SNAG FIRST CHAIR EVERY TIME WITH A STAY AT ONE OF THESE SNOWBOUND LODGES, WHERE IT’S YOU, YOURSELF, AND THE SLOPES.
You’ll be snowbound if you stay at one of these mountain hotels. Bummer for you.
9:14 a.m., Sunshine Village, Alberta: I watch a couple of heavily bundled skiers shuffle into the empty lift queue from my cozy, warm perch by the stone hearth. The temperature reads -24 (Celsius, thankfully, this is Canada), and I’m nursing my second cup of coffee at The Chimney Corner at Sunshine Mountain Lodge, watching fat flakes tumble down from the sky. The lifts began churning promptly at 9 a.m., and while I fully planned to be on the first chair … well, maybe I’ll catch it when it swings back around. I just want to enjoy the coziness a little while longer.
For most people who stay here, first chair is the raison d’etre—a near-guaranteed opportunity to be among the first on the slopes. The lodge sits at the top of the Sunshine Village Gondola, meaning once everyone heads down to the parking lot at the end of the ski day, the lucky
When Sunshine Village skiers depart for the night, guests of Sunshine Mountain Lodge have the mountain to themselves. Literally.
occupants of these 84 rooms and suites are the only ones up on the mountain. It’s surreal. Especially late at night, when the stars look close enough to touch. And first thing on a morning like today, when fresh snow blankets Sunshine’s sprawling 3,300 acres, and no one has yet to set a ski on it.
What makes Sunshine Mountain Lodge even more unique is the fact that it’s the only ski-in/skiout lodging in Banff National Park due to tight regulation on development by Parks Canada. It took years, but the lodge’s owners were finally able to expand the footprint and add the West Wing, which opened in 2009 with 30 lovely new rooms with jetted tubs, heated floors, and widescreen TVs, all with mountain views. The Main Lodge, originally built in 1964, was renovated most recently in 2005. Accommodations throughout are rustic-cozy, with lots of wood accents and airy windows wherever possible. A full-service restaurant, bar, and coffee shop keep bellies full, and nightly events, from movies to scavenger hunts, are a welcoming touch for families.
But when the sun sets over the jagged peaks of the Continental Divide, the place to be is the hotel’s swimming pool-sized hot tub, deliciously steamy on a stingingly cold February night. The storm that’s rumored to drop several inches by the morning has yet to move in, and stars light up the evening-scape like a planetarium. So much vastness, so few people. Surreal, indeed.