OverviewFrom its early days as Tod Mountain, Sun Peaks ski resort in British Columbia, Canada, has matured into one of the best and most underrated ski domains in Canada. It is the second largest ski area in BC, behind Whistler, and the third largest in Canada, behind Lake Louise in Alberta.
Sun Peaks' main drawback is the time it takes to reach it. From the UK, it entails a flight to Calgary or Vancouver, then another flight to Kamloops, topped off with a 50-minute shuttle ride. Kamloops station is on the same line as Vancouver and Banff/Jasper, and an inter-resort shuttle service to Whistler, Big White, Silver Star and Revelstoke, is available for skiers wanting to combine Sun Peaks with another resort.
Ski areaSun Peaks' 3,678 acres of skiable terrain is spread across three mountains - Tod, Sundance and Morrisey - making up 125 runs, including 13 gladed areas, which offer a satisfyingly diverse range of skiing. Beginners can quickly progress from gentle beginner slopes near home, to a couple of friendly runs off the Sunburst chair, and the resort has mile after mile of exceptional groomed cruisers - including the signature Five Miles run which takes even novices from the top of Tod back to base. Morrisey is blessed with some enjoyable tree runs, including The Sticks, a groomed blue that winds lazily through stands of pines, thus giving even gentle skiers a taste of tree runs. There are a few steeps - Sting, Challenger and Peak-a-boo, for example - empty powder bowls, mogul runs such as Headwall, and even a bit of off-piste on Gil's Hill accessed from the top of the Crystal and Burfield chairs.
There's nothing too testing for advanced skiers and riders, unlike BC's no 1, Whistler, and many other other Canadian resorts, which may be the reason why Sun Peaks is often overlooked by pro-riders who make most of the noise in the ski world. But while it doesn't have Whistler's vertical, it can claim the better powder, being further inland and with a higher base elevation.
With uncrowded slopes, few lift lines, a quieter, less frenetic ambiance and a demographic that embraces young families at one end and older skiers at the other, it is a paradise for families and intermediates.
Sun Peaks has a full free hosting programme, enabling new arrivals to orient themselves on the mountain. And you can also ski with Nancy Greene - Canada's no 1 female athlete of the 20 century - who, together with husband Al Raines, have been pivotal in the development of first Whistler and then Sun Peaks, adopting the policy of ensuring that trail and lift capacity is never exceeded by accommodation capacity, meaning the mountain never gets too crowded, and you never have to wait long to get up it!
Off the slopes and apres skiSun Peaks' resort village is compact and convenient for all the base lifts and you can even ski down its pedestrianised high street. Though purpose-built it doesn't have the Disneyesque feel of Tremblant in eastern Canada, and is commercially discreet with no garish shopfronts.
Its quiet bars, coffee shops and restaurants are neatly tucked away. Even the hotels are understated: Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge, for example, though quite big, is designed to look like a collection of smaller buildings. Most of the accommodation in town is ski-in, ski-out, which is great for families who will also enjoy the quieter atmosphere in resort.
On the mountain there are food outlets at the base of the Burfield chair, and a visit here is incomplete without sampling a cinnamon bun at the restaurant at the top of Sunburst. For the best coffee in Sun Peaks head to Balaccos, which also does a delicious kahlusa - a Polish sausage sandwich with home-made mustard. Cahilty's does a good burger and Mountain High Pizza serves substantial slices of...pizza. If you want fine dining, try Powder Hounds.
The apres is mostly on the quieter side, but revellers should make for Bottoms Bar - accessible from the slopes, and check out the new bar in town: Morrissey's, located in the Delta Residence.
FamiliesSun Peaks prides itself on putting a great family experience as its top priority. From the exclusive beginners area (no nasty fast skiers whizzing past) to the sports and aquatic centre and a wealth of non-ski activities, such as dog sled rides, horse-drawn sleigh rides and snowmobiling, this is a great resort for families.
There's also a tube park, a beginners' snowpark and a bungee trampoline and an impeccably-run ski school for all ages from 3 upwards. Nearly every restaurant has kids menus and the pedestrianised resort means it feels safe for kids to roam round, too.
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Bars and clubs