Skiing with Teens in Penticton and Kelowna

Andrew Penner took his three boys on a four day ski trip to Apex Mountain Resort and Big White Ski Resort
 

Last winter, I decided to load up the family van and take my youngest three boys—Nicholas, nine, and 12-year-old twins Nelson and Aemon—on a four-day road trip. Where? To British Columbia’s Thompson Okanagan. Why? To ski to our hearts’ content.

While the Thompson Okanagan is known best for its world-class wineries and sun-soaked summers, it also happens to be home to some fantastic ski resorts that take full advantage of the light, powdery snow that falls in abundance throughout the region every winter.

They say variety is the spice of life, so I figured we should sample both a sleek, mid-sized local favourite (Apex Mountain Resort) and a world-class behemoth (Big White).

Yes, indeed, it was a plan. We would start in the south and work our way north, testing our mogul mojo along the way. Here’s what we found.

Apex Mountain Resort, Penticton

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For steep fall lines, crazy-fast runs and a cozy village atmosphere (including many ski-to-your-door rooms), it doesn’t get much better than Apex Mountain Resort. A challenging mountain just 30 minutes west of Penticton, Apex has its own loyal following—a group whose numbers just keep growing.

The steep, north-facing slopes here keep snow significantly longer than other mountains, and, with 1,112 skiable acres and tons of “extras” on offer such as lift-access tubing, three terrain parks, five restaurants (including the ultra-popular Gunbarrel Saloon) and a small village to explore, Apex is definitely a place to put on your radar.

As luck would have it, we had two bluebird days at Apex, and my boys loved every second of our time there. They were especially fond of Grandfather’s Trail, a scenic, beginner-friendly five-kilometre run that meanders along the northern front. We also enjoyed testing our lack of skill—with plenty of thrills and spills—in the three terrain parks.

Big White Ski Resort, Kelowna

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When we pulled up to Big White, it was clear the resort had changed a great deal since my last visit there 25 years ago. While young men with mullets are still welcome, the place has certainly undergone a family-focused facelift. A massive tube park with a high-capacity magic carpet lift, an ice-climbing wall, an Olympic-sized skating rink and lots of new hotels and restaurants all dot the landscape.

My kids and I ate all of it up. Twirling down the tube runs together was a definite highlight, as was watching my youngest pick his way to the summit of the ice wall. But the mountain itself, exceptionally laid out and serviced with 15 lifts, is what really impressed. As far as the snow? How does 26 cm in 24 hours sound?

On a whim, I had thrown my pair of seldom-used heli-skis into the van, just in case of an epic powder dump. And on our final morning, I dusted them off and schussed out into the snow-smothered yonder. After two runs through the waist-deep wonderland, I had already devised a plan to return to the Thompson Okanagan.

Where to stay along the way

Watermark Beach Resort & Conference Centre: Located in Osoyoos, it sits snug along the lake and boasts an award-winning wine bar.

Summerland Waterfront Resort & Spa: It’s tucked along a secluded section of Okanagan Lake shoreline in Summerland and boasts spacious suites and a great day spa. 

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