Sunshine remains your only option for ski-in, ski-out digs at any of Alberta’s mega ski resorts—but gone are the sleepless nights of squeaky bunk beds. No more rooms of mashed-down shag carpet or orange polyester bedspreads. Now the hotel “experience” begins at the base, AKA Creekside, where valets whisk your car away while someone else tags and totes your luggage up the gondola to the spiffy 84-room Sunshine Mountain Lodge.
Stashed among the highest concentration of 2,800 m to 3,600 m (9,186 ft to 11,811 ft) peaks along the Alberta-British Columbia border, the lodge’s “West Wing” of 30 new suites invites the tumble of the Continental Divide right through its eight m (27 ft) high windows (in its loft units). With slate-encased hot tubs, in-suite fireplaces, toasty radiant heated floors, stunning watercolours (part of the owners’—the Scurfield family’s—private booty), seriously dense terry robes, flat screen TVs, queen and king-sized beds, these are exactly the kinds of rooms where a family, or several couples, can swap ski epics over a glass of plonk at the end of day.
Gaining any sort of development approval in a national park is a complex business involving numerous environmental assessment plans that must convince advisory boards of the park’s benefits. Three years ago, when Parks Canada approved this multi-million dollar renovation, no one knew the world economy was rocketing into a tailspin—and that so many people would benefit as well.
“In many ways, our timing couldn’t have been better,” said Bill Cutt, Sunshine Mountain Lodge manager. “Supplies were cheaper and more abundant, plus we were able to hire excellent trades people who were hungry for work. Once the foundation was built, it took us only six months to build the entire wing of 30 rooms.”
Today’s roomy suites, 360-540-sq-ft, acquired some space from old poky common rooms. The main lodge includes two massage treatment rooms, a cedar-lined dry sauna, a comfy family room, games room and mini-gym. Laundry facilities and a massive locker area are located in a new basement that was excavated out of the mountain. And here’s where the results turn green, always a plus when it comes to any national parks’ initiative:
All 153 tonnes of rock excavated on-site formed the lodge’s handsome foundation and burly columns that now frame the sheets and sheets of low-energy, double-paned windows. Motion detectors in the hallways ensure prudent light usage. Water consumption is expected to decrease by 20%, due to low-flow taps, toilets, and so forth. A far more energy efficient electrical system should see consumption drop by 44%, due to radiant heating, superior insulation and passive-solar heat.
What skiers will see, however, is what they’ve always seen—chutes and bowls of untrammeled powder. Mount Assiniboine (our Matterhorn knock-off) is just up the chair lift. And that sky. Electric blue. Spotless. Like someone pressed hard with an ultramarine crayon. And now that you can enjoy swank dinner events like a Taste of Sunshine well into the evening, be sure to step outside. Streaky and mottled, you can watch stars dip and curl and swirl across a sequined sky. No light pollution here. Just Van Gogh’s Starry Night. And Egyptian cotton sheets.