Story by Jody Robbins
BANFF, ALBERTA — My husband and I are in a heated debate. The view through the two-storey loft windows of fresh snow that’s accumulated overnight is threatening our marriage. Who would get first tracks, and who would stay with our daughter until her mid-morning ski lesson?
One of us would have to be the bigger, magnanimous person, while the other exceptionally selfish individual (yeah, he got to go first) blazed a trail through untouched powder. Usually lounging around a boutique hotel room isn’t a problem, but when you have a bird’s-eye view of both the slopes and smug skiers, it’s a little hard to take.
But as I found out, there are plenty of other ways to occupy yourself at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, the only ski-in and ski-out accommodation in Banff National Park. With a focus on family activities, my daughter and I whiled away the morning playing chess and swimming in the hot tub (it’s that big). Night tobogganing, movie nights and yoga classes give the property a resort feel, and make it an appealing destination even for non-skiers.
Fully renovated in 2010, the lodge is no longer the ski bum shack I stayed in a decade ago. Our loft boasts a king bed upstairs, with a queen and murphy bed on the first floor, making it an ideal choice for large families and groups of friends. Shutters separate the bathroom from the main room, allowing you to bask in an uninterrupted view of the Continental Divide from deep within the glinting, modern bathtub.
With cathedral ceilings and a fair number of stag heads mounted on the walls, the main lodge itself is decked out in grand camp tradition. And outdoors, what you see now is pretty much what you’ll get for the next 100 years. Being tucked inside a national park means clusters of condos won’t ever spoil the scenery in this alpine setting.
Rocky Mountain Thrills in Banff
But as a parent (and fair-weather skier), what’s most attractive about the property is the ability to pop back and forth between the room and the hill. You can shred down 3,000 vertical feet of world-class terrain, then run back inside and throw on a kid’s program while you partake in après-ski on the balcony (as I might have done).
Deciding which of the 190 runs on three mountains to start on is no easy task. With eight high speed quads, and more than 3,000 skiable acres, there’s plenty of powder stashes to be found in corners all over of the resort. While the pros can rip down Goat’s Eye in under 10 minutes, I’m partial to its wide-open cruisers and take my time getting down the 9,200-foot mountain.
Where many ski resorts might be sporting a bit of green at this time of year, don’t for a second think the season in Alberta is over come March — not when Sunshine is open until mid-May.
“Spring skiing isn’t what people think it is,” says Tanya Otis, manager of communications for Sunshine Village.
And she’s right. Straddling both Alberta and British Columbia, smack-dab on the Continental Divide, Sunshine Village gets more snow than most other resorts — topping more than 30 feet. Over 70 centimetres (about 28 inches) of the fluffy stuff has already dropped down the first week in March.
“March is the best month of the season. We get the most snow then, the sun is higher and the deep freeze is over,” notes Dave Riley, senior vice-president and chief operating officer at Sunshine Village.
After a heavy, leg-burner day, the advantages of staying slope-side sink in. Limping back to the lodge and warming up by the Chimney Corner eatery’s roaring fireplace with a whipped cream-topped Reindeer Games (boozy hot chocolate) feels positively decadent.
Though I’m blissfully satiated with my ski experience, there’s still some unresolved business to take care of. The steady accumulation of snow guarantees another epic day. You can be sure, next time, I’ll be shredding the slopes first.
More About Sunshine Village
Location: Banff National Park, Alberta (8 kilometres west of Banff on Trans Canada Highway No. 1).
Lift Ticket Rates: $82.86 for adults or $29.95-$59.95 for children; free under five years
Sunshine Mountain Lodge Rates: From $149 per person including next day skiing (based on double occupancy).