Sunshine Village

Snowshoeing after dark

RICK MACDONNELL

White Mountain Adventures snoeshowing at Sunshine Village, 2010
Snowshoeing at night allows you to see some nocturnal creatures that stay hidden through the day. Here are some prints from a Pine Marten.
DOC POW/SnowSeekers

SUNSHINE VILLAGE, AB – The SnowSeekers crew gets to experience a lot of amazing winter adventures courtesy of some fantastic tour operators in Western Canada. But every so often these tour operators get to experience something entirely new courtesy of SnowSeekers.

Such was the case this week at Banff's Sunshine Village, where Gord Stermann, owner of (and guide with) White Mountain Adventures, was given the opportunity to do his standard snowshoe tour with a few of us SnowSeekers, but with one catch: we decided to go at night.

"I'm enjoying tonight a lot," Stermann said, unable to suppress the smile on his face. "It's a lot of fun, being out here under the stars. It's great to get out and beat around in the bush."

The familiar becomes unfamiliar

White Mountain Adventures provides a host of amazing winter tours and activities, but all of these take place during the day. For Stermann, who has owned White Mountain Adventures for 23 years, the chance to experience the familiar in an unfamiliar way was something that he had a great time with. 

There was a group of five of us on the tour, and there wasn't a smile bigger than Gord's.

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White Mountain Adventures specializes in group activities, teambuilding events and adventure tours and holidays. Since 1987 they have been leading adventure trips and tours across Western Canada and the Canadian Rockies.  They also offer activities and events designed for corporate meetings and speciality groups in Banff, Lake Louise, Canmore and Kananaskis Country.

I had gone showshoeing at night once before, but at Sunshine, with the complete lack of light pollution and unbelievably clear sky, the views were incredible. The light from the stars danced across the snow-covered trees, glinting and sparkling like Cinderella's dress. The light from our headlamps created a perpetual glisten.

 

One thing that Stermann, our guide, kept vaguely, even enigmatically mentioning was "the darkness." And he's right. There were these shadows, this "darkness", that doesn't quite allow you to know what's ahead of you. There was a real sense of mystery and discovery to the tour, where we could only see what was 20 feet in front of our faces. "Bashing around out here in the dark is something special," said Blair Ariss, a Bow Valley local. "For someone who's been coming up here for 20 years, I see this stuff in the daylight and it's beautiful. But to experience the same terrain in a different fashion (snowshoeing) at a different time (night), it just opens up a whole new world of possibilities. It changes the whole vibe of the ski hill."

Snowshoe on top of the world
White Mountain Adventures' Snowshoe On Top of the World gets you into some pretty sweet spaces.
Photo courtesy of Gord Stermann

"It's dark out and we don't know where we're going," Stermann said. "In the daytime, what you see is easy to understand. At night, there's all these shapes that surprise you. You'll catch a glint of a Pine Marten's eye and ... there's this magic to it."

For a lot of Stermann's tours, he says that "You can't really describe it without doing it." This is exactly the feeling I had on our tour. In the days since, I've tried to convey with words what the experience was like, but somehow it's fallen flat. It's something you have to experience, to feel for yourself, before you can "get" it.

Snowshoe on top of the world

A great example of this is White Mountain Adventures' Snowshoe On Top of the World tour, a 4 and a half hour tour that takes you up Standish and beyond the treeline at Sunshine Village. Less a guided tour than a really cool backcountry trek with your buds, On Top of the World takes you to Rock Isle Lake and some unbelievable scenery. 

White Mountain Adventures also does interpretive guiding of Johnston Canyon, which features a 100 ft. frozen waterfall at the end of a picturesque hike. You can also snowshoe the Continental Divide – the boundary of Banff National Park and Kootenay National Park – and do cross-country ski tours around Banff National Park.

For Stermann, there's no better feeling than being in the Banff wilderness. "It's a magical feeling; you feel that you are in some special place. When we're out on our tours, we're playing more than anything."

For more on White Mountain Adventures winter offerings, please visit their website

 

For more information on Sunshine Village or to book your ski, snowboard, or winter getaway to Banff, Sunshine Village, or Lake Louise, check out Banff Tourism’s “Ski the Rockies” website by clicking here 

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