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SNAG FIRST CHAIR EV­ERY TIME WITH A STAY AT ONE OF TH­ESE SNOW­BOUND LODGES, WHERE IT’S YOU, YOUR­SELF, AND THE SLOPES.

SKI - - CONTENTS - By Sa­man­tha Ber­man

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.

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