Sunshine Village

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Sunshine Village
Sunshine Village ski resort
Sunshine Village ski resort
Location Banff National Park, Alberta
Nearest city Banff
Coordinates 51°04′43″N 115°46′56″W / 51.07861°N 115.78222°W / 51.07861; -115.78222
Vertical 1,070 m (3,510 ft)
Top elevation 2,730 m (8,960 ft)[1]
Base elevation 1,660 m (5,450 ft)
Skiable area 13.6 km2 (3,360.6 acres)
Runs 120
Ski trail rating symbol-green circle.svg 15% easiest
Ski trail rating symbol-blue square.svg 37% more difficult
Ski trail rating symbol-black diamond.svg 40% most difficult
Ski trail rating symbol-double black diamond.svg 7% Expert
Lift system 1 gondola (8)
9 chairs
- 6 High-speed quad
- 2 Quad chairlift
- 1 High-speed quad with heated seats and bubbles
2 magic carpets
Lift capacity 20,000 / hr[2]
Terrain parks 2
Snowfall 914.4 cm (360.0 in)
Website SkiBanff

Sunshine Village is a Canadian ski resort, located on the Continental Divide of the Canadian Rockies within Banff National Park in Alberta and Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia, Canada. It is one of three major ski resorts located in the Banff National Park.[3] Because of its location straddling the Continental Divide, Sunshine receives more snow than the neighbouring ski resorts. The Sunshine base area is located 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) Southwest of the town of Banff, Alberta. By car, it is about a one-hour, thirty-minute drive from the city of Calgary. The Sunshine exit on the Trans Canada Highway is 8 km (5.0 mi) west of the town of Banff.

Sunshine Village ski runs and lifts are accessed via an eight-person high-speed gondola. The gondola takes people from the parking lot (or bus terminal) to Goat's Eye mountain in 10 minutes and to the upper Village area in 18 minutes. There are 9 chairlifts and 120 trails within the alpine valley formed by the three mountains (Mount Standish, Lookout Mountain, and Goat's Eye Mountain) that constitute Sunshine Village. In summer the resort runs a shuttle bus service to its attractive walking trails and alpine meadows.


The first explorer that passed through the Sunshine area was Governor George Simpson of Hudson's Bay Company. His party passed through the area in 1841 seeking new quicker routes into the Columbia District. His diary noted "Hole in the Wall" Goat's Eye mountain and he left a blaze in a tree that has since been preserved in the Banff Natural History Museum. The next significant exploration party was the Palliser Expedition in the late 1850s; Mt. Borgeau, is named for one of its members.

Everything changed with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway and its arrival in Banff in the late 1880s. Bill Peyto may have been the first person to bring real tourists through the Sunshine area.[4] The eccentric[peacock term] Peyto was a trapper and prospector. He was also a competent guide, as his rugged life[clarification needed] gave him the skills required to face the often harsh realities of nature[further explanation needed]. In the 1890s Peyto would guide tourists through the Sunshine Meadows to the base of Mt. Assiniboine, the highest peak in the Southern Continental Ranges of the Canadian Rockies.

By the 1920s, Sunshine Meadows had become a popular camping site. Pat Brewster, the youngest son of dairyman John Brewster, was the first to regularly bring tourists for overnight camping at Sunshine Meadows. This area was nicknamed Tee Pee Town on account of the many tents that overnight campers would set there.[4] Upon reaching the top of the Tee Pee Town chair lift today[when?], one[who?] is looking over the same Sunshine Meadows that were busy with campers those many decades earlier[when?].

In 1928, the Canadian Pacific Railway built a log cabin lodge for the use of The Trail Riders of the Canadian Rockies, a club of horse enthusiasts who were sponsored by the tourist friendly railway.[4] This cabin was certainly not the first lodge built in the region (Bill Peyto’s cabin near Simpson’s pass was built more than 30 years earlier), but it is now the oldest building at Sunshine Village and is known as the Old Sunshine Lodge. Housing Mad Trapper's Saloon and Bruno's Bistro, the OSL is situated at the timberline above what was then known as Wheeler’s Flats and just below a vast expanse of high alpine meadows.[citation needed]

In March 1929, Cliff White and Cyril Paris, two local extreme sports enthusiasts, created a plan[clarification needed] to use the CPR cabin as an overnight point in their ski trek over the great divide. Unfortunately they could not find the cabin that night and were forced to sleep in a dug-out in the snow. Upon waking in the morning they discovered that they had only just missed the CPR cabin. These two men were the first to ski what is now known as Sunshine Village.[4]

In 1934 Jim and Pat Brewster leased the cabin from the CPR and began offering ski vacations. They bought the lodge in 1936. In 1939 they hired Swiss guide Bruno Engler as the first ski instructor. In 1941 a rope tow was built. The Brewster's owned the area until 1951 when it was sold to George Encil, who also owned nearby Mt. Norquay. He added "Village" to the name and made numerous improvements including the addition of a "Ski-Kuli" lift.

In 1961 the resort was purchased by local Banff businessman Cliff White, Jr. and his wife Bev. Their vision has shaped the resort. Partnering with Power Corporation Resorts, they built the Sunshine Inn (now Sunshine Mountain Lodge), the Daylodge and opened up the slopes of the Continental (Great) Divide Chairlift. He ushered in the modern era with the opening of the first gondola, which replaced bus access to the ski area, in 1980,

In 1981, the resort was purchased by Ralph T. Scurfield of Calgary. Since his passing in 1985, his sons, Ralph, Sergei, and John have run the resort and made many improvements, including modern high-speed lifts and the opening of Goat's Eye Mountain. The popular resort now hosts some 500,000 skiers and snowboarders annually over a ski season that stretches from early November to late May.


Sunshine Village has 3,358 acres (13.59 km2) of skiable terrain in Alberta and B.C. Its top elevation is at 2,730 m (8,960 ft), its base elevation is at 1,660 m (5,450 ft), and it's 1,070 m (3,510 ft) tall. The primary skiing area around Sunshine Village is based at 2,160 m (7,090 ft), providing 570 m (1,870 ft) of vertical terrain to the top of Lookout Mountain. There are 120 named runs spreading out over three mountains (Goat Eye's Mountain, Lookout Mountain and Mount Standish) and the two provinces, (Alberta and British Columbia). Lift service includes a gondola, chairs, High-speed quad with heated seats and bubbles and magic carpet lifts. Sunshine Village is the first ski resort in Canada to feature a High-speed quad with heated seats and bubbles. This chair was constructed in 2015 and is known as Teepee Town XL[5]. The annual snowfall is up to thirty feet (over nine meters)[6].

The Sunshine Mountain Lodge, an 84-room hotel is located in the "village" at tree line 7,200 feet (2,200 m) above sea level. It is the only ski-in/ski-out lodge in Banff-Lake Louise. You can purchase a Marmot Card to receive discounts on lift tickets. This card allows you to ski at a discounted rate at both Sunshine Village and Marmot Basin in Jasper and includes a number of free ski days[7].

Due to its location in Banff National Park and the development restrictions that apply, parking at Sunshine Village has long been in limited supply. When the main parking lot fills, visitors park along the access road and use a shuttle bus to get to the base lodge. This has been a source of friction with Parks Canada over the years, due to Parks Canada's concern about avalanche risks along the road. In 2017, a court overturned a Parks Canada imposed ban on access road parking.[8]


The ski season begins in early November and traditionally ends in late May, on the Victoria Day long weekend, with an event called the Slush Cup. Slush Cup participants attempt to ski down in front of a very large crowd of crazily dressed spectators, jump onto a pool of water (approx. 50'/ 15m long & 8' / 2.5m deep) and skim across the pool to the other side. All successful participants get raucous applause and bragging rights. Sunshine just celebrated its 90th Slush Cup in May 2018[9]. Sunshine Village has hosted many alpine ski and snowboard events.


Mount Assiniboine seen from Sunshine Village

Sunshine Village offers terrain for all levels of skiers and boarders. It offers a mix of gentle tree lined beginner slopes, wide open above tree-line intermediate and expert terrain. Visitors to the resort will often access one of the eight adjacent backcountry terrain such as 'Wawa Ridge' or Mount Assiniboine Provincial Park in British Columbia[10]. Avalanche rescue equipment is recommended for most backcountry areas. Rescue equipment is a requirement for access to the freeride zones of Delirium Dive and Wild West where the entrances are via a gate which remains locked at all times unless it detects a working avalanche transceiver on each person that passes through it. The entrance for Wild West is located on Goats Eye Mountain while the entrance to Delirium Dive is located near the Great Divide. Sunshine also features a 5km ski-out which brings you from the village to the gondola base.

Lift system[edit]

Lift Name Vertical Rise
Type Make Build Year
Gondola 500 4300 8-person gondola Leitner Poma 2001
Goat's Eye Express 580 1557 High-speed quad Poma 1995
Wolverine Express 194 1216 High-speed quad Leitner Poma 2000
Jackrabbit 84 312 Quad chairlift Poma 2000
Angel Express 379 1588 High-speed quad Poma 1988
Tee Pee Town LX 391 1200 High-speed quad with heated seats and bubbles Doppelmayr CTEC 2015
Continental Divide Express 422 1740 High-speed quad Poma 1996
Mt. Standish Express 217 865 High-speed quad Leitner Poma 2003
Strawberry Express 178 817 High-speed quad Doppelmayr CTEC 2010
Wawa 170 741 Quad chairlift Leitner Poma 2002
Ski School Learning - - Magic Carpet - -
Kids Kampus - - Magic Carpet - -

Popular culture[edit]

Many movies and TV specials have been filmed in the Sunshine area. Sunshine Village was utilized as a task destination for the season ending episode of the popular American reality television show The Amazing Race 5 (original broadcast date September, 2004). In the final 13th leg of this race, the three remaining teams took taxicabs from the Calgary International Airport to Banff’s Sunshine Village. After riding the gondola to the base of Lookout Mountain, the contestants donned snowshoes before making the approximate 2,000 vertical foot hike to the top ridge of the Great Divide (elevation 8,900 feet). Sunshine regularly host the Marjoe Gortner Celebrity Sports Invitational charity ski events to raise money for charities such as the Dream Foundation and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s Waterkeeper Alliance.


  1. ^ SkiBanff - Mountain statistics
  2. ^ Stats & Trail Maps - Sunshine Village - Banff Ski Resort, Canada
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d Robert W. Sandford, Sunshine: Its Human and Natural Heritage, 1984
  5. ^ Derworiz, C (2015-10-23). "Sunshine Village unveils Canada's first heated quad chair". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2018-05-27. 
  6. ^ "Sunshine Village Snow History | OnTheSnow". OnTheSnow. Retrieved 2018-05-27. 
  7. ^ "Sunshine Super Card". Ski Marmot Basin, Jasper National Park. Retrieved 2018-05-27. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ "90th Slush Cup (May 21) :: Sunshine Village". Sunshine Village Ski Resort in Banff Alberta. Retrieved 2018-05-27. 
  10. ^ "Sunshine Village Ski Resort". Backcountry Skiing Canada. Retrieved 2018-05-27. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Sunshine Village at Wikimedia Commons