On our 4th and final day of skiing in Banff, we enjoyed one last Rocky Mountain ski experience at Sunshine Village Resort. We awoke at 7am, seeing some beautiful sunrise views from our hotel room window:
We then got dressed and boarder our 8am shuttle to the resort. Temperatures were expected to range from -15 to -20C, fortunately (and unfortunately) our warmest day of skiing of the trip!
Since it was a Saturday, we did expect more crowds; however, the base-to-village gondola lineup took no more than 5 minutes:
All lifts were open, meaning that we could finally experience the resort’s expert terrain which was closed on our last visit three days prior. I have attached the trail map for reference below:
Unfortunately, the high base elevation meant that winds were blowing snow from the surrounding peaks and valley into the air, creating a sort of haze similar to our first day at this resort, and obscuring what would have been top notch views. Nevertheless, visibility and conditions were still astronomically better than our brutal first day at Sunshine, and we had already experienced a bluebird day the previous day at Lake Louise, so it wasn’t the biggest issue for us.
We started off by taking the Angel express chairlift and entering the Blundary Bowl, a black diamond natural bowl with splendid snow conditions seen below, taking it down to the base of the Great Divide express:
This entirely alpine experience had a unique and almost ‘Alp-like’ feel to it!
The great divide chair was extremely exposed to the high winds, making the ride uncomfortable, but it was really cool to ride and ski down along Canada’s continental divide, where water on either side flowed to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, in addition to crossing the AB/BC border multiple times!
After a few runs in the alpine, we headed to the Wawa sector, enjoying its cliff run with lingering powder stashes:
Wanting to ski the famous Goat’s Eye expert terrain pod (see trail map), we headed down and skiied a run of the flatter Wolverine chair area, before making our way to the Goat’s Eye base and lodge:
Goat’s Eye boasts the biggest vertical, size, and run length of any of the areas/terrain pods at Sunshine a village. The Goat’s Eye Express transports skiers and riders up 1600 vertical feet, initially through forest and ending in the high alpine. Due to the strong cold wind, the snow on the alpine portions of the runs was extremely wind blown, leading us to experience typical ‘ICE’ Coast conditions-the first time in 4 days! However, once you dipped into the sub-alpine glades, in addition to the runs themselves, the snow conditions greatly improved.
Since my friend with the GoPro was off skiing double black diamond glades (which was apparently the most extreme run of his life), I was leading the remaining members of the group down some blue and single diamond runs, the downside being I did not snap any pictures:(
Below is an image posted on social media by the ski hill, where I outlined our path for the two runs we skiied this terrain area (highlighted in red). As you can see, we started on icy, wind blown groomers, progressed to sub-alpine glades, and ended on typical forest cut runs:
Since the resort received 80cm of snow 6 days prior to our visit, in addition to the fact that this lift was closed for the majority of the week, there were tons of patches of fresh or freshly chopped powder to experience, which was amazing but also extremely taxing on our already exhausted legs! In hindsight, I wish we had spent more time in that sector, but due to the long run out at the end of the runs, exposed lift ride, and icy summit runs, we decided to head back to the main village area and grab some much-needed lunch!
After lunch, we enjoyed skiing the Wawa cliff run, seen below, in addition to other groomed and glades runs off this lift.
We spent the last few hours skiing the Standish, Angel, and Wawa chairs, capturing a group photo in front of the Sunshine sign on our last run on the Standish express:
Despite it being a Saturday, the only lengthy queue encountered was on the TeepeeTown LX, the heated bubble lift, which made sense as it was a day on the colder and windier side:
By 3:30pm, we were ready to take the 6km long ski-out run, heading down 2,000 vertical feet from the village base to the parking lot. We decided to take a quieter trail running alongside the main ski out, and it provided some steeper and narrower terrain following a natural gorge in some spots. The views were amazing:
By 3:45, we sadly carved our last Alberta ski turns, and arrived at the parking lot, before boarding our shuttle back to the village.
We then spent the evening catching up with 2 old friends (mine and another group member’s), who happened to be living in the province and decided to visit as it had been a while since each of us had seen them!
Our last day did not involve skiing, as our airport shuttle and flight departed in the afternoon, so we got up early to experience skating on the infamous Lake Louise, in addition to exploring the Fairmont hotel and its grounds.
Arriving back in Banff, we explored some more of the town while waiting for our shuttle, before (sadly) departing the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
This trip of a lifetime was a dream since I was 10 years old, and I was incredibly fortunate to have friends who were interested in making it a reality! Is skiing out West better than skiing in the East-absolutely!
But at the end of the day….. skiing small, short, icy runs with mostly artificial snow is still skiing, and I can definitely say that I always have a good time with two skis strapped on to my boots!
Until next year Rockies😉