By sunshine or starlight

There are many legends about what goes on after dark at Sunshine Ski Resort — some of which cannot be repeated here. But things are changing and Sunshine is starting to attract a different demographic — even the after-dark exploits are evolving to focus on family-friendly activities.

The Terrain Park at Sunshine is a big hit with teens. Since it is inside a national park

The Terrain Park at Sunshine is a big hit with teens. Since it is inside a national park

There are many legends about what goes on after dark at Sunshine Ski Resort — some of which cannot be repeated here. But things are changing and Sunshine is starting to attract a different demographic — even the after-dark exploits are evolving to focus on family-friendly activities.

Seated steps away from the mid-mountain chairlifts of Sunshine Ski Resort, the Sunshine Mountain Lodge is a one-of-a-kind boutique ski-in/ski-out hotel that has much to offer families. Each evening the concierge hosts a different activity for hotel guests and since the gondola leading up to the mid-mountain hotel is typically closed in the evenings, these activities become quite intimate.

Tobogganing parties, fireside sing-a-longs, BINGO nights, snow shoe tours and board game challenges are just some of the activities that take place on a typical evening.

But it wasn’t just the activities that impressed us about evenings at Sunshine on a recent visit — it was the stars. If you go outside for an evening walk or snow shoe tour, you can see a night sky that is rarely visible near a town or city. As you move further away from the hotel, the stars seem to be blazing above you and it’s hard to resist the urge to lie down in the snow and just stare at the heavens.

Fortunately, the hotel has an enormous hot tub and sauna, in case you stay outside lying in a snow drift for too long.

As good as our evening had been, staying on the slopes at Sunshine Ski Resort, the next morning was even better. When you are staying right on the mountain, you get the opportunity to be first on the chairlifts and first to test out any newly-fallen snow on the mountain. Nights at Sunshine Ski Resort may be legendary, but if you’re staying right on the mountain, the days are pretty great too.

Sunshine’s Family Specials

• Sunshine Mountain Lodge and Sunshine Ski Resort have some great specials this year for families. You’ll get the best deals during “Value Season” (Jan. 11 – Feb. 11 and April 11 – May 20), but there are still good discounts during Powder Season. (Feb. 21-25, March 7-17, and March 21-26). A mid-week stay is also less costly than a Friday or Saturday evening stay. Here are a few highlights of the family discounts on offer.

• When you buy 3 nights, you can stay 2 more nights for free. This price includes lift passes and represents a 40% savings off regular rates.

• Value Season Family Room Special: Rates start at $119 per person per night based on a family of four. This rate includes lift tickets, VIP parking ($25 value), and a food voucher of $60 per room, per night, redeemable at any outlet on the mountain.

• Powder Season Premium Room Family Special: Two adults pay $239 each, and two kids stay at no extra charge. This price includes next day lift ticket for everyone, VIP parking, plus a $40 food voucher per room.) If the children are over 13, add $50 per child. If you’re staying Saturday night, add $40 per adult.

• Season Pass-holder Discount: Pass-holders can stay in a premium room for just $49 per person (weekdays, Value Season, based on family of four) with VIP parking included.

Exploring Banff

When you’re not hitting the slopes at Sunshine or one of the other great ski resorts in the Banff area, consider visiting some of the other great winter attractions in the Rockies. A few family-friendly ideas are included below. For more great ideas visit: www.banfflakelouise.com.

• Banff Gondola — The view from the top of Sulphur Mountain is truly amazing and getting there is easy on the gondola. Regular round-trip admission to the Banff Gondola will cost $29 per adult and $14 per child age 6-15 years. The Banff Gondola is open daily throughout the winter and summer months.

• Banff Springs Hotel — Built at the convergence of the Bow and Spray Rivers, the Banff Springs Hotel was originally built be the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) and is today a national historic site. The hotel offers free tours on Tuesdays and Fridays at 4 PM that last approximately one hour.

• Banff Upper Hot Springs — It seems a little strange to be swimming outdoors when lifeguards are wearing fur-lined parkas and snow boots, but that is all part of the fun of spending a winter’s day at Banff Upper Hot Springs Pool. The natural mineral waters have a soothing and healing effect and can be enjoyed all year long. A visit will cost $7.30 per adult and $6.30 per child. Family rates are available and old fashioned-style bathing suits are also available for rent.

• Cave and Basin National Historic Site — Cave and Basin National Historic Site of Canada commemorates the birthplace of Canada’s National Park system, which began with the establishment of Banff National Park in 1885.

A dispute over ownership of the hot springs led to the establishment of the park and the growth and development of Canada’s national parks are celebrated in interactive displays and exhibits at this site. Naturally occurring, warm mineral springs can still be found inside the cave and outside in the basin. It will cost $3.90 per adult or $1.90 per child to visit this site.

• Lake Louise — A visit to Lake Louise is magical in winter. Although the snow is deep, the walking paths around the lake are clear and if you dress warmly, a winter walk can be invigorating.

The lake has been cleared off in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise Hotel, so bring your skates and enjoy free skating. There is also an ice house erected on the lake and ice sculptures surrounding the Chateau that last until the temperatures rise and the sculptures melt.

• Elemental — If you’d like to watch Canada’s figure skating stars perform close up and even have the chance to skate with them, consider taking in the new Elemental Show at Lake Louise from March 18-21. The outdoor skating shows will be performed by a cast of international and Canadian figure skating stars.

Special musical guest stars will also be appearing on selected dates. There will be meet and greet sessions, photo opportunities, skate with the stars events, and a VIP dinner experience. Admission starts at $47.50 per adult and $32.50 per child aged 14 and under. Family rates are available. For more information, visit: http://elemental.sirius-creation.com/.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story that we might interview, please email: DOGO@telusplanet.net or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.

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