For my 25th birthday, Cody took me to beautiful Banff snugged in-between the most picturesque snow capped mountains of Canada. It’s not an easy journey to get there from New Jersey, but the first-class seats definitely helped to make it a comfortable trip.
If you enjoy the great outdoors, scenic mountain views and snow sports, Banff is a must visit place to add to your bucket list.
Cody and I spent our first day in town, checking out all of the quaint little shops. We stocked up on candy, homemade chocolates and freshly popped cheddar and caramel popcorn from Mary’s. After killing one of our bags of popcorn while walking around town we decided to go back for some more. This was crucial seeing as we would be heading to Sunshine Village for the remainder of our trip, Banff’s only ski-in/ski-out resort located 20 minutes up into the Rocky Mountains by Gondola ride, where snacks of this kind would be limited.
But before we made our way there, we still had my birthday dinner at The Bison. With a late reservation and some time to kill, we enjoyed some signature cocktails and appies at Cowlick. This is where we had our first (but most certainly not last) encounter with a Clamato Caesar. The spicy and clammy Canadian cousin of Bloody Mary.
Upon arriving at The Bison, we were greeted with two glasses of Prosecco to toast to 25 and then went right into crushing the escargot in bone marrow, scallops over tortellini, braised duck and short ribs. Holy food coma. This meal was out of control. But if you asked me if I’d do it again, I most definitely would. Tonight and every night after that if I could.
After dinner, we headed back to our hotel to rest up for the next day where we’d make our way to Sunshine Village.
Sunshine Village may look and sound like a setting in a fairy tale, but this place is not for the faint of heart. I’ve never seen such beautiful mountain views in my life, let alone boarded down them. The trails here are wide open, empty and incredibly long. Nothing like back home on the East Coast. I’m so snow spoiled now.
There are tons of trails to choose from that it’s almost impossible to plan a route. You kind of just have to wing it for your first time. Which means going down black diamonds and hitting minefields of moguls when you least expect it.
There’s no shame in going down the steeper spots on your butt if you have to. It can actually be quite fun. But when the snow starts falling, the game changes and all of these positives can actually come around to make the journey down a bit more dreadful. But hey! What’s an adventure without a little bit of challenge? AY? (Canada rubbed off on me a bit).
While you’re exploring Sunshine’s never-ending trails, it’s good to keep an open mind, stay calm and just enjoy the ride. Realistically, there are no wrong turns, just more challenging ones. A Green Trail here is comparable to a Black Diamond back home so just imagine what their Double Black Diamonds look like…
Having trouble? Take a look at their toughest trail- Delirium Dive– a 50-degree drop zone where you need to meet requirements before entering. Requirements such as proof of a transponder, a shovel, a partner and knowledge that you’re entering at your own risk. Delirium Dive is a 1,600-foot double black chute always primed for avalanches. Once you catch your breath and dip your tips over the initial 40-degree lip, you’re on your own. I wouldn’t think boarders were really cut out for this type of terrain but this guy proved me wrong (as well as the 4-year old boy I met in the hot tub who has apparently already conquered this dive with his dad- mind blown).
Sunshine can receive up to nine metres (30 feet) of snow in a season and the Village’s altitude of 7,200 feet ensures the snow stays light and dry. Because of its location straddling the Continental Divide, Sunshine receives more snow than the neighboring ski resorts.
On Day 2, Sunshine got hit by a pretty intense storm leaving the visibility at a whopping 0. If I had to imagine what heaven looks like, it would be this exact experience where you don’t know where the ground stops and the sky begins. Everything was white leaving your brain to play tricks on your depth perception and forcing you to ride on, knees bent and ready to take on any unexpected bump or drop off when you least expected it.
Riding in the fresh powder was awesome but traversing to get to the other side of the mountain was harder than ever and left us to hike in the knee deep snow until we could get a drop high enough to gain momentum. We made our way down to the lower trails where the visibility was a bit better.
Sunshine Village’s resort, runs and lifts are accessed via an eight-person high-speed gondola that only runs certain hours of the day. There are 9 chairlifts and 120 trails within the alpine valley formed by the three mountains that constitute Sunshine Village- Mount Standish, Lookout Mountain, and Goat’s Eye Mountain. In the summer, the resort runs a shuttle bus service to its attractive walking trails and alpine meadows which I would expect to be out of this world beautiful.
You haven’t boarded until you’ve boarded Banff. Your one regret will be that back home boarding will never be the same again.