There are some places in Canada that are completely magical. They are not only a local’s favourite area to adventure but also an iconic place for tourists to explore. Sunshine Village is one of these vacation spots and finds itself on many traveller’s bucket lists.
Our family recently spent the weekend at Sunshine Village Mountain resort at Canada’s highest elevation hotel, where we enjoyed snowboarding during the day and putting our feet up by the fireplace in the evening. It was the perfect combination of relaxation and adventure with hardly any tantrums. I call that a BIG win when travelling with our two littles, aged 2 and 4. This close-to-home trip beat out any vacation to Mexico and fulfilled our family’s adventure needs.
Warning. This post will make you want to go on a mountain adventure at Sunshine Village with your children.
Sunshine Village Gondola
It’s not every day you get to ride a Gondola up to a hotel room perched on the side of a mountain with two bundled up littles oohing and aahing the whole ride. As we made our way up, the clouds parted and we were presented with stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges. These mountains are not mere hills but rugged, rocky, towering beauties. The girls were so excited that dad brought along the binoculars they found under the Christmas tree a couple of weeks earlier. We managed to focus in on the frozen waterfall running down Mount Bourgeau to the north, and zoom in on the skiers as they raced down the mountain.
We arrived in our room around 4:30 pm. The fireplace was turned on immediately and we took some time to soak in the mountain views from our hotel room. It was a winter paradise. But winter paradise with two littles does not mean complete serenity and soon our girls were whining for a snack. I was glad that I had stocked up multiple snack items in our bag, since there is no main grocery stores at the top of Sunshine. Out came some banana bread while I made myself a decaf coffee. The perfect little happy hour before satisfying our taste buds at the Chimney Corner restaurant.
Our toddler did not want to go to sleep the first night. She kept saying in her cot “What’s going on mommy?” over and over again. I finally gave up the idea that Cam and I would enjoy some time hanging out post-bedtime. An hour and half later and she finally closed her eyes. But who really can complain. We were enjoing fresh mountain air at one of the best places on Earth.
Shredding like we used to
The late night meant that both girls wanted to sleep in later the next day but mom and dad were going to go snowboarding without the kids. We did what every parent hates to do and decided to wake both of the kids up. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. After eating pancakes, crème brulee oatmeal and avocado on toast, we walked our littles to the Tiny Tigers day care where they would play until 1230 pm while we snowboarded. When we dropped them off, I had to call them back just so that they would give me a hug and kiss good bye. They were too excited to play with the “mountain toys” which was literally just regular toys but in the mountains.
My husband Cam and I had 4 hours to shred Sunshine Mountain with two guides showing us around. We explored 3 different mountains, Lookout Mountain, Standish Mountain and Goat’s Eye, and 6 of their 8 different chair lifts including their top of the line heated Teepee Town Lift.
After picking up the girls from Tiny Tigers Day Care we headed to the Chimney Corner for lunch. It was a nice break from the crowds that frequent the chalet area. The kids enjoyed hot dogs and French fries but could have chosen other foods like pasta or chicken. My husband and I chose a hearty buffalo stew to satisfy our energy needs. My favourite meal of the weekend was when I had trout with fresh seasonal vegetables for dinner that night.
Family Shred Session
Our post lunch family shred session started on the Mitey Mite magic carpet. Our 4 year old started to insist that she only wanted to go up the chair lift. Apparently that was the “cool” place to be but it is also partly my fault. I had promised that we would go up the Strawberry chair lift. After convincing her that we were just warming up on the small lift she happily showed off her snowboarding skills. The small grade was perfect and allowed both girls to try snowboarding all by themselves since catching too much speed was not an issue.
Then came the Strawberry chair lift. The chairlift was extra exciting for my littles because:
1. Both girls really love strawberries
2. This was the first time they would adventure on a chair lift to snowboard down a really big mountain.
My husband and I kept a tight hold on both girls, picking them up as we boarded and off-loaded the chairlift. It just felt easier that way. We then started snowboarding down the mountain. I had our 2 year old under her arms, with her feet on the ground, and Cam was snowboarding with our 4 year old.
When we got to the bottom of the run, we felt like we just had to go up one more time. I soon found out that our 2 year old really only wanted to ride the chair lift, but was too tired to snowboard down. It’s not easy explaining to a 2 year old that when you go up a mountain you need to somehow get down. Trust me. Now it is easy to predict what happened next. I ended up snowboarding down while carrying her in my arms, cheering her up at the bottom with a cookie.
Never Miss an Après Ski
After a full day on the mountain we were all so ready to have some drinks for the adults and hot chocolate for the kids, followed up by a hot tub adventure. The hot tub was not quite complete down time to relax, as both girls learned that they loved opening the gate to the snow, rolling in it and heading back in the hot tub…over and over, and over again!
Late Night Adventures
There is no shortage of things to do at Sunshine Village and the late night activities are perfect for families staying at the hotel. Since we opted out of the scavenger hunt the night before we decided to go tobogganing on the mountain on Saturday evening. I thought tobogganing on the classic wooden sleds would be fun but I did not realize that it would be exhilarating. This activity was not just for young kids but honestly any adult would have a blast flying down the steep hill. There is a clear reason for the rule that children under the age of 12 must wear helmets, and a Sunshine staff member teaches you how to sled safely down the mountain.
Big Adventures, Full Heart
Taking turns to snowboard without the kids on Sunday morning while the other parent played in the room with the kids was fun. But… there is an adventure that sticks out in my mind and is forever engrained in my heart. After check out of the hotel we took the kids snowboarding. Our 2 year old stayed on the magic carpet with Cam while I took our 4 year old up the chair lift. It was the first time I was able to go up the chairlift and give all my attention to this beautiful 4 year old human while snowboarding. It was epic. While wearing the snowboarding harness she made it down ¼ of the mountain without stopping. We laughed, screamed woo hoo and for some reason yelled “parmesan” as we rode down the mountain. Her stamina and zest for life filled up my soul.
We left that day and once again enjoyed the ride down the gondola. At the bottom, our 4 year old whined that she wanted to stay in the mountains and live there. I agreed and decided to share in her sadness. But … really we left that day with our hearts full. We had enjoyed the most wonderful time together at Sunshine Village, amongst the towering mountains with no worries but which run to shred next and how long we should enjoy the Après ski.
Learn more about the Sunshine Village Ski Resort here.
Sunshine Village is just as magical in the sumer. Make sure to check out the post ” The Legend of Banff Sunshine Meadows Lives On’