I’ll be frank. Sun Peaks had tried and failed to lure me to their ski resort deep in the heart of Canada’s interior British Columbia, an hour north of Kamloops. I had in my blinkered ski journalist ways headed to the more intrepid resorts in search of boasting rights. How wrong I was.
Those who have headed to Sun Peaks before me, and there are many, already belong to a private club of those in the snow know who smile, nod and wink when another of their kind crosses their path. Thankfully I now also belong, though for a time there I may never have discovered the delights of this Okanagan resort. Thank god I saw the error of my ways.
Sun Peaks is more than ‘just’ a family resort. This 4270 acre piece of mountain paradise serves up Canada’s second largest ski resort behind Whistler. There are three peak ski areas, Mt Tod, Mt Morrisey and Sundance. All three funnel back down to the purpose built village and base area so you’ll never lose your ski buddies, even if you take different level runs.
Add 882 meters of vertical rise and you’re guaranteed a thigh burn, especially if you take the double blacks on Morrisey and Tod. But don’t let those diamonds perturb you, the resort is split 10% beginner, 58% intermediate and 32% advanced and expert so there’s plenty to go around for those who prefer groomers to off piste. Add powder tree skiing, a 10 acre top to bottom terrain park and a patrolled backcountry zone and they’ve pretty much got all styles of skier and boarder covered.
I had met Nancy Greene, Canada’s Female Athlete of the 20th Century and Olympic gold and silver medalist, at a ski show in Australia. The 70 year old plus dynamo (who is also a Canadian Senator) has twice the energy of someone half her age and still skis like a demon. I know because I spent an afternoon cruising the resort with Greene as she revealed her favourite terrain and fun powder tree runs.
Greene was integral to the development and design of Sun Peaks village that was rebranded from Tod Mountain in 1993 to Sun Peaks with a plan for a purpose built European style ski in ski out centre with accommodation and a retail complex which exists today. The beauty of having such a high profile Canadian loved athlete on site is that guests can interact with a living legend and ski with Greene on one of her complimentary mountain ski tours.
She’s not the only world class racer to have skied these peaks. The Austrian ski team trained at Sun Peaks in preparation for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. So we’re all in good company.
Sun Peaks is also the ‘training ground’ for heli skiers heading to Mike Weigele Helicopter Skiing. Many choose to warm up the legs for a week at Sun Peaks which is a couple of hours from the famed Blue River Mike Weigele Helicopter Skiingbase. Some of the Weigele Helicopter Skiing guides also call Sun Peaks their home mountain and guests can take a backcountry ski tour into ‘Gil’s Terrain’ to ski the steep and deep off piste with Bodie Shandro.
But here’s the thing. What really impressed me about Sun Peaks wasn’t just the variety of terrain, quality of snow and ease of pedestrian village. It was all the other joys on offer from snow mobiling to a remote ice lake for a Weiner roast to dog sled tours, fat biking, ice fishing, an after dark fondue dinner with a ski descent, you can even head to Kamloops for a professional ice hockey game.
Then there’s that little Japanese place called OYA which honestly has the best sushi rolls I have had at a ski resort and yes, that includes some bigger global named Japanese restaurants with famous chefs. OYA is discreet, under the radar and completely unexpected. A bit like Sun Peaks itself.
For coffee head to the locals favourite, Bolacco. If you like Canadiana and maple syrup styled fare then try Voyageur Bistro. There’s also an Irish pub (Morrisey’s Public House) and Bella Italia for pasta so global food options are covered. Add some retail therapy with known outdoor brands like North Face and chocolate therapy at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (go the caramel bear claw).
Sun Peaks is definitely a family resort, kids are very well catered for from ski school through to events. When I was there it was the Nancy Greene Hub International festival when 500 kids descend upon the Sun Peaks slopes to compete across a variety of disciplines.
But Sun Peaks offers more than your average family resort. Behind the shiny Disneyland smiles lies some grunt with challenging terrain as unexpected as the best sushi rolls in all the ski land. I suspect this sweet not so little resort had the boasting rights I was looking for all along.