News from the snow
Sunshine Village - Ski and Snowboard Resort Canada
There are few true 'ski towns' around the world, especially those with a choice of top ski areas on their doorstep, each with independent ownership. Austria's Innsbruck, Utah's Park City, New Zealand's Christchurch and Argentina's Bariloche are some of the few examples, Aspen grew up that way but with all the ski areas nearby now owned by one company some feel the character there has gone. Not so in Banff, where the Mount Norquay is the nearest to town and offers flexible skiing by the hour if you just have a little time to spare for a few turns. If you are planning a full day of skiing or riding there is much more terrain available at Sunshine Village. Banff came in to being in 1883 when three railway workers building Canada's first trans-Continental railway staked a claim on the hot springs area that bubbled up there. It was named by a Canadian Pacific employee after his home area of Banffshire in North Eastern Scotland, although it doesn't look much like it! Two years later the railway was competed and soon afterwards the Canadian Pacific railway Company built the incredible Banff Springs hotel and Canada's first national park was established, "the rest is history". The town has a reputation also for being extremely good value and having genuinely friendly inhabitants. It's particularly impressive that they manage to keep cheerful when you consider the 7600 'Banffites' have to keep smiling at more than three million visitors a year. The snow on the surrounding mountains is known for its quality and abundance which help Sunshine to open from early November to late May every year - one of the world's longest ski seasons. The experience of being able to spend the day in true wilderness terrain or modern ski areas and then the evenings in a lively resort also appeals to many. The success of Banff as a world leading ski destination was laid out more than a century ago when Swiss mountain guides led parties of climbers on first ascents of the surrounding peaks and traversed prehistoric glaciers. In leather bindings and wooden skis they discovered untracked snow in wide-open bowls and meadows, laying the groundwork for what was to become a viable ski industry. Settling in Banff, the pioneers helped build trails then roads through the raw, rugged and largely uninhabited landscape and eventually they established hotels and businesses.
With slopes facing in all directions, Sunshine is one of North America's oldest resorts, dating back to 1928. Yet it has recently invested heavily in massive infrastructure improvements and renovations and even added a third mountain, Goat's Eye, serviced by some of the continent's fastest high speed detachable quads. The resort also boasts Banff's largest ski rental shop and the only ski-in, ski-out hotel. The snow record is so impressive that snow-making would be regarded as throwing money away. The resort has terrain to suit all abilities. For advanced skiers and snowboarders the Delirium Drive, the ultimate front country adventure with pitches of 40 degrees and vertical footage of 1919 feet. Delirium will be located on the north face of Lookout Mountain.
Sunshine is the oldest ski area, established in 1928 but has been expanding rapidly in recent years with seven new high speed quads. After a short ride from Banff, skiers hop on the world's fastest eight-passenger gondola ride to stunning upper alpine terrain with wide-open bowls and tree runs carved through the forest. The resort has terrain to suit all abilities.
For advanced skiers and snowboarders the Delirium Drive, the ultimate front country adventure with pitches of over 40 degrees and vertical footage of 1919 feet. Delirium will be located on the north face of Lookout Mountain. Sunshine Village also offers the only on-mountain accommodation in Banff National Park and services including pubs, lounges, dining, live entertainment and day care. The world's fastest high-speed quads dominate the three different mountain faces available to skiers. With close to 30 feet of snow each year and the longest season in the Rockies, Sunshine Village's 100 per cent natural snow is generally
regarded as some of the world's best.
Early mountain guides from Switzerland, Austria and Germany learned from the Native people how to identify and cook local foods. They learned how to cure and smoke game and fish so they could survive the long winters. They found out about tasty vegetables, fruits and flavourings from the forest which could be pickled for the winter. But, wilderness ingredients were seldom seen of fashionable restaurant menus. Thanks to classically trained chefs who appreciate the creative and nutritional approaches to food, today's Mountain menus are a meeting ground of culinary creativity.
Popular eateries in the town include the Magpie and stump, Georgio's, the Paris Restaurant and Waldhaus.
The last ten days of January traditionally sees the resort's famous Winterfest, which has run for more than 80 years. Events start to roll with the ever-popular Town Party (1500 people and five bands at the Banff Springs Hotel), and continue with the Snow Ambassador Contest, Art Walk, "Bar Golf" Pub Crawl, Wine Challenge, Snowboarding competition, Oktoberfest in January, giant tug of war, and outdoor snow carnival relay races, just to name a handful of the over 30 events which make up the Festival. The Annual Mountain Madness Relay is a local favourite - a five-person relay race from the top of Mount Norquay to Central Park. Other facilities available throughout the summer include a four screen cinema and night skiing is possible on Mount Norquay.