Special moments in life bond parents to their children. Teaching children to ski is not one of them. That's why ski resorts invented ski schools, a place to drop off little ones so parents can indulge in quality, guilt-free time on the slopes while the offspring socialize and learn a new skill.
That simple logic eluded our family on the final day of our stay at Sun Peaks, just north of Kamloops. Our son Ryan had thoroughly enjoyed two mornings at the resort's ski school. Crashing into giant rubber building blocks, riding a "magic carpet" through an "enchanted tunnel" and goofing off with new friends had all been part of the novelty, overseen by as many instructors as there were students.
With his confidence growing and his "pizza stop" (snow-plow stop) close to perfect, Ryan was plucked from school for an advanced lesson by the ultimate instructors: his parents.
Why? Because his parents were stupid.
"It'll be fun to all ski together," we told him. "You can ride between daddy's legs," we reassured our ever-more doubtful student.
Ryan's doubts proved to be well-founded. His parents had not factored the magic carpet into the lesson plan. The magic carpet is a slow-moving conveyor belt used to ferry the smallest of skiers up the gentlest of bunny hills. As Ryan stepped onto the belt so too did his mom. Close behind, his dad stepped onto the belt and promptly fell off. Dad got up just in time to see mom falling off, leaving Ryan riding alone to the top and a waiting lift attendant.
Sometimes it's hard to tell what's going through the mind of a four-year-old, but it's a safe bet that Ryan was experiencing a premature dose of adolescent contempt for his parents. On the other hand, he could have been trying to decipher the liftees Aussie accent. Either way, he was crying.
We managed to coax (coerce might be a better description) Ryan back up the slope one more time, but his confidence in his teachers' abilities did not return.
He'd had no such doubts at ski school. The school is at the forefront of a resort that has made families the backbone of its business. That means aprés ski options can be on the tame side, with a handful of bars and restaurants, but no night club.
There was to have been a club in the $40 million Delta Sun Peaks Hotel, but that burned down last October, two months before its opening date. Due to the fire, the otherwise pretty alpine-style village remains cursed with a construction site at its heart, as the Delta is rebuilt.
On the slopes, terrain is varied enough to keep intermediate and beginner skiers happy. When our family wasn't skiing or throwing snowballs at each other, we enjoyed the resort's sports complex and its outdoor ice rink, pool and hot tub.
Sun Peaks is also blessed with a highly approachable host in Nancy Greene Raine, gold medallist at the 1968 Olympics and a two-time World Cup champion. Greene skis every day and skiers and boarders are invited to join her at 1:30 every afternoon.
The resort's largest hotel also bears her name Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge. "Cahilty" comes from a pioneer ranch family that lived in the area when Sun Peaks was known as Mount Baldy or Tod Mountain. Presumably, the discovery that "Tod" means "death" in German hastened the name change to cheery-sounding Sun Peaks.
But perhaps Sun Peaks' biggest lure, especially outside of holiday periods, is the absence of crowds. No lift lineups, no crowded slopes, no long waits for a restaurant table and fewer people to snigger and point at those who've yet to master the magic carpet.
If you go...
Sun Peaks is 45 minutes north of Kamloops. Prices start at $79 per person, per night (based on double occupancy) and include lift tickets. Call 1-800-807-3257.
Leah Vandeberg photos:
Ryan Judd reluctantly agrees to just one more run
after a traumatic ride up the magic carpet.
Another busy day on the slopes at Sun Peaks, 45 minutes north of Kamloops.