Sunshine Village is a bit of a misnomer: it’s really a rag-tag collection of basic resort buildings on the Continental Divide where poor weather often reigns supreme. But the skiing’s awesome. Acres of wide-open bowls, pockets of thrilling trees and abundance of light snow make Sunshine Village one of the region’s best places to ski or ride no matter what your ability.
The ski area combines the faces of three mountains – the slopes of Lookout Mountain and Mt. Standish – which broadly face one another – and Goat’s Eye Mountain a little further down the valley. The ski area’s unconventional layout means that almost everyone’s day
begins with a 13min gondola ride from the base station (with restaurant,
rental shop and bus stop for shuttles from Banff), to the Village itself, though you
can get off midway for Goat’s Eye Mountain. Before navigating between mountains, study the ski map carefully to avoid flat spots.
At a glance:
Size:12 lifts; 107 runs; 3358 acres; 1070m vertical
Location: base 1658m; summit 2730m
Style: % beginner/intermediate/expert 20/55/25
Snowfall: average annual 1020cm + snowmaking
Facilities: daycare; ski school; rentals; lodge; accommodation.
Though beginner runs are scattered throughout the ski area, many are simply a means for experienced skiers to get different parts of the ski area. Also ignore the green trails that run below the gondola back to the
base station, they’re really just there to get you back to the parking
Instead try the long, gentle and often deserted greens on Mt. Standish: particularly Meadow Park, but also Rock Isle Road; and the winding Creek Run whose consistent vertical helps even turning.
The green runs off busy Wolverine Chair and Jackrabbit Chair lifts are mellow, with a choice of long cruisers off Wolverine and short hops off the Jackrabbit. To progress onto blue runs try the fairly steep, but wide and even pistes of Goat’s Eye Mountain.
Much of the resort is ideal for intermediates, with many black runs possible for the confident.
If it’s sunny, start the day at Mt. Standish, on the long sweeping runs off the Wawa Chair, particularly in the WaWa Bowl. Or for smooth consistent vertical try Big Bunkers off the Standish Chair. When visibility is good, head to Lookout Mountain, and cruise the World Cup Downhill. In poor visibility, when it’s hard to anticipate the terrain, head to the sheltered runs of Goat’s Eye Mountain. Here runs are generally wide, as are many steep blacks, including Upper Scapegoat and Rolling Thunder. Most skiers visit Goat’s Eye late in the day on their way out of the ski area; come first thing for empty runs.
Much of Sunshine’s best expert terrain is tucked away and requires some searching, but it’s possible to ski a choice of moguls, chutes, trees, and – with luck – powder, all day.
The main expert area is Goat’s Eye Mountain where open runs with varying pitch descend into narrow glades. Try the steep, continuous Goatsucker Glade or hike from the top of Goat’s Eye Express for untracked steeps. For more powder, but without the hike hit the runs beneath the Tee Pee Town Chair on The Shoulder, a short traverse on skiers’ right from the lift line. Along with the collection of steep chutes here you’ll also find a few stretches through glades as well. For the best bump runs climb further up Lookout Mountain on the Continental Divide Quad to access the massive mogul field on North Divide – one to avoid in low visibility.
For the really expert, Sunshine’s great lure is the 700-acre Delirium Dive with its 40 degree pitch and 1900ft of vertical. The thrill of launching down the terrifying rock-strewn chutes is risky, even for the highly skilled, but rewarded not only by adrenaline but also by access to the wonderful bowl beneath. Access to Delirium Dive is through a gate, where you’ll need an avalanche transceiver, shovel and a partner with the same to proceed. You can rent all these at the base area, as well as arrange guided lessons into The Dive too. To check if it’s open call the “Deilirium Hotline” (403-762-6511).
The terrain park off the Great Divide Chair is full of smooth, fast hits. Below the park there’s a fairly average boardercross. Many of Sunshine’s best natural hits are tucked away in the glades on skiers’ right of the Wawa lift. Among them are several boulder jumps and a tricky Waterfall. Otherwise try the trees below the Standish lift.
The Eagle’s Nest Dining Room in the Sunshine Inn, caters to the upper end of the market with filet mignon and lobster. Less expensive lunch is available in the adjoining chimney Corner Lounge, home to enormous portions of pasta. The Sunshine Day Lodge has picnic areas for brown-baggers, a deli and cafeteria with a prime rib buffet on the third floor.