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Powder but no crowds at Sun Peaks

If you’re thinking about a skiing holiday in the Northern Hemisphere during the Christmas/New Year holiday season, now’s the time to start planning. And one of the places worth considering is the Sun Peaks Resort in British Columbia, Canada. Despite being something of an ‘emerging talent’, this beautiful resort has won a string of awards from such influential magazines as the Good Skiing and Snowboard Guide, Snow Country Magazine and Ski Canada Magazine. Among the plaudits are awards for ‘best grooming’, ‘best mountain trails’, ‘best weather’, ‘best mountain village’, ‘best terrain variety’ and ‘friendliest locals’. Previously called Tod Mountain, after a famous fur trader in the area of the 1800s, the bulk of the $330 million invested in developing the resort has occurred over the past 10 years, with the first initiative being to rename it Sun Peaks. Sun Peaks is located four hours by road from Vancouver, from where there is a twice-weekly shuttle bus service. There’s also a regular rail service with Canadian VIA Rail from Vancouver to Kamloops, the nearest town. And Alaska/Horizon Air operates a daily flight to Kamloops from Vancouver or Seattle, with a convenient shuttle service to take guests to the resort from the airport. Sun Peaks has three relatively uncrowded mountains to ski, an attractive and bustling village, a reliable abundance of dry powder snow, an excellent network of ski lifts, and a good variety of ski runs to satisfy all levels of ability. Unlike other resorts located south in the US, where the higher altitudes (3,000 metres plus) may cause altitude sickness, Sun Peaks’ lower altitude, great winter weather and inland location make for absolutely perfect conditions for a ski holiday. The picture-postcard alpine village has 700 hotel rooms, 220 rentable condominiums, 15 restaurants and bars and 18 retail shops. All accommodation is within easy access to ski lifts, most only requiring a short walk. At night, the village streets twinkle with fairy lights, which adorn the trees and buildings, making the freshly fallen snow glisten and shimmer. A range of dining options is available from fine dining to more casual. There is the Steakhouse at Sun Peaks Lodge for a succulent Canadian steak, Baggio’s Ristorante where pastas are made fresh daily, and Servus on Creekside for a romantic European-style meal. The locals, as the award achieved in 1999 attests, are an exceptionally friendly and accommodating bunch, and they’re joined by an enthusiastic army of Australian ski experts and resort staff members, a common occurrence at ski resorts around the globe. In terms of skiing and snowboarding, it is hard to imagine more perfect conditions for either pursuit. With an average snowfall of 559 centimetres, 117 ski runs (20 per cent for novice skiers, 61 per cent for those with intermediate skills and 19 per cent for the experts), the longest being 8km, 11 ski lifts with a daily lift capacity of 11,000, and a long ski season typically lasting from mid-November to mid-April, Sun Peaks has all the elements to make it an outstanding ski holiday destination. As anyone who has skied before can tell you, it is not a cheap pursuit, but by choosing the quieter period immediately after the New Year, accommodation and lift pass packages are more affordable provided you stay for at least seven days. Further discounts often apply for early bookings also – so now’s the time to make the arrangements. www.sunpeaksresort.com Other activities available include: Dog sledding - Try an exciting ride with a team of purebred malamutes and Canadian Eskimo dogs for an authentic Canadian experience. One hour tours range from $150 for one adult to $180 for two in one sled. Snowshoeing - In high-tech aluminium snowshoes, explore designated trails that include bird-feeding stations, wildlife viewing and a snow cave. Daily rental of equipment and guide map costs around $30 for adults. A one-and-a-half hour guided nature tour costs around $45 per person. Sleigh rides - Traditional sleigh rides are conducted on picturesque snow covered trails to the jingle of sleigh bells. There are romantic rides for two, evening valley tours and after-dinner dessert rides. Prices start at $30 per adult and $20 per child. Snowmobiling - Several guided tours are available with all equipment except gloves provided. Two-hour tours start from $150 per person and four-hour tours start from $220 per person. Those driving will require a valid driver’s licence. Passengers will pay around $70. Slingshot bungy trampoline - One of the most popular activities for thrillseekers. Count how many times you can flip as you launch yourself high on the bungy trampoline. Rides cost $12 each.

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