It’s not every day you meet a guy named Snowy Joey and ski perfect glades wearing a personalised scarf deeming you to be a Babe. But over the Family Day weekend, my family and I did just that.
Explore Mount Baldy – ski over to the Mt. Baldy website for more.
Nestled between Oliver and Osoyoos, B.C., Mt. Baldy is an extinct volcano that looks like a bald guy without a comb over. At 1,722 metres ( 5,650 feet) above sea level, Baldy has the highest base altitude of any ski resort in Canada. With three lifts serving 395 metres (1,293 feet) of vertical, a new racing team, terrain park, snow cross course and robust social event calendar, Baldy is the name being whispered in conversations across the ski community.
Joey O’Brien, now general manager of the resort, was dubbed ‘Snowy’ since 1982 when a popular radio host from Q104 in his own hometown of Halifax gave him the nickname. His five kids endearingly call him Snowpaw.
Their sense of humour must be similar to O’Brien’s wife, who once sent him to hike the West Coast Trail with a bunch of rocks at the bottom of his pack that went undiscovered for three days.
Rather famous in the ski industry for developing world-class athletes, he is also well known for applying a brilliant business mind to flailing ski resorts and growing them exponentially. When a struggling Mt. Baldy needed a reboot, O’Brien swooped in for the task.
The hill was established in 1968 but three years ago, its lifts stopped turning. With only 9,000 guests per year on the hill during the few weekdays it was open, the accounting simply didn’t work. There were no formal skier development programs or marketing strategies.
Fast forward to December 2016 and Baldy re-opened with a stunning classic logo, cheers from the locals, and an infectious vibe. Now open daily, Baldy topped the 9,000 guest mark in its first month alone.
O’Brien continued to break records as he implemented a $5 Tuesday and Wednesday lift pass deal. He glowed when telling me about the guests who came in jeans to discover skiing for the first time. Affordable pricing on rentals, $60 discover ski and snowboard packages and $199 adult season passes means that the hill has become highly accessible.
Some ski resorts sprawl so far that you lose track of people easily. Not here. All runs end up near the Hub – a fab restaurant in the centre of it all. Despite the expansive downhill terrain, all runs end up near the Hub and nostalgic day lodge. The buildings are like a beehive of smiles and news. Staff and visitors are so friendly that you may miss a few runs in favour of engaging in conversation over a craft beer.
Approaching the resort, I instantly noted a magic carpet packed with little ones. Good ski resorts realize the importance of learning and know that it’s never too late for a lesson, even for experts. Skiing all morning with the ebullient Angie, I could see why the new learning program has been such a hit. Kids would yell down to her from the lift and we stopped a few times in the middle of runs to chat with the locals.
Angie uses her magic to create family-focused programming. During Monday’s Family Day, the magic carpet transformed the learning area into a toboggan party, and parents delighted in kids barrelling down on every type of possible sled. She has huge plans for March Break camps, and on Valentine’s Day there was a chairlift speed-dating event. I almost wished I was single just to experience it.
Statistically, there is a bell curve of skiers based on ability. The beauty of Mt. Baldy is that the terrain mimics this curve. From green to black, each rider can find a challenge. My 9 and 10 year-old sons certainly found a few for me. Asking what they thought of the terrain, they raved about the extensive glades, terrain park, ample side hits and excellent grooming. Next time we need to check out the miles of groomed Nordic trails and try the unique snow-based frisbee golf course. The food in the daylodge was a huge hit – from the gourmet burgers at the Hub to the well-prized kid-specific options inside. I was able to eat risotto topped with pork and a split pea sauce. Seriously.
For the full story of our time at this amazing hill, head over to the full version on Snow Seekers! #IamaSnowSeeker