buzzed, clearing the way for new runs. The main village centre stood in the way of progress so it shifted to where it is today. Condos and lodges and shops started to dot the landscape making for a real mountain resort.

The T-bar was one of the first ways of getting to the top of Apex.
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Apex really started to take shape in the ‘70s. The road had been widened making it safe for two lanes of traffic. The parking lot was full of VW vans and wood-panelled station wagons where families spilled from every weekend. The Menzies Ski schools instructors, in their stylish tight ski pants, had the kids snaking down the slopes in the classic pizza pie snow plough while the more experienced skiers hopped on the Old Mill Chair to find new terrain. In the 1990s, a Poma called the Alpine Shuttle would take skiers to the south bowls for some awesome skiing but even the slightest breeze had the tendency to derail the line.

Apex's parking lot has been full since day one.
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While some resorts went through massive growing pains in the ‘80s and ‘90s, Apex quietly continued to grow at a modest rate. By 1994 the Old Mill Chair and the Alpine Shuttle Poma were removed and the construction of the Quickdraw Quad replaced them. It’s a high-speed detachable lift that would give skiers and boarders access to the entire mountain, including the “Wild Side” area that was opened in the last few years. It was also the year the snowmaking guns were installed offering more terrain and a longer season.

World-class events

With the long season brought on by the combination of natural dry snow and the snow guns able to blanket the entire mountain, it entices the ski teams looking for a jump start on the season. Apex hosts an Early Season Training Camp each fall with the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association and is now the home of the National Training Centre for aerial athletes. Apex has hosted a number of world-class events over the past few years, from FIS Freestyle World Cup and NorAm Competitions to Super G and Mars Cup Downhill Alpine races.

Enjoy over 1,112 acres of skiing!
Photo by Apex Mountain Resort

Today, the resort boasts more than 1,112 skiable acres accessed by four lifts buried under an annual snowfall of more than 20 feet. There are 73 runs for every level of ability including glades haunted by billowy snow ghosts at the top and a terrain park near the village. For the cross-country skiers, there are 56 trails through the trees leading from the Nickel Plate Nordic Centre.

Ski to your door

Skiers and snowboarders seeing Apex as a destination with ski-to-your-door access, the resort added amenities to serve everyone when they weren’t on the slopes. The tube park, a hockey rink and a kilometre-long skating loop wandering through the trees opened in the early 2000s, so any energy not left on the slopes could be burned well into the evening.

The village at Apex has everything you could ever need while vacationing.
Photo by Apex Mountain Resort

Don’t be fooled into thinking Apex goes unnoticed. It wins awards for best steeps, best grooming, best alpine resort of the year and, of course, best small-destination resort. They also win for best ski bar - probably for the legendary Gunbarrel coffee at the Gunbarrel Saloon. It all has something to do with flaming Grand Marnier poured down a double barrel shotgun into an assortment of fine liqueurs and coffee.

The resort stays open in the summer with trails ready for the mountain bikers and hikers but it’s the not-so-secret stash of powder that we all want to experience.

Sorry, Penticton but it looks like you are just going to have to share.  

For more information, head to the official Apex Mountain Resort website.

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