Sun Peaks is Canada’s second biggest ski resort, which might surprise people who have never been or not for several years. But good as size is, it’s not everything, as the saying goes.
Sun Peaks offers plenty of dry interior bc snow for all, from catski powder bowls & lift served glades to unlimited family cruising. The ‘goldilocks’ on-snow village experience (as in not too big, not too small, just right) is the cream on the powder puff says our roving snow reporter Vanessa Graham.
Wind back the clock to 2010. Vancouver is about to host the Winter Olympics, and organisers are frantically trucking in snow from higher, colder elevations to fill barren slopes.
A few hours inland, by contrast, British Columbia’s second largest ski resort, Sun Peaks, is revelling in dry, champagne-like powder, “The kind that gets you out of bed in the morning” as my ski-crazy husband likes to put it.
The Austrian snowboard team is there putting the finishing touches on its Games’ preparation. And Canadian Female Athlete of the Century, Nancy Greene, days out from her own Opening Ceremony role as torch bearer, is spruiking her home mountain to a group of visiting media newcomers.
“Who needs that wet, coastal snow when you can be here,” she teases, as only a defector from the West Coast can.
“Twelve inches (30 centimetres) overnight and more coming. Someone should be giving us a gold medal.”
If I learned one thing in that Olympiad year, which coincidently worked out all right in the end for the Vancouverites, it is that Okanagan snow is light and reliable. If I was to add a second, it would be that a lot fewer people head to Sun Peaks than Whistler, guaranteeing short lift lines, if any.
Six years on, I have returned and can vouch the trifecta is complete; adding 200 new hectares of skiable terrain has taken the resort’s wide open spaces to an impressive 1700 hectares, the 2nd biggest in all of Canada. And all abilities are catered for.
“We pride ourselves on being a family-friendly resort, but Gil’s is something else,” says Sun Peaks marketing representative Megan Nelson, of the new black zone.
Indeed, Gil’s, a steep, east-facing slope above the old Tod Mountain chair, was once a secret out-of-bounds powder paradise for locals. But a one-kilometre extension of the ski-boundary in 2015 opened and legitimised access.
“It has taken three years to get to this point,” Megan explains.
“You hike your way in to this awesome slope, which is completely ‘in’ bounds. It is fully patrolled, very exciting, although you still have that backcountry feel. And the visibility is good even on a stormy day.” Gil’s is dotted with the stunning ‘snow ghost’ trees which characterise the resort.
Nearby Morrissey Mountain is just as photogenic, and offers its own newly-opened glade runs.
“I love taking guests there on our complimentary weekend tours” says Nancy Greene, these days Sun Peak’s Director of Skiing, “because it offers the best of both worlds: challenging black diamonds for the adventurous, and gentle rolling blues for when the legs get a little tired.”
There are spas, and then there is the four-star Sun Peaks Grand Hotel’s two jumbo hot tubs, the ultimate retreat after a hard day skiing. Perched at base of the Sundance chairlift, it boasts sweeping views of the resort’s 882 metres of skiing vertical, and attracts a melting pot of skiers, boarders and locals. Like Jase, who I met on my first visit there.
“You know, there’s only one thing that tops this view” he says, matter-of-factly. “The crepes my store makes in the village.” It was a mean boast, but one he could substantiate. And the sweet and savoury concoctions of Tod Mountain Café taste just as good on this return visit.
The award-winning ski-in ski-out pedestrian village, with its quaint European feel, is full of delicious dining options. Mountain High Pizza is number one on Trip Advisor for a reason, and it won’t break the budget. Mantles Bar and Restaurant serves classic and memorable Canadian cuisine.
For the complete mountain experience, sign up for the Sun Peaks Fondue Dinner and Evening Descent. Even if you aren’t a big cheese fan, like our travel buddy George, you will be thankful for the first tracks you enjoy – by head torch – on the way down. Ten centimetres of hero snow, the night we went.
It could be argued you can judge a mountain by its standard of aprés. And if so, Sun Peaks passes comprehensively, melding western party feel with relaxed verve.
Bottoms – with its happy-hour double vodka cranberries – is a prime starting point, while Cahilty Creek Bar & Grill screens sports live and delivers an ambiance even a non-ice hockey fan can enjoy.
Did I say ice-hockey? Do yourself a favour and book tickets to see local team, the Kamloops Blazers, in action. It’s not the NHL, but it is fast-paced and addictive. A coach travels to and from the village on match nights, a 45-minute jaunt through British Columbia’s pretty Thompson-Okanagan region.
With 2,000 hours of sunshine, a six-metre annual snowfall, and easy one-stop flight access to Kamloops on Air Canada, Sun Peaks is one of Canada’s best options.
Sun Peaks is exceptional value, especially if you get on the Early Bird package deal options. For families the kids to 12 years ski & rent free makes life easier, while adult twin share packages go from $955pp 2 share for 7 nights with a 6 day pass & $50 bonus food & beverage credit from Ski Max.