California skiers and boarders who head north to Canada on a ski vacation will find a plethora of choices in British Columbia beyond Whistler Blackcomb. If you love the idea of endless cruiser runs you’ll be in heaven at Sun Peaks Resort, a scant four hour drive east of Vancouver.
Most Tahoe resorts offer a balanced package of ski runs, split between varying levels of beginner, intermediate and advanced runs. That means that regardless of what level skier or boarder you are you would be lucky to have your favored terrain in a third of the ski area. A common complaint at Squaw Valley, for example, is that the intermediate runs at the top of the mountain are pretty short. Not at Sun Peaks, where the longest run, a leg-burning 5 miles, seems gloriously endless.
Sun Peaks Resort
Sun Peaks Resort, previously known as Tod Mountain, is overshadowed by its behemoth cousin to the West, Whistler Blackcomb, which many California skiers are familiar with. Sun Peaks is lesser known in the U.S. but has lots to offer the discriminating winter traveler. The third largest ski area in Canada, Sun Peaks boasts 3, 678 acres of dry, light powder and 2,894 vertical feet of terrain across three distinct mountain faces. The expansive views draw the eye across multiple snowy mountain ranges extending in all directions, often bathed in abundant sunshine.
Most of the terrain is of intermediate difficulty with some steeps and plenty of tree runs, ranging from widely spaced tree “islands” to narrow, twisty gladed runs. Open bowls and long, long runs make you feel like you can ski forever, gliding over beautifully groomed trails, losing yourself in the beauty of the mountains. There are some steeps at the top of the Burfield Chair at 6, 824 feet that provide some challenge but you don’t come here for the steeps. It’s a great place for families to be able to ski together and the 11 lifts, including several fixed quads, provide ample service with non-existent lift lines.
A highly recommended way to become familiar with the mountain and learn about the history of Sun Peaks is to attend one of the twice daily tours of the mountain, offered free of charge. Groups are divided by ability level and are guided all over the three mountains that comprise the resort. On a recent visit we were hard pressed to keep up with our guide, Thor Grundell, a few years our senior but with the strength of a 20 year old and speed of a racer. He knew that, as advanced skiers, we would enjoy chasing him down the mountain, and gave us a comprehensive tour of the entire mountain, pointing out all the places where we could find the best snow. He enhanced our experience greatly with his entertaining stories and secret powder stashes.
The charming, Tyrolean-inspired Sun Peaks Village takes the concept of ski in-ski out to a new level. You might wonder why the central walkway down the center of the village isn’t plowed—it’s because it’s a ski-way, not a walkway. In the morning skiers and boarders step out from their lodging, strap on their equipment and ski down to the lifts. It’s inspired.
Sporting goods shops, fine art boutiques, cafés and restaurants line the ski-way, providing ample opportunities for lollygagging on the way home to warm up with a hot toddy or check out some local crafts. The temperatures are generally colder than Tahoe, edging closer to zero degrees F, so scouting out the sporting goods stores may motivate you to add a layer or two, or pick up a heavier jacket. You may find that stores carrying familiar brands, such as North Face and Spyder, offer different styles compared to Tahoe so you might be able to pick up something distinctive.
An eclectic variety of restaurants, ranging from sushi at Chopstixx to German specialties at the romantic Servus, will tempt your palate. The Steakhouse at Sun Peaks Lodge offers tender cuts of beef as well as wild coho salmon. For lunch, try the Bolacco Café , which offers luscious homemade chili and hearty sandwiches in a casual atmosphere.
For non-skiing days Sun Peaks offers a variety of activities from dog sledding with Mountain Man Adventures to getting a sports massage from Sun Peaks Spa. A unique experience is to ride with a groomer in a snowcat to see how they work their magic to make smooth, even runs. There is a regular schedule of daily events, ranging from snowshoe tours on Sundays to the popular Thursday evening Fondue Dinner at the Sunburst Restaurant on the mountain with a headlamp-aided ski descent.
A value-packed winter wonderland
Sun Peaks Resort offers world class amenities and endless cruiser runs to appeal to couples or families looking for a relaxed, casual approach to a winter holiday. Prices for lift tickets and lodging are substantially less than at Whistler Blackcomb, which will appeal to the value conscious traveler. The wide range of winter activities will keep even the most restless family pleasantly occupied.
San Francisco and Tahoe travelers can fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR). From Vancouver connect on Jazz or West Jet to Kamloops Airport (YKA), rent a car and drive, or arrange for shuttle transportation. Inter-resort shuttles are also available from Whistler Blackcomb.
Drive time from major urban areas:
- Vancouver, BC 4 hours (Shuttle available)
- Whistler, BC 4.5 hours (Shuttle available)
- Seattle, WA 5.5 hours
- Calgary, AB 8.25 hours
- Sun Peaks Lodge offers a casual European-style hotel in the oldest building in Sun Peaks Village. Rates are reasonable, starting at $139 CAD per night.
- Call Central Reservations at 1-800-807-3257 for assistance in selecting a variety of lodging choices at Sun Peaks Resort, including hotel rooms and condominiums.
Lift tickets-Sun Peaks Resort: $73 (adult, all day)
Support for this trip from Tourism Sun Peaks is gratefully acknowledged.