BY: Edith Rozsa PHOTOGRAPHY: Adam Stein, Kelly Funk & Royce Sihilis
Sun Peaks Continues to Inspire and Grow as a Leading Canadian Ski Resort with Innovative Expansions and Leadership
- A PLACE WHERE ONE LIVES; A RESIDENCE.
- AN ENVIRONMENT OFFERING SECURITY AND HAPPINESS.
- THE PLACE WHERE SOMETHING IS DISCOVERED, FOUNDED, DEVELOPED OR PROMOTED.
TRAVELLING TO SUN PEAKS has for many years felt like coming home. There are many aspects to that homecoming: the off-camber corner I instinctually and reluctantly slow down for; the sparkling lights on the eaves twinkling between the trees, beckoning hello, relax, come play; the smiling face at the front desk saying, “Welcome back, Edith – how was the drive?” or, sometimes, “Willkommen!” Regardless of where I stay, Sun Peaks has all the qualities of home.
Few towns boasting a year-round population of 500 welcome visitors so fervently. People who have the privilege of spending time in this resort municipality recognize that visitors drive the economy and the residents depend on tourism. It’s not the ball-and-chain kind of relationship, where need can force obligation, but a much freer connection: “Welcome to our home, what can we do to make your visit great? Will you come back and play?”
Predictably, locals champion their resort like Canadians back their hockey teams, and Sun Peaks is no slouch in this department. Vertical Café owner John Dormer sums it up: “Our community makes us successful, and we contribute to making our community successful – that’s the way it works.” In the 20 plus café’s, pubs and restaurants, and the multitude of shops featuring locally handcrafted soaps, jewels and other supremely creative wear, the passion for Sun Peaks is spellbinding. The people’s hearts and souls are kind.
As ski people, our world is small, which was proven to me once again during a recent visit to Jackson, Wyoming. During a couple of country dances (sorry about your toes, sir) and an engaging conversation, I learned that the person I was dancing and speaking with was a fellow mountain enthusiast and a visionary of the Sun Peaks resort plan. Mori Bergmeyer, once a Boston-based architect and firm owner, had purchased and breathed new life into Telluride Mountain Resort, which later led to a collaboration with a renowned Whistler-based mountain resort–planning company, Ecosign. Mori set off on a scouting mission to Europe to bring back ideas for the new Sun Peaks village at the base of the three mountains and returned with concepts from central European villages that Sun Peaks visitors enjoy today. Seamless ski-in, ski-out accommodations and dining, strategically placed underground parking resulting in a pedestrian-only village, gabled rooflines, colourful facades and a covered walking bridge are some of the highlights. If this all sounds quite magical, it is!
I believe part of the magic derives from the geography. Think of a snow globe on a fireplace mantle. Within the dome lies a quaint village cradled between snow-covered mountains. A horse-drawn sleigh slides through the snow-filled streets, and snow sparkles in the sky. Now expand that scene exponentially, and BAM! – you’ve got Sun Peaks. This quaint European village seems to be out of a picture book, and so it is perhaps no accident that the place makes the people here.
Sun Peaks Resort is surrounded by three unique mountains, all of which have double black to green runs: Tod Mountain to the north, Sundance Mountain to the east and Mount Morrisey to the north. To the west is the draw, which leads visitors to and from the resort and through which the evening sun often breaks through snow-filled clouds to filter golden light on the resort. That light is a small dose of the 2,000 plus hours of reported sunshine per year. The resort gets an average of six metres of annual snowfall. With the high number of sunshine hours, it must snow at night to make that equation work – every skier’s dream.
If you’re heading out to catch first tracks, you may ski through the village to the lifts with backpack-wielding kids and hoteliers and restaurateurs wishing their kids a good day. These kids coast up the platter lift to their one-room schoolhouse, which lies halfway up the slopes. In 2010, community parents banded together to raise funds for a resort school to avoid bussing the children an hour to Kamloops. It began with 19 children in kindergarten through grade 6. In five years, the school has grown to 65 students and now goes to grade 12 with full British Columbia curriculum and public funding. These fortunate mountain kids ski during their lunch break and are encouraged to be true explorers while aspiring to academic excellence. The resort school is a great draw for young families looking for a different kind of child-rearing philosophy and experience. Most of us would say, “Sure wish they had that when I was a kid.”
That being said, I am not one to complain about my growing up in Whistle