Ask Ed Sweitzer why he drives his family four hours across the Canadian border to Sun Peaks for a ski weekend, and he'll repeat such fatherly refrains as "family-friendly" and "such nice people." Push a little more, though, and the Bellingham, Wash., skier and father of two might be coerced into giving up some long-held-and far more compelling-secrets involving Sun Peaks's extensive terrain and plentiful powder. In the end, though, Sweitzer will cite tradition when it comes to his family's favorite ski mountain: "Our children have grown up on this hill, going from lessons on the magic carpet to the black-diamonds."
A big mountain (almost 3,700 acres) with a small-town feel, Sun Peaks emits family-friendliness. And despite several opportunities to morph the quaint village into a megaresort-including a 1968 fire that ruined the only chairlift, forcing a two-year closure, a 1998 blaze that severely damaged another chairlift and a 2001 fire that gutted the nearly finished Delta Sun Peaks Resort-only measured change has come to Sun Peaks. Under the steady ownership of Japan's Nippon Cable Company, which acquired what had been called Tod Mountain in 1992, the resort has slowly grown to encompass three peaks and a European-style village as well as residential lodgings-condos, cottages and chalets-that are selling faster than iPods.
Like the Sweitzers, droves of escapees from northern Washington have found their skiing Shangri-La at Sun Peaks. And for good reason: This resort has something for everyone. Experts beeline to the summit bowls for chutes, glades and headwalls; intermediates are awash in long groomers on newly opened Mt. Morrisey and can dip into the powder in wide-open Crystal Bowl; and even greenhorns can descend from the summit along the four-mile Burfield run, which starts at the top of the Burfield Quad. Last summer, the resort announced $11 million worth of improvement projects, from more snowmaking and new groomers to expanded lift capacity, representing Phase Two of a $240 million push designed to enhance all aspects of the year-round resort.
But for right now, if it's white-linen dining and oyster bars you seek, look west to neighboring Whistler/Blackcomb. For a day off from schussing, Sun Peaks' families take a sleigh ride, scoot along the web of cross-country trails or learn how to mush sled dogs. "I almost hate to let the word out about this place," Sweitzer admits. "It's uncrowded, it has every type of skiing that you could want, and the people who work here are fabulous. It's like getting together with a group of old friends."
Where to Stay
>Delta Sun Peaks Resort Opened in 2002, this 226-room, full-service slopeside luxury hotel offers posh guest rooms with down duvets, terrycloth robes and high-speed Internet access, a health club with a spa, a restaurant and a heated outdoor swimming pool. $90-$150 per night; 866-552-5516; deltahotels.com
>Fireside Lodge A ski-in/ski-out condo-hotel in the heart of the village, the Fireside offers luxurious designer suites with river-rock fireplaces, full kitchens, outdoor hot tubs and underground parking. $121-$201 per night; 888-659-2211; firesidelodgeatsunpeaks.com
>Fairways Cottages These new two- to four-bedroom chalets have ski-in access and are located at the third hole of the golf course, within a two-minute drive of the main lifts and the village. The larger cottages easily accommodate two families. $184-$398 per night; 800-807-3257; sunpeakscondos.com/lodging/cottages.htm
Where to Eat
>Mantles Restaurant and Bar This family-friendly eatery serves upscale Pacific Northwest cuisine in a casual setting inside the Delta Sun Peaks. Menu items include brick-oven pizzas, rotisserie prime rib, salmon steaks and a selection of pastas. Free meals for kids 12 and under. 250-578-6000
>Macker's Bistro and Bar A comfortable hangout for heartier appetites inside Nancy Greene's Cahilty Loddge, Macker's offers burgers, pizza, stir-fry and Scotty's famous double-barbecued baby back pork ribs. 250-578-7894
Where to Play
>Masa's Bar and Grill At the bottom of the Sun Burst and Sun Dance chairlifts, inside the day lodge, Masa's is a local's favorite for cocktails. 250-578-5434
>Bottoms Bar and Grill A rousing bar with an enthusiastic staff (they're known to break out into karaoke), Bottoms is the place to find a scene. 250-578-0013
>Sun Peaks Ice Rink New this season, the full-size outdoor rink is a quick walk from the village. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Admission, $4; rentals, $6.
>Snowshoe and Fondue Burn-then replenish-calories on a guided snowshoe hike followed by a fondue dinner at The Val inside the Sun Peaks Lodge. The tour leaves at 5 p.m. every Friday. $42 per person. Snowshoe rentals are $15 adults, $10 children. 800-807-3257