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Sunshine Village ski resort in the Canadian Rockies is the highest of three separate ski areas that lie within an hour's drive from the town of Banff. It's predominantly a day-visitor ski area, but is also unique in the region as being the only resort with on-hill accommodation. It also has the most challenging slopes and best snowfall.

Overview

The mid-sized triplet of the 'Tri-Area' ski resorts, Sunshine Village is situated just 16km south-west of the regional resort town of Banff; the Tri-Area group also includes the other separate ski areas of Mount Norquay and Lake Louise, all are served by connecting ski-bus services and all are covered with a common full-area lift pass.

Sunshine Village is the highest of the three and is the only one to offer on-mountain accommodation, in the ski-in/ski-out Sunshine Inn at the mid-altitude services area of Sunshine Village itself; development is very tightly controlled at all three areas, which are set deep within Canada's stunning Banff National Park, an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Sunshine Village is renowned for offering some of the toughest in-bounds terrain in North America, yet has a great mix of slopes suitable for all abilities; it also offers the greatest difference in elevation - from base altitude to the highest peak - of the Tri Area ski areas, although its rival Lake Louise really has the most consistent overall vertical drop.

The area has also consistently recorded the greatest snowfall depths of all the Tri Area resorts, with total seasonal accumulations often beating those of Lake Louise and Mount Norquay combined.

The season here is long, from early November to early May, but mid-winter temperatures are extremely cold and the days are short; top quality technical clothing is required, and families with small children are best advised to wait until the warmer weeks of spring before they visit.


Ski area

Sunshine Village is tucked away in a high upper valley approximately a quarter-of-a-hour's gondola trip up from its base access point; there are two home-run pistes to this base, but they're both long road-like trails rather than a true end-of-day blast.

The actual ski area covers the mountains to the west of the mid-altitude central service area at Sunshine Village itself, which houses a large well-equipped day lodge complex with a handful of restaurants, bars, equipment hire and childcare facilities, along with the ski-in/ski-out Sunshine Inn; the peaks and ridges above mark the border between Alberta and British Columbia, and some of the ski runs hop back and forth across the frontier.

The slopes take in three principal peaks: Mount Standish, Lookout Mountain, and Goat's Eye Mountain; Standish offers the most novice-friendly slopes, with some lovely long green trails back to Sunshine Village, along with a nice mix of scenic intermediate runs; Lookout and Goat's Eye both offer a good range of prime intermediate and advanced slopes, although each has at least one easier route from top to bottom too.

The biggest draws here though are the experts-only Delirium Dive and Wild West sectors on the northern slopes of Lookout and Goat's Eye respectively; open only to transceiver/shovel/probe-equipped advanced-level visitors, these are in-bounds freeride areas filled with some of the steepest and toughest terrain in North America; Delirium Dive is definitely one for the 'bucket list' of all serious skiers and snowboarders.


Off the slopes and apres ski

Sunshine Village is purely a ski area, with little in the way of attractions or activities for non-skiing winter visitors and only one self-contained accommodation facility on the mountain (the Sunshine Inn); there's no actual 'resort' village here, the resort at Lake Louise or the town of Banff are where most day-visitors stay.

Apres ski at Sunshine Village consists of a few late-afternoon beers in the main day-lodge bars before the ski area closes. Overnight guests at the Sunshine Inn can remain in the slope-side Saloon bar, which stays open until midnight.

// HIGHLIGHTS //
Apres Ski
1
Families
5
Lift System
6
Off the slopes
1
Off-piste
8
Resort Charm
2
Ski Area
7
Vertical drop
1070m
Altitude range
1658–2730m
Ski area
1359
Parks
1
Resort height
2160m
Summit
2730m
Airport
Calgary
Train station
Banff
beginner
20%
intermediate
55%
expert
25%