Beyond The Magic Cattle Guard at Sun Peaks, BC

words & photos: Jeremy Allen 

After our first day in Sun Peaks, British Columbia, we quickly realized a few things would be the theme of our trip. Those two things? Champagne powder & fresh tracks all day. After arriving late in the evening, We woke up in a winter wonderland, and the quality of snow was some of the best we’ve ever experienced.  You might have never heard of Sun Peaks, but the quality of snow isn’t the only thing to write home about — the little town has a cozy European vibe to it, and when blanketed in snow, it becomes a winter wonderland.

The locals brag about “the magic cattle guard”, a section on Sun Peaks Rd where the snow begins to accumulate.

Here’s a fact you might not expect Sun Peaks is the second largest ski resort in Canada. Boasting 4,270 acres of skiable terrain, and 7 chairlifts. The weather window was calling for clear skies on our trip, but we were pleasantly surprised when we got the opposite. Two days of arctic outflow cold, and blizzard-like conditions, giving us free refills all day. In the end, the snow accumulated 30+ cm during our short 48 hours there — a welcome sight for our team of powderhounds. 

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For someone who has never been to Sun Peaks, it quickly dawned on us that for us Whistler folk, it was a perfect road trip as it is an easy four hours away. Toss in the lack of lift lines,  a true sense of stoke & community in the air around you, and it’s more than worth the trip. We had dinner at Mountain Tiger, and our server the next morning recognized us at the bottom of the ski hill, this was a true indication of the small-town vibe.

No rushing was done to get the fresh tracks because there was always another stash to find all day. There was no waiting around, after every lap we’d sit on the chairlift and laugh at how good the snow was.  The locals brag about “the magic cattle guard”, a section on Sun Peaks Rd where the snow begins to accumulate. We’re not one for superstitions, but once we passed where the former guard was on the way in, old man winter had arrived — so we’ll just go along with it.

Make no mistake, Matty McRae knows powder.

The hospitality at our hotel, the slopes, and the weather, it was all so unprecedented. The snow felt like we were skiing through a cloud, effortless movement down the hill fuelling our hoots and hollers and leaving us with plenty of energy for another lap. Most of our team had never experienced pockets of waist-deep pow we found around the resort — something everyone should experience in a lifetime.  The experience was forgiving — the mountain wanted us there, it didn’t feel like we were disturbing the area.  

As if it couldn’t get any better, we had ski-in ski-out at the Cahilty Hotel, with a hot tub and a great restaurant for the morning. With snow right down to the village, we walked out our door and skied down to the chair lift, which is always a treat no matter what the conditions. 

Never-ending stoke, fuelled by fresh tracks.

We ended up skiing 5 laps of a friendly local’s secret stash, offering different pitches with a few hundred meters of steep & deep terrain. The catch is, you’ve got to boot pack 15 minutes to get the lines. With there being so many other untouched zones, most people don’t bother going the extra length to get the stash, they already have their own honey holes

Through ACMG guide-in-training and powder enthusiast Matty McCrae’s eyes, Sun Peaks was best described as “food for the soul — a town worthy of having your skis on no matter where you are or what you’re doing.”

Just beyond the magic cattle guard.

Three peaks surround the small town, Tod Mountain, Mt. Morrisey and Sundance Mountain. “At 1300m it lies between the Cariboo and Monashee Mountain ranges home to a cold climate with precipitation throughout the seasons giving winter enthusiasts that cold blower smoke we all seek when heading out to the hills for a ski.”, says Matty

Safe to say we’ll be back.

After a weekend in this powder paradise, we found ourselves jiving along with all the locals over the fresh snow stoke. It felt like one of the best places to work on your pow turns, enjoy the beauty that surrounds you, and relax in the hot tub after a day filled with exercise, and we’re definitely planning a trip back. — ML

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