Mount Baldy: The shape of things to come

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When Mount Baldy’s Brett Sweezy sat down to take his place at a seminar on the future of ski resorts at last March’s North American Snowsports Journalists Association meeting in Kimberley, B.C., more than a couple of the scribes in attendance wondered what a guy who looked as if he should be messin’ under the hood of a snowcat was doing at the table.

Indeed, with full beard and plaid shirt, pile jacket, jeans and a ball cap, Sweezy has the Full Montana down pat. Or maybe the Full Idaho, because that’s where the new co-owner of Mount Baldy hails from— Sandpoint, to be exact. He’s not one of the slickened resort sales types in Ralph Lauren Blackberry belt clips. The fact that he favours plastic tele-boots over tasselled loafers is a giveaway as well.

Homespun and folksy is kinda the way Sweezy sees Mount Baldy unfolding. Not the next Whistler or Big White, but as an intimate, family-friendly resort that aims to connect with skiers on a budget, as well as people who like the other amenities the South Okanagan has to offer: abundant warm-water lakes, reliable sunshine, fabulous wines, great golf and Canada’s only high-desert climate.

Mount Baldy has pretty much languished outside of the summer resort towns of Oliver and Osoyoos for the past 20 years, drawing only a few thousand local skiervisits each year. But Sweezy’s background (he’s an accountant by profession) and expertise in valuations led to a hunch that Mount Baldy might indeed be a diamond in the rough. He has three partners, all of whom have removed their rose-coloured goggles and have the foresight to believe that Mount Baldy can succeed with the right mix of terrain and marketing savvy.

Baldy’s unique shape—yep, it’s bald all right and, like a volcano, is skiable on pretty much all sides—makes it a fi ne skier’s mountain with a lot of potential. In the next two years, hopes are that three surface lifts could open up 500 new hectares for a relatively affordable price: $1.5 million, if costs are kept low. A master plan calls for an interconnected 7,800-bed village with eight new lifts servicing nearly 1,000 hectares of terrain. Still, it’s a huge stretch to imagine Baldy’s future for anyone who has skied there in the past.

One thing Sweezy wants to keep is Baldy’s extensive backcountry open to ski tourers; he’s not about stringing lifts up every square inch of terrain. In fact, he’d like to see a series of small day lodges, where skiers could tour from one cabin to the next.

Since the purchase of Baldy, investors have clearly given the new owners the thumbs-up. Mount Baldy sold out all 23 of its single-family lots—ranging in price from $110,000-$160,000—in a one-day presale event last December. Indeed, the incredible saga of B.C. resort development has just taken another curious twist.

Steven Threndyle
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