I remember being in Europe and asking for warm milk for my baby. It was scalding hot and the poor screaming child had to wait an hour for it to cool. Not the case at Sun Peaks Resort. Not only is the hot chocolate from Cafe Soleil lukewarm and perfect for kids (they asked), but it was covered in coloured sprinkles and whipped cream. This family resort, designed after a Tyrolean village, is 40 minutes north of Kamloops, and easily accessible from Vancouver, Calgary and Seattle by plane, shuttle and train. Not only is the resort friendly for families, but it has tons of terrain too. 122 runs (including 12 glade areas) will keep every member of your group happy. (At there’s a hot terrain park if you have a shredder in your midst).
From every lift there are both difficult and beginner runs – perfect for the toddler who thought he was the James Bond of the ski world after 2 lessons. The platter and the magic carpet are at the same location as the chairs for other skiers – this allows you to easily meet and spy on your kids as they do the bunny hill. Insider tip: Head to Mt. Morrisey for fresh ‘pow’ and the morning sun.
Those lucky enough to be in Sun Peaks in December and January are able to see fir trees from each lift (especially Morrisey) decked out with huge Christmas balls. Gotta love staff with a festive spirit. My kids loved to count them as we ascended. Speaking of lifts, the Sunburst Chair is outfitted with a protective bubble that shields children who are not in love with cold. (Is any child?) Kids get cold faster than adults, so make sure that you keep an eye out for signs of frostbite.
Ever try to entertain your child in a 20 minute Whistler-style line while you don’t want to take off your gloves – let alone sing The Wheels on the Bus? No lines. Let me re-iterate. No lineups. With 11 lifts, the second most ski-able terrain in Western Canada and a safe, small-town village feel, you just never wait.
Another bonus? You can send your pre-teens out for ice cream and chocolate at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory without worrying about them. The well-lit Valley Trail is safe and easy to navigate, and passes through most areas of the resort. Get them to bring you the chocolate covered strawberries and the marshmallows on sticks. AAAAAH. (The village is actually a ski-through, idyllic place where most accomodation is walkable.)
Not into skiing and boarding? The tube park, outdoor skating rink, bungee trampoline and the sleigh rides will have tiny faces smiling for hours. And if your testosterone-charged boy needs to get out? Try the snowshoeing. You trek along a beautifully marked trail, where you see a stream, deer tracks, and haven of bird feeders along the way (all within iPhone/Blackberry reach). If you’re on a budget you can pack a lunch and sit at the mid-mountain Sunburst Lodge for a nosh. But if you arrive at 10:30ish (another insider tip), the smell of fresh cinnamon buns will make you pull out your wallet. This is a great place to come in the summer as well, when mountain bikers zoom down the hill, golfers are breaking windows of glorious homes along the fairways, and swimming and hiking replace your winter sport of choice.
Sun Peaks is the North American early season training venue for the Austrian Ski Team, and while I was visiting, there were a few Swiss, Russian and US skiers there as well. With fresh powder as only experienced in BC’s interior, a multitude of runs, and plenty of gourmet food in the 24 restaurants and cafes, it is a resort that will give any international destination a run for their money. The Austrians, by the way, are very amenable and put up with my broken German into the wee hours. And speaking of the Olympics, I would be remiss not to mention Nancy Greene – Canada’s Gold Medal Skier and Athlete of the Century. She is personally available to ski with you most Saturdays and Sundays at 1pm. How cool is that? And while you are on the chairlift, get her to talk politics. She’s a Canadian Senator, after all, and is passionate about making Canada a better place.
For accomodation you have the option of the gorgeous Delta Sun Peaks (ask for Corey at the bar if you have a runny nose), private chalets, condos in the village, the Nancy Greene Cahilty Lodge, or the new Kokkaburra. Do your homework. Several places will offer cribs, high chairs, and even baby monitors. (As you know, carting this stuff around is a huge pain)… and there’s more room for hot rollers if there is no pack ‘n play in the trunk.
For childcare, there are a few options. ‘Sun Tots’ accomodates children from 3-5 years and you can choose packages with lessons and childcare. Child minding options exist from 18 months – 5 years (only $69 for a full day), and once a child is 6, they can join ‘Sun Kids‘ at the ski school. For evening babysitting, call Guest Services at 587-5542 to request a sitter list.
If you are a foodie, don’t miss the fare from the Delta Sun Peaks Executive Chef David Toombs. Both of his restaurants (Mantles in the Delta and the new chi-chi M Room in the Residences) offer super-fresh local ingredients expertly combined and prepared so that flavours explode in your mouth. He knows all of the local farmers and meat producers, who select and hand-deliver their products to him personally. If you are in for a little village tour, head to the new Morrisey Public House for an irish beer, then to The Globe for Tapas, and MacDaddy’s Nightclub to finish off the evening. You can wear anything from ski gear to Sex and the City sparkles and you’ll be fine.
If you get hooked on the childcare or your significant other is feeling overly generous, the Sun Peaks Spa has a new location. In the ‘shoulder season” (when the snow, golf and biking aren’t as good), they offer incredible packages and the staff are experienced in everything from Hot Stone Massage to pedicures. There are RMTs for those of you lucky enough to have coverage.
Still not convinced? Use it as a family bonding and educational experience. Teach them to swim in the hottub. Write off the ski lessons with new Canada Fitness Tax Credit, learn about Europe without leaving the continent. And if you’re sick of crappy Canadian weather, take in some blue skies and make a ton of snowmen. You need to do something with all of that snow. (Or you could just hit the slopes).
Photos: Adam Stein