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Sunshine Village is a North American ski resort, located within the protected wilderness of Banff National Parkmarker, Albertamarker, Canadamarker.

Known for good quality snow (the light dry Rocky Mountain "Champagne Powder"), Sunshine Ski and Snowboard Resort spans the Continental Divide of the Americas which defines the Albertamarker-British Columbiamarker border in the Canadian Rockies.

The Sunshine base area is located approximately 11 miles/18 km SW of the Town of Banff, Albertamarker; and an easy fifteen minute drive from the town. It is about one hour and thirty minutes away from the city of Calgarymarker, Albertamarker's International Airport. The Sunshine exit on the Trans Canada Highway is just 8km (5mi) west of Banff townsite.

Sunshine Village ski runs and lifts are accessed via its eight person high speed gondola. The modern gondola whisks guests from the car park (or bus terminal) to Goat's Eye mountain in ten minutes and to the upper Village area in eighteen minutes. From there, ten chairlifts and 107 trails spread out in a wide arc around the high alpine valley formed by the three mountains (Mount Standish, Lookout Mountain, and Goat's Eye Mountain) that constitute Sunshine Village.

History

Sir George Simpson, Governor of the Hudson's Bay Company was among the first Europeans to see the Sunshine region. His party traveled through the area in 1841 on his way to the Pacific. Some twenty years later the Palliser Expedition came though the area, exploring valleys and naming peaks.

By 1883 the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the vicinity of Banff. Railway workers discovered the famous Cave and Basin Hot Springs, which Canada's first National Park was created to protect, along with the region's wildlife and majestic natural beauty. William Cornelius Van Horne, the railroad's president, is said to have declared upon seeing the beauty: "Since I can't export the scenery, I'll import the tourists". To achieve that end he built the magnificent Banff Springs Hotelmarker.

Bill Peyto may have been the first person to bring tourists through the Sunshine area. The eccentric Peyto was a toughened trapper and prospector. He was also a competent guide, as his rugged life gave him the skills required to face the often harsh realities of nature. In the 1890’s Peyto would guide tourists through the Sunshine Meadows to the base of Mt.marker Assiniboinemarker, the highest peak in the Southern Continental Ranges of the Canadian Rockies.

By the 1920s, Sunshine Meadows had become a popular camping site. Pat Brewster, the youngest son of dairyman John Brewster, was the first to regularly bring tourists for overnight camping at Sunshine Meadows. This area was nicknamed Tee Pee Town on account of the many tents that overnight campers would set there. Upon reaching the top of the Tee Pee Town chair lift today, one is looking over the same Sunshine Meadows that were busy with campers those many decades earlier.

In 1928, the Canadian Pacific Railway built a log cabin lodge for the use of The Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies, a club of horse enthusiasts who were sponsored by the tourist friendly railway. This cabin was certainly not the first lodge built in the region (Bill Peyto’s cabin near Simpson’s pass was built more than 30 years earlier), but it is now the oldest building at Sunshine Village and is known as the Old Sunshine Lodge. Housing Mad Trapper's Saloon and Bruno's Bistro, the OSL is situated at timberline above what was then known as Wheeler’s Flats and just below a vast expanse of high alpine meadows.

In March 1929, Cliff White and Cyril Paris, two local extreme sports enthusiasts, hatched a plan to use the CPR cabin as an overnight point in their ski trek over the great divide. Unfortunately they could not find the cabin that night and were forced to sleep in a dug-out in the snow. Upon waking in the morning they discovered that they had only just missed the relative luxury of the CPR cabin. Surviving the trip, with an exciting story to tell, these two men were the first to ski what is now known as Sunshine Village.

It wasn't long before the remarkable snow, scenery and terrain attracted the attention winter sports enthusiasts from around the globe. In the winter of 1933-34, the cabin was leased by the Brewster family, who hosted their first paying guests that February. Early skiers climbed nearby peaks with skins. At first guests arrived by horse. Later on modified Model T's and early model Bombardier over snow vehicles were used to access the Sunshine Lodge.

Brothers Jim and Pat Brewster bought the lodge from the CPR in 1936 for $300. They expanded the original log cabin, which still remains in use to the present day as Mad Trapper's Saloon and Bruno's Bistro. They hired ski guides, among which were Cyril and Herb Paris members of an old Banff family. The first Swiss guide, Bruno Engler, was hired in 1939 as Sunshine's first full-time ski instructor. Bruno "lives on" in his many spectacular black and white photographs, some of which adorn the old cabin. The first ski lift, a rope tow, was built in 1941 on the slopes of Strawberry Hill.

George Encil, who also owned nearby Mount Norquay ski resortmarker, purchased the resort in 1952 and added "Village" to Sunshine's name. He also built a "ski-kuli" lift on Strawberry Hill, replacing the rope tow.

In 1960 the nearby Trans-Canada Highway was completed, providing better access to the resort. That same year, Encil sold Sunshine to the Cliff White family. Over the next decade they expanded the facilities; building the Day Lodge and Sunshine Inn, installing T-bar's on Strawberry and Wa-Wa, and a chairlift on Mt Standish. The original Angel double chairlift opened the alpine in 1969. The high alpine Great Divide chairlift which went to the to the peak of Lookout Mountain, opened in 1970. Cliff White sold control to Power Corporation resorts division in order to finance construction of such major improvements. But he stayed on to manage the resorts growth, even when corporate restructuring saw ownership transferred to Warnock Hersey and later TIW Industries. Cliff's sons, Cliff (Jr.) and Brad still live in Banff and work for Parks Canada as Park Wardens.

White's crowning achievement was the construction of the 5 km (3 mi) long, Swiss engineered Von-Roll high speed, six passenger, gondola-lift from the parking lot to the village. Prior to the opening of the gondola in the 1979-80 ski season, the ski terrain and lifts at Sunshine Village was accessed by buses from the parking lot, at the base of Borgeau mountain in the Heally Creek valley below. The gondola was installed because the upper access road used by the buses was dangerously steep and narrow. The old bus road is no longer open during the winter months and has become the "ski-out", allowing skiers and snowboarders a fun way to return to their parked cars.

Local ownership returned in 1981, when Sunshine was bought by the Scurfield family of Calgarymarker. Improvements continued with the opening of Wheeler Ridge double chairlift in 1984 (named for A.O. Wheeler who helped establish the Alpine Club of Canada). The lift system capacity was further improved in 1988 with the replacement of the Angel double chairlift with Banff's first high-speed quad chairlift, built by Poma.

Over $40 million was invested in the 1990s and early 2000s to improve the visitor experience. New high-speed quad ski lifts were constructed replacing T-Bars, fixed-grip double chairs, and other old lift systems. Goat's Eye Mountain which opened in 1995, with a 1900 ft/ 630 metre vertical high-speed quad chairlift, virtually doubled Sunshine's skiable terrain. More advanced and adventure terrain was opened thereafter. In 1998 the Delirium Dive extreme zone opened and a terrain park was added on Lookout (Continental Divide/Brewster) Mountain.

The original gondola was replaced in 2001 with a brand new high-speed 8 person Leitner-Poma version. Amenities were improved too; all restaurants and lodging were completely renovated. Sunshine Village is still fully-owned by three members of the Scurfield Family of Calgary: Ralph D. Scurfield (the majority owner), John W. Scurfield, and Sergei Scurfield. Today, Sunshine Village has ten chairlifts in total. Eight are quad chairlifts, including 5 detachable high speed quads.

The average annual snowfall of 30 feet (9.14 m), allows Sunshine Village to have one of the longest operating ski season in North America. The resort opens early November and remains open until the May long weekend. The annual Slush Cup is held on the final day of ski season.

Amenities

Sunshine Village has 3,358 acres (13.6 km²) of skiable terrain in Alberta and B.C. Its top elevation is at , its base elevation is at , and it's tall. The primary skiing area around Sunshine Village is based at , providing of vertical terrain to the top of Lookout Mountain.

There are 107 named runs spreading out over three mountains (Goat Eye's Mountain, Lookout Mountain and Mount Standish) and the two provinces, (Albertamarker and British Columbiamarker) with one gondola, ten chairs (5 high-speed quad chairs, 3 fixed grip quad chairs, 1 triple chair, 1 double chair) and two magic carpets to lift the skiers.

The average annual snowfall is up to thirty-three feet (over nine meters). The ski season begins early November, and traditionally ends in late May, on the Victoria Day long weekend; making it one of the longest ski seasons in North America. Sunshine Village has hosted many world class alpine ski and snowboard events.

The Sunshine Mountain Lodge, an 84 room boutique hotel is located in the vehicle-free "village" at tree line in the center of a vast snow bowl at above sea level. The Sunshine Mountain Lodge is Banff National Park's only ski-in ski-out hotel. The hotel is accessed by the gondola (road access to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is not possible during winter months) with snow vehicles providing after hours access for late arriving guests.

Currently, guests can drive and park at the parking lot at the base of the gondola or take a bus from Banff for a cost of about $15. This bus service is free for guests who purchase a three day "Tri-area lift ticket". This ticket allows tourists staying in the nearby Town of Banff to ski at the three nearby resorts (Banff@Norquaymarker, Lake Louise Mountain Resortmarker and of course, Sunshine Village), thus integrating 250 runs and of skiable area.

Terrain

Sunshine Village offers terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders. It offers a mix of gentle tree lined beginner slopes, wide open above tree-line intermediate "cruisers", and "gnarly" expert terrain. Visitors to the resort will often access adjacent backcountry terrain such as 'Wawa Ridge' or Mount Assiniboine Provincial Parkmarker in British Columbia. Avalanche rescue equipment is recommended for most backcountry areas. Rescue equipment is a requirement for access to the freeride zones of Delirium Dive, Wild West and Silver City where the entrances are via an Avalanche Control Gate which remains locked at all times unless it detects a working avalanche transceiver on each person that passes through it.

Lift system

Lift Name Vertical Rise
(m)
Length
(m)
Type Make Build Year
Gondola 500 4300 8 Person Gondola Leitner Poma 2001
Goat's Eye Express 580 1557 High Speed Quad Poma 1995
Wolverine Express 194 1216 High Speed Quad Leitner Poma 2000
Jackrabbit 84 312 Quad Chairlift Poma 2000
Angel Express 379 1588 High Speed Quad Poma 1988
Tee Pee Town 391 1231 Double Chairlift - -
Continental Divide Express 422 1740 High Speed Quad Poma 1996
Mt. Standish Express 217 865 High Speed Quad Leitner Poma 2003
Strawberry 137 773 Triple Chairlift - -
Wawa 170 741 Quad Chairlift Leitner Poma 2002
Ski School Learning - - Magic Carpet - -
Kids Kampus - - Magic Carpet - -
Name TBA - - Detachable Quad Chair Doppelmayr CTEC 2010


Future Lifts

During the summer of 2010, a new Doppelmayr CTEC high speed detachable quad chairlift will be trucked in from its temporary current location at Whistler Blackcombmarker and be installed in a location TBA. The lift has 8 towers and 45 chairs with a ride time of about 2 minutes.

Popular Culture

Sunshine Village was utilized as a task destination for the season ending episode of the popular American reality television show The Amazing Race 5 (original broadcast date September, 2004). In the final 13th leg of this race, the three remaining teams took taxicabs from the Calgary International Airportmarker to Banff’s Sunshine Village. After riding the gondola to the base of Lookout Mountain, the contestants donned snowshoes before making the approximate 2,000 vertical foot hike to the top ridge of the Great Divide (elevation 8,900 feet).

References

  1. Robert W. Sandford, Sunshine: Its Human and Natural Heritage, 1984
  2. Ski Banff - Lake Louise - Sunshine - Tri-Area Joint Venture
  3. Ski Canada Report - Banff/Lake Louise/Sunshine Village


External links




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