Monday 14th December 2015, will be a day etched in my memory forever as on an early season visit to Sun peaks, British Columbia, Canada I had one of the best skiing experiences of my life. You see, when you ski as much......................
Monday 14th December 2015, will be a day etched in my memory forever as on an early season visit to Sun peaks, British Columbia, Canada I had one of the best skiing experiences of my life. You see, when you ski as much as I do in Europe early season you are just happy to have white pistes and even artificial snow; off-piste is an area that you don’t tend to have access to until a little later in the season.
However, here, lying in the interior of BC Sun Peaks delivered powder-heaven. The “snow ghosts” (frozen trees covered in thick white blankets) were out in earie force and the depth of snow absorbed all sounds but for the quiet noise of the mechanised rotation of the chairlift pylon wheels.
Just warming up on the groomers was a delight and my Blizzard Bonafide skis did not let me down. They eased into carving turns but with sufficient width underfoot at the waist they excelled in the powder on the side of the pistes and I was desperate to hit the real thing; the back country. We continued that morning with our friendly and hospitable Sun Peaks Tourism hosts Colin Brost and Megan Nelson. It was run after run of cruisey groomers, bumps, or powder. This is where Sun Peaks delivers, now Canada’s second largest ski area, with over 4270 acres of terrain. The lift system is well thought out and efficient with queue free access to the abundance of trails and hardly another skier in sight. Golfers refer to “millionaire golf” when there is no one else on the course, when in Sun peaks it’s millionaires skiing!
In reality Sun Peaks can be split into three interconnected mountains. On Sundance you can take your pick of fun runs such as Grannie Greene’s, Sunrise or Three Bears. On Morrisey you have some great double black diamond mogul fields, my favourites being Spin Cycle or Cover Shot. Over on Mount Todd, where most of the terrain is located, you have a complete mix of runs but also access to the brand new for 2015/16 back country area “Gil’s”. The truth is Sun Peaks lends itself to mixed ability and family skiing as stronger skiers and boarders can hit the single or double blacks whilst more novice riders can take the blue and green runs. “All roads lead to Rome”; wherever you are the runs take you back towards the main high speed lifts.
And so off to Gil’s for our backcountry tour. We took the Crystal chair to its peak and veered off left. What followed was a wonderful 15 minute hike with fantastic views over towards Kamloops.
Our guide was the legendary Bodie Shandro, the off-piste camp coordinator at Sun Peaks. As well as being a guide with the world renowned Mike Wiegele heli-skiing operation Bodie is also an elite paddle boarder – I know you’re beginning to hate him already! But trust me, with his west-coast vibe Bodie has quite an holistic approach to skiing and the mountains. So much so, and I know this sounds corny, that he empowers your potential to synergise the technicality of skiing and mother-nature and accentuates that harmony.
Once at the top of Gil’s you simply chose your line and go. In this instance we took a route through wonderful powder fields having snow ghosts to both the left and right of us, after an exhilarating vertical we then bobbed and weaved through the pine forest and its undulations whilst dodging the tree wells (areas of little snow next to the tree trunk). Eventually we came out onto Gil’s Cat Track before cruising on The Other Way and back to resort via 5 Mile. As Gil’s closes at 2pm for the final patrol sweep we didn’t have time to do it again and so we settled for some inspiring blacks to the right of the Crystal chair with Headwalls being my favourite.
All in all a superb days skiing and so we headed off for a few beers to warmth of Bottoms bar for a well earned beer.