When you overnight at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, you can make first tracks in the morning. Or, if you wake up late, like me, and barely manage to get out of your room by the 11am checkout time, you’ll discover that you can still get a breakfast croissant at Java Lift. With enjoyable midday temps.Added bonus to sitting outside? The mochas here come with marshmallows.With the lift for Mount Standish just ten steps away, it seemed like a natural choice for the first run of the day. At the summit of Mount Standish, the clear view of the BC Rockies made our mission clear: it was a bluebird day to ride the provincial border.Turns out there’s a lift for that.As you ride up, you cross into British Columbia — the Beautiful, as their license plates say.Two towers later, you’re safely back in Wild Rose Country.These are our Alps: the Canadian Rockies.Without the drive to the hill or the gondola ride to the lifts, a half day felt like a full day. It also felt like it deserved a few beers, which, as you know, are my favorite thing to imbibe at Trappers Saloon. Or outside Trappers Saloon. A relaxing ride down Banff Avenue (a green run, although downloading on the gondola was also an option) would reunite us with our luggage at the base lodge. And with the massive snowstorms lately, the skiing should be just as satisfying right through closing day on May 19.
After a day on the slopes, should you choose to forgo your option to go home and stay at a Sunshine Mountain Lodge fantasy suite (apologies to both The Bachelor and the Lodge) … first you tub, then you dine. The hotel claims they have the largest outdoor hot tub in Banff, but I would go even further and say it’s probably the biggest in the province. With the admirable masonry of the high stone walls to block the wind, bring a brew (in a can, not glass) and sink in.After you towel off and slip into something less waterproof, there are several dining options to choose from. If you’re feeling rowdy, you can walk 20 steps from the hotel to Trappers. You can enjoy casual fare inside the Lodge at the Chimney Corner Lounge and Sports Bar. Or you can upscale your evening to the more formal Eagle’s Nest Dining Room, where the chef will start you off with an amuse bouche. We split the Caesar Salad on the excellent advice of our excellent server (Aussie, of course, like almost all the staff here), because it would have been too much for one person, if you’re intent on several courses. It had just the right amount of dressing (over-saucing is a constant dining concern for me) and an added touch of crisped pancetta.This is my Pained Blogger look as I take a shot of the Dreaded Food Porn. Normally I try to avoid it. There’s nothing I hate more than whipping out my camera during a meal. It’s just so rude! Plus my Venison Osso Bucco (incredibly tender and tasty) and Risotto is getting cold. But at the Eagle’s Nest Dining Room, the food takes center stage. Except for the lovely log beams, the room itself is not the ultimate in ambience. It doesn’t detract from the experience because the service and the food, which are top-notch, are what it’s all about. Except for when you desire a dining photo that doesn’t scream Food Blog 101.For dessert, we decided on a change of scenery, and our waitress kindly accommodated. This is when I realized the Chimney Corner Lounge is called that for a reason. The focal point of this classic ski-lodge lounge is the enormous chimney. Another intimate sitting area with a separate fireplace sprang from the same rocked-in chimney to our right. I was going to check out the other sides to see if there were even more fireplaces, but then I got too comfy, sated with the most incredible piece of chocolate cake. It could be the walnuts that made it so delicious. Or perhaps the vanilla creme on the side. I was also dazzled by the spotlight illuminating the deer so perfectly. Please excuse the lack of full reportage of the chimney situation.
Time to roll on back to our room to get a good night’s sleep for the ski out tomorrow.
After drooling over it all day from the chairlift, we finally got to see the inside of our premier room in the new West Wing (important info to remember if you book, since the main lodge rooms aren’t as new). In case you need it, there’s also a queen Murphy bed efficiently hidden beside the sitting area. The bedding was super-comfortable on the main bed.I’d call the bathroom decor rustic modern… … with products that stressed that the hotel is eco-boutique luxury lodging. Hard to tell with the slightly wack perspective going on here, but the item on the right is lip balm. Nice touch since Banff is possibly even drier than Calgary, which seems to have the driest climate in North America. Even nicer, not pictured, is the HUMIDIFIER THAT COMES WITH THE ROOM. Had to do all caps there because I believe every hotel in Alberta should offer this, but usually they don’t. Buen trabajo, Sunshine Mountain Lodge!The Lodge offers ski lockers but we didn’t quite make it there. Hopefully we won’t get in trouble once these photos go up. Look how careful we were not to scratch anything, SML! Especially those lovely heated floors.View from Room 105.You can also see the main part of the lodge with the restaurants. The hot tub is hidden below the stone wall…… which poses the challenging apres-ski question of the day: hot tub first? Or cheese plate by the fire? The fromage was just too tempting. But one small quibble as I nibble: the super-eco gas fireplace had a timer that automatically turned it off after ten minutes. I agree it should have an auto shut-off at some point, but how about twenty?
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.