Words :: Leslie Anthony
I have a recurring dream. In it, I’m skiing an endless fall-line screamer set at the perfect angle, with light, shin-deep powder billowing overhead as I sweep over berms and sidehills, dropping hundreds of leg-burning metres while a leitmotif of snow-clad forest flashes by. But here’s the weird part: instead of some backcountry idyll, this magical vignette is happening on a piste, as if my subconscious knows something I’m loathe to voice: that the solid, predictable base of a well-groomed run covered in new powder can be as good as skiing gets.
Catching cruisers like this with powder atop them can indeed be life-changing—or at least dreamy. But “cruising” them when they’re freshly groomed corduroy devoid of new snow can also be transcendent to skiers at any level: for beginners a place to safely explore those pizza-wedges; for intermediates a wide-open space to gain confidence; and for experts a place to both warm-up and practice some physics. Indeed, the G-forces pulled while carving corduroy are enough to keep even a NASA scientist interested; there’s something about crossing the fall-line with your edges slicing those velvety parallel ridges, knowing that the quirky combo of speed, edging, and gravity will keep your body suspended only centimetres above them. By the time you reach bottom, you’re literally flying.
While the ski world is full of superb cruisers, they’re often overlooked in the current craze for steep, deep and off-piste adventure. And while these might be short-lived mythical creatures elsewhere, they’re a daily reality at Sun Peaks ski area outside of Kamloops, B.C., whose reputation for carpets of perfection dates back to the days when it was known as Tod Mountain. Sun Peaks wins consistent praise for its grooming, a particular charm that draws skier’s back again and again. And there’s no better place to experience this art than off Sunburst Chair, the tireless workhorse that literally defines the resort.
Sun Peaks also stands proud as Canada’s second-largest ski area. Spread over the unique faces of Tod, Sundance and Morrisey mountains, it can feel like you’re in a totally different location depending which peak you’re on. “Some runs feel like secret-garden sort of glades—only you’re not dodging trees because they’re wide enough to do big, arcing GS turns on them,”
says Kelsey Serwa, Canada’s gold-medal winner in Skiercross at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. “Plus, all the main groomers are excellent and set on good terrain.”
As a frequently visiting young racer, her husband Stan Rey—erstwhile Skicross champ in his own right and these days a Canadian Freeski film icon—spent a fair amount of time skiing Sun Peaks with his teammates, enjoying the wide-open runs with their big rollers and gap jumps. “We skied all over the mountain before our races. We couldn’t get enough and always looked forward to going there.”
If what’s underfoot is a big draw, then what lands atop is pure bonus. Snow here is dry, dependable and abundant, with frequent dumps of 10-15 cm—not only the perfect cruiser topper, but the preferred refresher for the resort’s gladed forests and off-piste terrain. Add these considerations to its uncrowded crown—with over 4,270 acres of terrain and seven chairlifts serving particularly spacious slopes, lines always remain small—and you’ve got perfect powder days.
While roomy, consistent skiing remains a central draw, Sun Peaks offers many other activities, from dog-sledding to horse-drawn sleigh rides, fat biking, guided ice fishing, heli-skiing, snowshoeing, and 37 km of fastidiously groomed and track-set Nordic trails. There’s also the chance to engage history by skiing with Canadian Olympic doyenne Nancy Greene Raine, who lives here year-round and can be found on the slopes most days.
Sun Peaks’ strollable base village has been likened to “a little bit of Europe” by more than one visitor, and that resonates when you see its boutique shops, streetside restaurants and abundant local art. Some 25 eating and drinking establishments feature a range from casual to fine-dining, intimate to family oriented, local to international cuisine. Facing west, day’s end at Sun Peaks is often awash in golden light, perfect for outdoor après since, as all skiers know, a good sunset is the best sendoff ever.
But even as night falls you might already be thinking of sunrise. With the ever-changing nature of snow, corduroy is always at its best first thing in the morning. Which means that pretty much every day that dream run might be out there. You just have to find the right groomer in the right place in the right conditions then tip onto your edges and ride it for all it’s worth. Without a doubt, Sun Peaks is one of the best places in all of Canada to chase that dream.