Sunshine Mountain Lodge is the only ski-in, ski-out accommodation in Banff National Park. The easy button starts from the moment you pull up to the base lodge, bypassing all the day visitors who’ve parked a mile away.Inside, there’s a comfy sitting area to organize your luggage. Yes, the leopard-print suitcase is mine. Changing rooms and restrooms are just around the corner. Once you check in at the counter, leave all your bags behind. They will be whisked up to your room at the Lodge.You’ll be smiling on the gondola because the only thing you need to worry about now is your snowboard or skis. However, FYI, you won’t be smiling if you attempt to check in to the hotel after the gondola shuts down at 5pm, since it’s the only way to get up to the Lodge. Don’t be late! Unless it’s a Friday, when you have until 10pm.After the 13-minute gondie ride, you’ll arrive at the heart of Sunshine Village. This is where the lifts to the ski runs are, and Mad Trapper’s Saloon, one of my fave mountain lunch stops in the world. The food there isn’t mind-blowing, but damn it tastes good when washed down with a Corona in the middle of a ski-day. If you’re not totally mesmerized by the magic of the unicorn eye on my Gnu base, you’ll see Sunshine Mountain Lodge behind me.Looking back from the Strawberry high-speed quad, you can see the Lodge is truly nestled in the Canadian Rockies, at 7200 feet.The Standish Lift goes right by the new West Wing of the hotel. From the chair you can see right into the two-story loft rooms, so I’d advise holding back on naked streaking up and down the stairs until the lifts close at 4pm.For Kendra Sonia, whose family bought the resort in 1981, Sunshine Village was her playpen growing up. She showed us some of her favorite runs, while kindly going slow enough so I could keep up. The Village is actually three mountains with 12 lifts and more than 3300 acres of skiable terrain. Riding with Kendra made me realize how much of the resort I hadn’t seen before, even though I’ve been here several times.Kendra even gave me some tips, which gave me the confidence to take the chair up Goat’s Eye for the first time. I offer photographic proof of my arrival to an elevation of 9200 feet.Just when my thighs and calves were starting to tremble, it was finally time to begin the apres. Next up, Room 105.
Of the three ski resorts in Banff, Sunshine is my favorite. Although since I’ve only been to Lake Louise twice and I’ve never skied Norquay, I have to admit I’m not really qualified to make this statement. But isn’t that the beauty of having a blog? The gondola takes you from the parking lot to the base of three hills. But at the end of the day, there’s more than enough snow to ride Banff Ave trail back to your car. In fact, today’s a huge powder day.Even though the clouds are obscuring the mega magnificent view usually to be had up here, Cookie’s got me covered. In Alberta, the sun always comes out at some point.Mix it up at the top of Mount Standish Express high speed quad. Do a few turns in British Columbia.Here comes the sun – I see some semblance of a shadow. And a white gourd — no, wait, that’s my Helli Hansen ski jacket. I am not down with this non-svelte silhouette. I gotta get a new jacket. But I’ve been saying that for years. Just avert your eyes and look at the B-Pro instead. Mmm… Gnu… Or that view of the Rockies! Meanwhile, you might notice there’s not much of a downward grade on this particular stretch of snow. At Sunshine, it’s good to bring a skier along so you can catch a ride by hanging onto one of their poles when you hit a flat spot. There’s a few of them here.Here’s another view to look out for at Mad Trapper’s Saloon. Just don’t let it startle you as you tilt your head up to take a swig of that midday beer. Built in 1928 by the Canadian Pacific Railway, you have to stop by this log cabin for lunch. Trappers makes a mean burger and it’s old-school ski vibe all the way. On the final day of the season (May 20 this year), the balcony is the best place to watch the Slush Cup. I didn’t fall! I was taking a break… … to take this photo. I can’t get enough of these Skittle-colored gondies. Luckily there’s still a month and a half left in the season. Next up: apres ski.