After leaving Manning Park, I arrived in Penticton fairly late, and after driving around a while found a decent place to park where my generator wasn’t going to bother anyone but an empty logging yard and horse track. The following morning gave me a few hours to work before a quick stop at the local grocery story and an expensive Canadian tank of gas. The road from here to Apex was thankfully MUCH better than what I had experienced the day before through Manning. The road up to Apex itself is surprisingly backwoods. A somewhat narrow 2 lane deal with what is at times a very narrow valley. I couldn’t help but think this would be a great motorcycling road in the summer.
Despite heading to Apex in the late afternoon I came across hardly any cars heading in the opposite direction. I soon found out why: the place was dead. I parked at the back of the nearly empty lot (overnight parking is allowed here) and proceeded to be amused by the zambonie that drove back and forth a couple times across the lot. Turns out ice has its place here, in the form of an outdoor hockey ice rignt right at the front of the parking lot next to the village, and a unique skating trail through the woods on the other end of the lot. Basically a short, somewhat windy cross country trail but made for skates instead of skis. I thought it was a very neat idea.
In the morning the place was still empty, and that wouldn’t change much. I never saw more than 50 cars in the parking lot all day, and it seemed that a large portion of the people skiing that day knew each other, many of them retired locals. The quiet day meant I got a private tour from one of the two mountain hosts on duty that day, so I was a happy camper.
I was much happier still once we got on the slopes. The grooming was absolutely brilliant. Even my guide mentioned that Mike (the groomer) must have had a great day as it was impeccable. The lack of people meant that it lasted all day too. I was getting freshly groomed lines right through to the end of the day. I can’t remember the last time I had such a good time on groomed runs.
Between the nonexistent crowds and the clearly good sense of community here, I soon had another local join my official host Dale in showing me around and keeping my mighty entertained while on the lift. Between all the local friends meeting up, I got the be the happy recipient of alot of local history, learning that many of the runs here were cut unofficially by locals, then the resort would eventually include them as official runs. I also got to see The Heavens, a little evening meeting area on the back of the hill the locals maintain. If felt very much like a little fort for adults. Too cute. Dale, other than being super nice, was also a mighty quick skier, spurred on no doubt by the ideal grooming this day. The tour over, I stopped for a coffee in a small eatery right at the base of the T bar, where a number of locals were having a regular meet. The sense of community at Apex was definitely very strong.
Apex is not a particularly large hill at 1100 acres. Its one high speed quad serves almost the whole mountain, with a little extra terrain served by an older fixed grip chair. But this seems to work well for Apex, as under-lift-served terrain lasts longer after a dump of snow. Unfortunately I was a day or two too late to enjoy the dump they had recently. Though there was plenty of snow left, it was chopped, hard crud off piste, which ended up keeping me off most of the blacks. But for once I didn’t particularly mind, since the grooming was so nice. That and the blue sky didn’t hurt, which made available to me the excellent views all the way around, Apex (actually Beaconsfield. Apex Mountain is next door) being among the tallest peaks in the area. There isn’t a big variety of expert terrain, but there is enough to keep your aggressive skier happy few a few days.
There is an impressive selection of specialty terrain too. A full time mogul and aerials course is set up for freestyle training, and it ain’t no Mickey Mouse setup. Clearly a permanent installation with support facilities to match, intended for high level training. The terrain park is also very impressive, especially for a small resort. Alot of style and creative hits filled the park.
The village at the base of the ski hill is small but very cute, and checks all the boxes for a destination resort, just on a small scale. The townhouses and chalets surrounding the village are also adorable. The area as a whole is on the small side, but in such a way that it seems intimate, not insignificant. Perhaps it is just the chill and friendly vibe that made the resort seem so attractive. Few things make a place like happy, friendly locals and staff. Whatever it is, I can see why Ski Canada once awarded it “Canada’s Best Small Destination Resort”.
With credential’s like that, Whistler is bound to lose a few visitors to Apex. But ultimately Apex is a small resort, and doesn’t seem to want to be anything else. I hope that stays true, because they do small resort very well. Of course, Apex can’t compete with the terrain selection Whistler offers, nor with the village amenities (for those who want more than the low key options Apex affords), so Whistler retains its supremacy. But anyone who does a yearly trip to Whistler should definitely skip a year once and give Apex a visit for a few days. Keep it to a week though, as more than that is going to mean you start to recycle the terrain heavily.