Baldy Mountain

On 3 January 2019, Zosia Zgolak and I visited Baldy Mountain Ski Resort which is located about 23 kilometres east of Oliver, British Columbia.  Our plan was to skin most of the way up the easy run known as Baldy Trail and then go outside the resort's boundary to reach the summit of Baldy Mountain.  The weather did not look promising when we arrived at the resort's parking lot as a thick mist severely limited visibility in all directions.  Undeterred, Zosia and I geared up and started skinning up Baldy Trail along the boundary fence.  Early on, a ski patroller skied past us while checking on the integrity of the fence, and she did not show any concerns about us skinning uphill.  About 1.8 kilometres from the base area, we passed an obvious road which branches off to the left beyond the resort boundary.  Although we did not take the road at this point, this is a service road which ultimately winds up at the top of Baldy Mountain.  We continued climbing along Baldy Trail which runs parallel to the service road, but eventually, we realized that we were not gaining any more elevation by staying within the resort boundary.  After consulting the map in my GPS device, we decided to leave Baldy Trail and try to intersect the service road.  This was, of course, easier said than done as we were immediately faced with a slope that was too steep to tackle directly.  Worse, a brutal wind chilled us to the core and blinded us with blowing snow.  We were essentially traveling in a complete white-out.  In retrospect, it probably would have been more prudent to abandon our summit attempt, but we pressed on convinced that the service road would be our salvation.

Zosia and I traversed westward in order to ascend the steep slope more gradually, and despite poor visibility, we were fortunate enough to find some old tracks to follow here and there.  Even when we reached what we believed was the service road, it was hardly recognizable because of the heavy snow accumulation.  We were almost solely relying on my GPS device at this point to navigate, and the climb itself became a rather surreal experience as we slowly passed amorphous mounds of snow-covered trees or rocks which were our only points of reference in an otherwise blank landscape.

The summit of Baldy Mountain is cluttered with telecommunications equipment and buildings, and we were thankful to be able to take shelter from the fierce wind behind one of the larger structures.  We removed our climbing skins here and took a very short break before commencing our descent.  Had the weather been clearer, we may have considered skiing directly down to the top of the resort's Eagle Chair, but with the white-out conditions, it was best to retrace our tracks.  Even this was not without some difficulties.

Zosia and I stayed close together so that we would not lose sight of each other as we descended.  At one point, we inadvertently veered a little too far to skier's left, and I suddenly felt the ground below me drop away unexpectedly.  I took a spill and immediately thought that I might go for an extended tumble with all my ski gear getting lost across half the mountain.  As it turned out, I only fell about a metre, but I had also ended up on an uncomfortably steep slope that felt like the edge of an abyss.  I took a moment to collect myself while Zosia cautiously avoided the drop-off and stopped to give me some morale support.

Without losing much elevation, we traversed away from the steep slope and eventually got back on track near the service road.  We subsequently descended the road for awhile before muddling our way down to the resort boundary.  Looking like a couple of big popsicles but feeling relieved to be back on Baldy Trail, we skied down to the base area without further problems and promptly went into the day lodge for a much-needed hot lunch and to defrost ourselves.  When we were suitably recovered from our ordeal, we packed up our gear and drove to Kelowna where we would stay for the night.

Afterward, Zosia and I agreed that it would be worth returning to Baldy Mountain on a nicer day in the future because we both felt that we had missed out on some potentially outstanding skiing there. the Matrix! Visibility is already severely limited at the ski resort's base area.
Like following wand markers. Zosia hugs the boundary fence as she climbs up the easy ski trail known as Baldy.
Frosty stuff!

Here is a close-up of spruce tree needles covered with rime.

Time to leave the resort boundary... Baldy trail begins to flatten out on the upper mountain.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Which way is up?

Navigation is not easy in white-out conditions like this.


Thank goodness we have some shelter from the brutal wind! Zosia is still smiling as she huddles on the lee side of a building on the summit of Baldy Mountain (2309 metres) to escape the fierce wind.
Could be Antarctica! Sure feels like it! A few other buildings on the summit are barely visible in the blowing snow.
Almost like skiing blind!

The skiing is challenging under these conditions.

Even her eyelashes have frost on them! Zosia looks like a popsicle after returning to Baldy trail inside the ski resort.
I be like Fonzie 'cause Chix Dig Fonzie! Ayyyyy!!! Sonny is relieved to be back within the ski resort boundary.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

Easy cruising all the way back! Despite poor visibility, Zosia has no problems returning to the base area along Baldy trail.
Zosia, let's go somewhere hot for our next vacation! At the base area, Sonny shows off his and Zosia's ski poles which are encrusted with rime.

Photo courtesy of Zosia Zgolak

We'll be back on a clearer day... Total Distance:  8.5 kilometres
Round-Trip Time:  3 hours 55 minutes
Net Elevation Gain:  585 metres

GPX Data