Skiing at Sunshine Village in Banff National Park is a bucket list bonanza, ticking off multiple must-do items. This 88-year-old ski resort is in Canada’s oldest national park where exacting environmental guidelines keep it pristine and undeveloped, enabling copious Rocky Mountain wildlife to flourish and nothing to spoil the vibrant views. Sunshine also boasts all-natural snow, cleverly harvested and then redistributed from a savvy system of wind barriers. Only the 5 km ski-out is supplemented by snow guns in early season, making this a uniquely eco-friendly resort in Canada. Winter operations stretch from early November to three-quarters of the way through May, the longest non-glacial ski season in Canada and one of the longest lasting snowsports’ seasons in the world. And Sunshine also has one of Canada’s most rugged in-bounds off-piste areas, deliciously dubbed Delirium Dive!
Sunshine Village, Banff (http://www.skibanff.com/)
– By Louise Hudson (http://onetwoski.blogspot.com/)
1. Sunshine Mountain Lodge
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There’s nothing more luxurious than staying right on the slopes with views of skiers and snowboarders whizzing past panoramic patios. This is the best way to be first in the powder every day and to enjoy the onhill après ski without having to worry about driving back to town. Same as the ski slopes, the Lodge is accessed by an 18-minute gondola ride, so you get off the bus or park your car at the base, take your luggage to the Lodge Check-In and then go off skiing or riding while bags are transported by lifties. Next time you see them, you’ll be looking for your swimsuit for the hot tub!
2. Sunshine’s sensational snow
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Perched high on the Continental Divide between Alberta and BC, Sunshine’s seasonal snowfall can reach up to ten metres (35 feet). And the high altitude, at 7,200 feet, means snow stays light and dry over the 3,300 acres of skiable terrain. Twelve lifts spread the skiers out over three mountains, 115 named runs and 15 acres of terrain park, so that even on busy holidays there is little waiting in line, especially if you ski against the flow. Tip for peak periods: Get off the gondola at Goat’s Eye and ski there for the morning, have lunch at Goat’s Eye Gardens and then ski Lookout and Standish in the afternoon. Almost everyone else will go the opposite way!
3. Warmest Lift in Canada
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No other Canadian ski resort has the sophisticated warmth of a heated seat and the total windbreak of an orange see-through cover while ascending the wintry wilds! The Orange Bubble Chairlift, Teepee Town LX, has revolutionized skiing the Teepee Town area which traditionally featured the coldest chair, right on the ridge in full force of the wind. It is now a ritzy relaxing ride in vivid view of Mt Assiniboine, complete with blaring music at the base and lifties who blow any snow off the seats before you sit down. Whisking 1,200 riders per hour at a speed of 5.08 metres per second, the expansive area below is varied and fun, with open groomers for intermediates and tantalizing trees and black runs for experts. You can read more about these innovative chairlifts in my article at:http://onetwoski.blogspot.com/
4. Sunshine’s après ski
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Built in 1928 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, Mad Trapper’s Grill & BBQ is the rustic and rollicking late nightspot. Open during daytime for pub-style burgers, booze and BBQ, the fun continues all evening when resort workers and lodge guests mix and mingle. Great patios and sunning areas in the spring. For fine dining the Lodge has Eagle’s Nest Canadian Bistro (http://www.
5. First Tracks from Sunshine Mountain Lodge
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Whether it’s a powder day or corduroy opportunity, get up early to put your ski-print all over the resort. The gondola doesn’t open until 9, so you can have the whole 3,300 acres to yourself for the first half an hour or so when staying at the Lodge which is right by Standish Quad. If you are pondering new ski purchases, check out the Salomon demo rentals by the Angel Express Quad and make sure to rent fat skis for skiing Delirium Dive or Sunshine’s other off-piste area, Wild West (http://www.skibanff.com/
6. Decadent Daylodge Dining
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Right by the gondola, chairlifts, child care, ski school and Lodge, the Sunshine Village Daylodge is a great place to meet up with friends and family, drop off the backpacks, and return for picnics, food court or restaurant dining. Yes, you can bring your own food indoors in Canada! Unlike European resorts, Canadians welcome families with their own food and there are copious benches upstairs in the daylodge for this purpose. The self-service counters have multiple stations for diverse dining including a curry and pho soup station. Other onhill options include Sunshine Burger Company downstairs, The Lookout Kitchen + Bar upstairs for Rocky Mountain comfort food and pizza, the nearby Java Lift for gourmet coffees and crepes, Goat’s Eye Gardens for picnics and snacks, and Creekside at the resort base, a great place to ski down to when the daylodge is bursting at the beams.
7. Chill on the hill
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After all the arduous action of a ski day, an al fresco soak is the best way to unwind. Sociable and scenic, Sunshine’s communal Jacuzzi is huge and you can bring beverages to help you drink in the atmosphere. For fitness fanatics there is a well-equipped gym, and evening yoga classes will restore flexibility and refine core stability. Feet killing you or quads quaking after a few days’ intensive skiing? Rejuvenate moaning muscles at the Verde Day Spa with hot stone massage plus organic oils, aromatherapy and facial treatments (http://www.
8. Luxury lofts at the Lodge
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After a $5million renovation in 2009, Sunshine has deluxe West Wing loft rooms where everything is topnotch in a mountain-modern motif. Operated by remote control, blinds reveal 27 foot windows onto the Standish Mountains slopes. With all mod cons including in-floor heating, flatscreens and fireplace, the jetted-tub bathrooms have shutters to help bring the outdoors in and the 27-feet windows actually open to let you breathe the heady mountain air. Eco-elements include re-used materials, passive solar warmth, reduced water use and energy consumption.
9. Ritzy Retail
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Freezing ‘cos you forgot your facemask? Sunshine’s shop, Monarch Sports Boutique, in the daylodge building gives you time while actually onhill to try on the latest ski gear and accessories. Stock up here on elite brands such as Dale of Norway, Bogner Fire + Ice, Skea and KJUS. There’s a second shop – upstairs in Creekside Lodge at the resort base – which features Burton, North Face, Salomon, Oakley, Smith and Scott products.
10. Follow in forefathers’ footsteps
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Snowshoeing is a fun way to explore the Sunshine UNESCO World Heritage environment. Less dynamic than skiing or riding, it is still physically demanding although once you get the hang of the snowshoes, it becomes easier and you are able to appreciate the 360-degree mountainscapes, unmarred by any modern development. Sunshine sets educational historical excursions along the ancient trading routes of Canada’s First Nations tribes and tops off the tours with fabulous fondue parties, a nod to the Alpine pioneers who first scoped out the area for skiing. Guests at the lodge can also borrow snowshoes for free once they know their way around.
11. Making Mountain Memories
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Don’t fancy fighting the food-store hordes and wasting valuable ski time over a hot stove? Spend Christmas at Sunshine Mountain Lodge instead, where a team of international staff will serve your every need. It is truly a signature experience to stay so high in the remote mountains celebrating the natural – and snowsports’ – world with your family and friends. Festive décor, torchlight parades, tobogganing, skiing Santa visits, live entertainment, snowshoe treasure hunts, Christmas movie nights, and seasonal food all make for mega memories and much more interesting instagram and facebook photo opps! And the best news if you are visiting from outside of Canada, everything is very cost-effective right now – check out Sunshine’s handy currency converter to see the price advantages (http://www.skibanff.com/