I switched off my headlamp so my eyes would adjust to the darkness. I could see the glittery stars above and the twinkling alpine ski village below as our group trudged along tight trails between snow-laden trees. I was on the Moonlight Snowshoe Tour at Sun Peaks Resort with my husband, kids and a group of Australians. We trekked towards the glow of a crackling campfire in a clearing up ahead to warm up with some hot apple cider and s’ mores after our one-hour ramble through the woods. The snowshoe tour is one of the many activities offered at Sun Peaks Resort. We opted for the night snowshoe tour after lifts had closed and most activities had wrapped up for the day.
Our family’s five-day itinerary was packed with skiing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding, and Holiday Kick-off Weekend events. The Holiday Kick-off Weekend is an annual celebration to mark the opening of the mountain resort for the upcoming season. Festivities include sleigh rides, photos with Santa, maple taffy making stations, cookie decorating, live performances, an artisanal market and so much more.
To get there, we took a one-and-a-half-hour flight from Calgary to Kamloops. Initially, my heart sank when I saw how dry Kamloops was with barely a dusting of snow on the ground. Our shuttle driver, Marlies from TasteFull Excursions, assured me that Sun Peaks enjoys a micro-climate, and we would find plenty of snow once we got closer to the resort. During our 50-minute drive to the mountain, the trees got heavier with snow and the terrain turned light and sparkly along with my mood.
With 137 runs on 4270 acres sprawled over three mountains and the newly opened Orient Ridge, Sun Peaks is Canada’s second-largest ski terrain. Not all the lifts and runs were open because mid-December is early in the season, but the 63 open runs were more than enough to tackle with our three-day lift passes.
Why did we choose Sun Peaks Resort for our family ski vacation?
Sun Peaks has a reputation for being great for families. Over half the runs are for new and intermediate skiers and there are ample options to challenge our budding ski racer teen as well as plenty of easy skiing for our nervous younger daughter. For the ambitious, there are expert runs with enough drops, peaks, and verticals to make the most daring go a little weak in the knees. 32% of the runs at Sun Peaks are for advanced and expert skiers. So, there really is something for everyone.
The architecture of Sun Peaks is reminiscent of a quaint European mountain-side village and we love the ease of ski-in-ski-out accommodations. Everything you need is less than a five-minute walk including restaurants, cafes, and boutique shopping.
Instead of being tourists in a buzzy ski resort, we felt like welcomed guests in someone’s hometown.
Sun Peaks is a municipality and there are residents who live here year-round. Sun Peaks has one of the only mountainside schools on the planet where local kids lug their homework to the hill, ride the lift up and ski down to their school below.
A group of part-time permanent residents who rather than flock to sunny destinations, head to snowy ranges in the winter months. Many of them are retired and volunteer weekly in the Sun Host program at Sun Peaks Resort. The hosts gave us tips on the best trails, fastest lifts and the prettiest terrain. Their complimentary tours run daily at 9:15 am and 1:00 pm. I recommend going with this friendly group on your first day to help navigate the mountains.
You can also hit the slopes with the ultimate ski host, Olympic Champion Nancy Greene. You’ll find her most days at 1:00 pm at the top of the Sunburst Express lift. Nancy Greene is the Director of Skiing at Sun Peaks and is happy to spend time chatting with guests. Of course, I took the opportunity to fangirl with this Canadian legend and asked for some pointers. I can say my skiing abilities have fundamentally improved after spending time with this former coach of the Canadian National Ski Team. Visit www.sunpeaksresort.com for more information on dates and times you can ski with Nancy Greene.
Off-piste Adventures at Sun Peaks Resort
When you aren’t skiing or snowboarding, there are a number of activities to fill your time between hot tub soaks and meal times. We were able to cross a few items off our bucket-list including dog-sledding, snowmobiling, and snowshoeing.
Dog Sledding at Sun Peaks Resort
Mountain Man Dog Sled Adventures offers backcountry tours on private trails. According to my kids, hanging out with the sled dogs and getting mauled by puppies was the highlight of our family vacation. The dogs are so friendly and love hanging out with people as much as we enjoyed them. Pilsner, one of the sled dogs, nosed my hand. His owner told me I was the only person who hadn’t pet him yet and this dog ensures he gets pets from everyone.
Snowmobiling at Sun Peaks Resort
For fuelled-up backcountry fun, check out Sun Peaks Resort’s Snowmobiling Tours. We opted for the two-hour tour which I recommend for anyone new to snowmobiling or anyone with younger kids. Our tour was a great opportunity to cover a lot of terrain in a short period of time. Although he wished he could have been the one driving, my 14-year old enjoyed ripping around the trails and the excitement of the roaring engines.
Snowshoeing at Sun Peaks Resort
There are endless multi-purpose trails for nordic skiing, fat biking and of course, snowshoeing. Sun Peaks rents out snowshoes if you’d like to explore the trails at your own pace. We opted for the Moonlight Snowshoe Tour. A short one-km loop that’s great for beginners and children, plus there’s s’mores. Snowshoe tours are hosted by retired local Fire Chief Colin Cannon and his team of local interpretive guides.
Tubing at Sun Peaks Resort
If you are in the mood to whiz down a mountain on a big inflatable doughnut, check out the Tube Park at Sun Peaks Resort. The Tube Park has manufactured turns, high berms, and contoured corners, reminiscent of a bobsled track. The Village Platter Lift stays open well after the rest of the runs have closed for the day, so this makes a great add-on for anyone with energy left to burn.
Bungee Trampoline at Sun Peaks Resort
Defy gravity on the Bungee Trampoline! Bungee-cords tethered to a huge trampoline give you the confidence to land that ever-elusive backflip.
Visit www.sunpeaks.ca for a comprehensive list of all the available tours, activities and events happening at Sun Peaks.
Après-ski at Sun Peaks Resort
Bottoms Bar & Grill
A local favourite, you’ll find large portions of hearty food such as poutine, burgers and fries and ten local beers on tap at Bottoms Bar & Grill. There’s a comprehensive kids menu complete with lime and peach slurpees. It’s a great spot to warm up with grown-up hot chocolate and a round of pool.
Reminiscent of an Austrian hunting lodge, Powder Hounds serves up impressive food that sticks to your ribs – perfect after a day of skiing. Our favourite fare includes their best selling Hunter Schnitzel – a breaded pork schnitzel with mushroom sauce, red cabbage and spaetzle and their Beef Stroganoff – tender beef sirloin strips simmered in a rich mushroom cream sauce served over linguine with caramelized onion compote, sour cream and garlic bread. We were also impressed with their wine selections, including award-winning Osoyoos winery Cassini Cellars.
A local instituion, the owners have been running Bolacco Cafe for over 20 years. Bolacco’s walls are lined with vintage skis, international postcards and ecelctic license plates. This cozy cafe is famous for its gourmet sandwiches, house-made mustard, freshly baked berry scones and strong coffee.
Where to Stay
The Sun Peaks Grand Hotel & Conference Centre
The Sun Peaks Grand Hotel & Conference Centre offers full-service luxury accommodations and is located steps from the lifts to both Morrisey and Sundance Mountains. There is an onsite rental shop and a no-fuss ski and snowboard valet service to park your gear overnight. The stunning lobby has soaring ceilings with wooden beams and couches and cozy fireplaces. For families, the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel offers adjoining rooms and some of the rooms have kitchenettes.
We enjoyed the ease of the buffet breakfast at Mantles Restaurant located right in our hotel. Fresh fruit, french pastries, made-to-order omellettes and a daily chef’s special are only a few of the buffet features offered at Mantels every morning.
The outdoor heated pool, hot tubs, and sauna were a hit with both parents and kids to ease our tired muscles after a day on the slopes.
For more amazing Family Ski Adventures in Canada and abroad, visit Family Fun Canada’s Skiing section on our website.
The writer was a guest of Sun Peaks Resort. Sun Peaks did not read, review or approve this story prior to publication.
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