A Canadian snowboard (and mountain biking) legend dishes up the goods on his hometown favourite. Article sponsored by Sun Peaks Resort.
words: Brett Tippie.
Tippie’s Happy Place
I grew up skiing Sun Peaks as a young kid back in the Seventies when it was still called Tod Mountain.
And when they started to allow snowboarding in 1989 I was there in a heartbeat. I will never forget playing music on the jukebox in the Shuswap Lodge while having fries and gravy after shredding laps on the Burfield, Crystal and of course Shuswap Chair. It was my happy place!
Fast forward a few years to when Sun Peaks added high-speed quad chairs around the 2900 vertical foot mountain and suddenly we had some world-class thigh burning fun! With the wide-open alpine bowls on the top third of the mountain and the bottom section full of rolling runs cut through the trees (with glades in between) on perfectly pitched downhill angles, the Sun Peaks of my youth was an even more magical place for cruising and going fast!
I learned the mountain by both chasing the fast and fearless speed skiers on their 223 cm skis (showcased during the annual Velocity Challenge which saw contestants straight-lining the Headwalls), and by hanging with the ski bum, hippie crowd rooting through the glades for hidden stashes and secret pow spots. There have never been huge crowds or line ups and that makes things all the better for both letting ‘er rip on the groomers and finding untouched swaths of powder snow.
The Finest Dry Interior Champagne
And speaking of snow, I think the quality of snow at Sun Peaks rivals anywhere in the world. That famous interior B.C. champagne—dry and legendary. It is silky, soft and makes you feel like a champ with the ease that your skis or board can cut into and float atop all that airy fluffiness. The climate at Sun Peaks is consistently cold enough that there are very rarely any freeze/thaw conditions and the snow stays soft and powdery for days and days and days after every storm.
The snow is so soft there that sometimes you can barely hear your skis sliding and carving through it. It’s such a silent powdery bliss we sometimes refer to whatever squeaks or sounds that do occur as “unicorn farts.” And with 6 metres of annual snowfall, there are a lot of unicorn farts to be had.
Sun Peaks: A Whole Lotta Terrain
With 4270 acres of skiable terrain, 19 gladed areas and 138 runs on 3 skiable peaks, Sun Peaks is Canada’s 2nd largest ski area. The variety of the shredding at this mountain is amazing. If you want to test yourself and hammer steep and deep fall line turns there are bad-ass runs off the Burfield Chair like the Roller Coaster, Expo and the Chief/Challenger, while off the Crystal Chair you can get zesty on runs like the Headwalls, Hat Trick and Chute. Anyone looking for more flowy cruisy runs can head to the Sunburst Express and Sundance Express Chairs for blue square runs like Blazer, Cruiser, OSV, Sundowner and Three Bears. If you ski off the Morrisey Express chair you can do green, blue and black runs like Homerun, Mid-life Crisis and Static Cling. This place has kept me happy my whole life.
A Place for All Ages and Abilities
And now that I have a family and young kids of my own, Sun Peaks is where we go for Christmas holidays and many winter weekends. My youngest daughter (8 years old) just learned to ski a few years ago and loves the flatter, rolling, well-groomed runs of the lower mountain while my older daughter, at 12, heads off with her buds to ski most of the mountain together. This frees my wife and me up to explore the secret stashes and runs I grew up shredding and training on for my time racing World Cup GS and snowboardcross for the Canadian National Team. Sun Peaks hosted a number of World Cup snowboard races back in the day and I remember what a treat it was to show off my home mountain to my international friends and competitors.
I still love to share Sun Peaks with anyone who’d like to rip some classic, fun carvy runs that are characteristic of this beautiful place, but also like to slip away and get to some in-bounds hiking zones with old buds in places like Gil’s Hill where you can almost always find fresh turns and then traverse back into the main mountain.
When you get to the bottom of the mountain there is a vibrant little village that has enough friendly mountain people to socialize and dine with for après and dinner, but not too many…so there are no line ups and no overpacked establishments. It’s just the right amount of everything. The snow, terrain, and people at Sun Peaks makes it one of my family’s favourite places on earth to be…and don’t even get me started on the incredible bike park they have there in summer! Sun Peaks, thank you for being awesome and I can’t wait to get there soon and be in my happy place once again.
Brett Tippie is currently in his fourth decade as a sponsored professional snowboarder and is known around the world as one of the pioneers of freeride mountain biking. At any given time, he also knows about 700 hundred hilarious jokes and is more than ready to bust them out.