20-year Bow Valley local, Blair Aniss, helped Doc Pow unlock some stellar areas of Sunshine.
SUNSHINE VILLAGE, AB – For years I have been riding what locals call “The Shine” and I thought I had it all figured out; that I knew where most of the secret stashes were to this destination about an hour from Calgary. On a recent visit, I was lucky enough to get out for some turns with Blair Ariss, a 20-year local who helped me unlock some of the best and brightest opportunities at one of Banff’s three ski hills.
Sunshine Village Ski Resort, found in the Bow Valley, about 10 miles from Banff, Alberta, is a space that has some pretty incredible options available, boasting twelve lifts and three mountains. Unlike most resorts - where you park, hop on your skis, and go - Sunshine Village is only accessible by gondola from the base of the mountain, whisking skiers and snowboarders from the parking areas up and into the resort at just about 7,200 feet above sea level.
“Sunshine is actually one of the highest ski resorts in the Rockies, even the main village is higher than most peaks around here,” explained Ariss. That elevation translates into huge snowfalls that allow this destination to offer one of North America’s longest ski seasons - almost seven full months - from early November until late May.
“Sunshine has a lot of spaces that are not on the map. People have been exploring here for almost 100 years. It’s an honour to carry on that tradition by finding powder stashes that might just be right off that blue or green run,” explained Ariss.
Being a big backcountry enthusiast and constant explorer, while Ariss appreciates the wide variety of blue and green runs, you’d rarely find him there; instead, you’ll find him in the nooks and crannies that hold some serious powder secrets. My day with Ariss included a few rips up the Wawa quad chair, which features some challenging black diamonds like Star Trek and Paris Basin. It was the Brewster family in the early 1900’s who really discovered the tourism and adventure potentials of Banff and the surrounding area. Every summer, the Brewsters, along with a collection of Swiss guides, would lead hikes up and through what is now Sunshine Village. Noticing the the incredible terrain and the epic snow falls that would land most times in late summer, the guides made the hike back up in the winter. What they discovered was a veritable skiers haven with amazing snow conditions, tons of sun and a multitude of terrain options, and so they started up what is now this world-class destination.
“Just off the lift to the right there’s a sweet little ridge and with a quick little hike. It can get you into some great terrain,” Ariss told me. And he was bang on with his call as our little two minute hike took us over and onto a cliff, which included just the littlest shoot to allow us to shimmy through and into the goods.
Get out there and enjoy the snow!
Photo provided by Sunshine Village
“If people are carrying the right gear and the proper education, Sunshine offers some really solid options.” With that education, a beacon, shovel, and probe, people can get into extreme freeride areas like The Delirium Dive, Silver City, and The Wildwest. If you need a bit of guidance, drop onto the Shine’s snow school, where they offer specific programs for you to click in with an instructor for the day and get in on a little exploring of your own. Sunshine Village is encouraging you to explore all season in Winter 2015/16 - click here now to learn more about their 30% off season’s pass sale.
Besides the amazing backcountry and steeps & deeps, Sunshine Village is renown for being a family-friendly destination offering a wide variety of excellent terrain suitable to all ages and skill levels. No matter what you're looking for, Sunshine Village is sure to please you.
For more information on Sunshine Village or to book your ski, snowboard, or winter getaway to Banff, Sunshine Village, or Lake Louise, click here
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