A confession: winter is complicated when your life is on wheels.
For about a decade after my spinal cord injury, winter was a whole lot of hard work, frustration, and repeating the mantra “Do something today your future self will thank you for”. There’s a heck of a lot of learning, figuring, and fine tuning that go into getting the most out of winter when snow is often the very thing that can slow you down.
A few years ago, though, a light began to flicker at the end of the tunnel. I’d been learning to sit ski in fits and spurts for what felt like forever - interrupted by moves, a full time legal career, babies (they have a way of grinding sport to a halt) - when the pieces started to come together. A custom ski I picked up in Colorado actually fit me. I connected with an adapted skiing program that was innovative, experienced, and game for whatever I was (shout out to Adapted Sports Sun Peaks!)
And I found a GREAT hill.
I chuckled just now, writing that I “found” Sun Peaks. How could I find something I already knew from the skiing years of my youth? The truth is, the journey from able-bodied skier to sit skier can be long (it was for me) and it honestly, truly felt like I was discovering the hill all over again. Where once I was a fearless 19 year old who could ski every single run with my eyes closed…..I’m now a ‘fair-to-middling’ 37 year old sit skier with a 5 and 2 year old.
This past weekend, Jon and I and the kids set about fully exploring Sun Peaks Resort and all it has to offer. And I mean ALL. What was supposed to be one post is going to be three, because I can’t fit it all in and we had such a blast that I need to share it all!
The load/unload from the chairlift can be a real hurdle for a lot of aspiring sit skiers - it’s pretty high stakes! Mess up on the load, and you have an awkward crash in front of a huge crowd who are now irritated because you’ve shut the lift down (been there, done that, so so sooooo many times). Mess up on the unload, and you’ve served yourself a hard crash that might just take out all your seat mates as well (hello yes, I am also experienced at this). With this in mind, I can’t say enough about the lifties at Sun Peaks. They’re just the best. So friendly, so game to lend a hand, and genuinely pretty stoked to see a sit skier which is just…the nicest feeling, especially when said sit skier is still working out some kinks.
Like I said before, there was a time that I could ski wherever I wanted without a second thought. Now….now I am selective about what I want to ski. See what I did there? I made it sound like a choice, lol. Well I have excellent news, if you are a Highly Discerning Selective Skier like myself, there’s a huge amount of terrain just waiting for you.
From the Sundance Chair with it’s wide, rolling runs, super fun trees and terrain park to the classic Sunburst Chair, home to many of the original runs on the hill, to the Orient Express and Morrisey Chair which open up entire new hills to the classic Burfield, once the longest chair in North America and home to some really challenging runs where you can feel like the only skier on the hill.
The Crystal Chair now goes to the Top of the World, opening up the whole mountain and making for some long, beautiful laps that go for miles - just the thing for bluebird days when you’re feeling the flow.
A second confession: prior to a couple weeks ago, I had never skied Morrisey. Mt. Morrisey is the selection of runs on the hill across the road from the main village. As a sit skier, there are some logistics to accessing Morrisey - it’s not terribly complicated, but there are some extra steps when one can’t easily pop off skis and walk over the bridge to the Morrisey platter, like many do. The first way to access Morrisey is to take the Sundance chair up and take the aptly-named long, meandering green run ‘Rambler’ down, carrying as much speed as possible at the bottom to shoot under the road past the Orient Express chair (I’ve never managed to carry enough speed to get me all the way to the Morrisey lift, but it’s not a bad trek and it gets the blood pumping!). The second way to access Morrisey in a sit ski is to park right at P5 and hop into your ski right there. NOTE: if you’re needing to buy day tickets or use an accessible washroom, this isn’t a great option as both of those things are only available down at the main day lodge. Logistics!
First impression of Morrisey? What a total blast! A whole bunch of fun, treed runs with great snow that stays relatively untouched compared to the main mountain. Especially in the spring, when the main mountain takes the brunt of the morning sun’s heat, the snow over on Morrisey stays crisper, longer making for fast, zippy runs. It’s my new favourite place! My 5 year old agrees - he’s announced The Stix is his new favourite run and asks to ski it every weekend.
As much as I’ve appreciated what Sun Peaks has to offer as a sit skier, I didn’t really appreciate just how good us locals had it until I had kids. Now that I have two small rippers, I’m regularly shaking my head at just how LUCKY we are to have a hill like this so close. One of the truly great things about Sun Peaks is how they’ve set up the learning areas right alongside the village, making the process of learning to ski really welcoming and inclusive. I’ve skied at a lot of hills in a lot of places and Sun Peaks is truly one of the best set ups for families to have a great time.
On any given day, there is a small flock of mini shredders taking their first turns with moms and dads skiing/snowboarding/running down the hill beside them with grandma and grandpa cheering them on at the bottom. It’s so easy to grab a coffee from Bolaccos or Tod Mountain Cafe and then meander over to the bunny hill to cheer your favourite kiddo on. It’s a true family affair! Even if you don’t have kids, I highly recommend here to watch for a bit - there are some GREAT little tykes out there and I love watching the creative ways parents employ to encourage the ‘less enthusiastic’ ones down the hill. Pure gold. Our kids are 5 and 2 and both started at Sun Peaks, with the 5 year old quickly progressing to the chairlift and the 2 year old not far behind (momma’s gotta get really good, really quickly!)
If it all looks like too much fun, it really kind of is! Are there logistics when it comes to sit skiing? Yep. Are there even more logistics when it comes to sit skiing and little kids? Heck yes. But I can’t say enough about Sun Peaks Resort and how there really is something for everyone, at all levels, however you get yourself down the hill.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the fun we had on our winter weekend - there’s still dog sledding and sleigh riding and hot tubbing and Apres-ing to come! Many thanks to the ever-so-patient and talented photographer Mary Putnam (@mary.locations) for hanging out with our little fam for yet another weekend (this time in the snow) and capturing these moments.
Can’t wait to come back at you with even more fun, which obviously means copious pictures of horses and sled dogs and beautiful mountains and the snow snow snowwww at Sun Peaks Resort.
Continue reading about The Roll Model's visit.