In the grand scheme of Canada, winters in the Okanagan Valley are fairly mild. In our hometown of Penticton, the temperature hasn’t gone below -8c all winter. I write this with green grass, dry roads and a very unfrozen lake outside the window. A fair bit of a snow fell around Christmas but since then we’ve only experienced the occasional evening of rain. Up in the local mountains, however, it’s quite a different story.
Return of BC’s snow
The 2015/6 winter season in BC has been the best for snow for three years. If you’ve been reading our blog for awhile, you may know that I worked at a ski resort on Vancouver Island for three winter seasons, with the last one being something of a washout. While I may not be working at a resort this year, we’ve still managed to take advantage of the incredible conditions with a pre-Christmas trip to Big White and many, many trips to our local hill, Apex, to use our season passes.
Powder at Big White
This set of snowshoeing photos is from our trip to Big White ski resort near Kelowna just before Christmas. We took my brother and now-fiancée (visiting from Australia!) snowshoeing for the first time. With plenty of soft, champagne powder it was a great introduction to the fun side of snow (think snow angels, shaking the snow off trees etc)…..and also the day my brother proposed! The sun came out just in time to shine for the event.
We also managed to fit in some snowboarding the same day. It wasn’t our first time boarding at Big White having visited before in 2014 (the year of the washed out season at Mount Washington) but it almost felt like it! Big White is such a large place (though not quite as gigantic as Whistler Blackcomb) with so many lifts that it is easy to explore a completely different area from the day before and not realise it’s the same resort.
A quiet resort
Apex Ski Resort is a fairly quick 45-minute drive from our home in Penticton. It’s not the largest resort by any means (it has two chairlifts, one T-bar and a beginners’ magic carpet), but it has one major advantage over its competitors in the Okanagan – it is SO quiet! On an average weekday, we slide straight onto the chairlift and see only a handful of people all day on the runs. Even on a weekend, it would be unusual to experience a longer than 3-4 minute wait for the lift.
While Apex doesn’t have a huge amount of terrain for intermediate skiers/snowboarders (there are A LOT of Black Diamond/expert runs), we’ve found plenty to keep us entertained over the season. For one thing, the views from the top of the Quad Chair at 2187m are spectacular on a clear day; endless mountains stretching in every direction, including those we hiked in Cathedral Park over the summer.
One morning last week, we sat and took in the spectacle in 10c temperatures – an inversion had crept in, meaning it was warmer on the top of the mountain than the bottom. In fact, it was warmer than in Penticton! Needless to say, it was somewhat disappointing to drive back down and leave the Spring like conditions behind us. Okanagan winters may be mild and the snowboarding pretty darn good, but I’m still as excited as ever for spring – camping, hiking and paddling await!