A few weeks ago I made my way out to the mountains for the day with one of my favorite outdoor companions, my five-year-old son. While he may whine a bit more than my husband, and can’t exactly share a beer with me in the pub at the end of a trip, we still had big plans for the day and were both excited. Our destination was the alpine resort of Sunshine Village in Banff National Park.
Five years ago (or less), it would have been fair to refer to Sunshine Village as a ski resort, and the majority of their clientele still visit on skis. Things are changing though and some of us are choosing to visit with other outdoor pursuits in mind. We’re going up the gondola to the Upper Village with snowshoes in hand, we’re leaving our skis at home, and some folks are even travelling with yoga mats tucked under their arms.
Sunshine Village Resort is expanding their programs with the ultimate goal that every member of the outdoor community be able to find something meaningful and fun to do while visiting for the day (or longer…)
Traveling as a family can be challenging when you have diverse interests and skill levels. My husband loves backcountry skiing and the steeper the terrain, the better. Meanwhile, I love ski touring on easy terrain, and enjoy snowshoeing through fluffy deep powder. Add my son who’s just learning to ski, and it can be really difficult for us to go away together – and all have fun!
Usually one (or more) of us is compromising and dialing it back significantly for the sake of the others, or in my son’s case, being dragged along on adventures that are a tad too taxing. Fortunately for us though, resorts like Sunshine Village are shaking things up a bit so that we can all head out to the mountains together, choose different ways to spend the day, and then meet up for hot chocolate again later in the afternoon. Such was the case on our recent adventure.
My son Noah and I arrived at Sunshine and headed up the gondola to the village, him with skis and helmet, and me with good winter boots and a light day pack. At the village, I was able to check Noah into his kids’ program for the day. It was a cross between day care and ski school with one ski lesson in the morning, and another in the afternoon. In between lessons there were snacks, lots of play time, and lunch. I picked him up later in the afternoon and was presented with an official report card with his ski progress and recommendation for the level he should be in next time.
Meanwhile, while Noah was skiing and playing with kids his own age, I was off trying out one of Sunshine’s brand new programs – The Historic Snowshoe and Fondue Tour. Guided by White Mountain Adventures, we rode up one of the resort chair lifts with our snowshoes until we were high above our destination, scenic Rock Isle Lake in the backcountry beyond the resort boundaries.
From the top of the Standish Chair, we had no climbing to do and it was effortless as we ran down fluffy powder screaming and laughing, to arrive at the shore of the lake in Sunshine Meadows. We even made a snow slide at one point and had fun learning how to slide down a steep slope crouched down low on the heels of our snowshoes. Some participants had fun hopping off a rock on the island and seeing how much air they could get. We made snow angels, rolled around in the snow, and had a blast on our tour.
We had a short ascent back to the village which had us puffing a bit, but the effort was rewarded with a tasty Swiss-style cheese fondue waiting for us at the Sunshine Village Lodge’s Chimney Corner Lounge and Wine Bar. This tour has been awarded recognition as being a Canadian Tourism Commission Signature Experience and is truly historical as you follow the path of the Native American people across Sunshine Meadows on a route that they would have followed to trade with neighboring tribes. And, it doesn’t get more Canadian than Snowshoeing across a pristine backcountry meadow in Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To truly experience everything that Sunshine Village has to offer, you’d really need to stay at the Sunshine Village Lodge, located at the top of the gondola in the heart of the Upper Village. From here, you can snowshoe, ski, and even participate in afternoon yoga classes to stretch out those sore muscles.
The Restorative Yoga and Ski Retreat offers the opportunity to stay overnight at the Lodge, eat from a specialized menu featuring healthy, gourmet fare, ski the mountain with your very own group guide, and then finish off the day with yoga classes designed and targeted specifically towards skiers.
From guided ski tours into advanced backcountry terrain, to scenic snowshoe tours, yoga classes, and amazing kids’ programs, there is something at Sunshine Village for the whole family.
For more information on Sunshine Village and their programs, visit their website at http://www.skibanff.com/sunshine-village/
Disclaimer: I participated in a media snowshoe tour but wasn’t compensated in any other way for this story. As always, all opinions are my own.