Quick, what’s Canada’s second largest ski area?
Canada’s most famous winter sports destinations – Whistler-Blackcomb, Banff, Mont Tremblant – have a lot to offer ski and snowboard fans, but it’s another British Columbia mountain, with 4,270 acres of terrain, that claims the title of second largest in the country.
Near the city of Kamloops in BC’s Thompson-Okanagan region, family-friendly Sun Peaks Resort flies under the radar, despite its size. With a compact ski-in, ski-out pedestrian village, it offers convenient access to its 130+ trails and to other winter adventures, from dog-sledding to fat-tire biking to snowshoeing.
When I visited Sun Peaks this summer — well before the snow began to fall — I had the chance to check out several of the mountainside lodgings. Here’s the scoop:
The biggest news, lodging-wise, is with the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel, the village’s most upscale accommodations. Since I last stayed at the Grand several years ago, the hotel has launched a major update of its 221 guest rooms.
They’re doing away with the traditional furnishings and pink accents, replacing them with a much more contemporary earth tone palette and more modern amenities. They look quite grand!
Most of Sun Peaks’ other accommodations are condo-style, handy for families who want to prepare at least some of their own meals or who want more than a standard hotel room.
One of these convenient-to-the-lifts apartment-style properties is the 70-room Hearthstone Lodge.
The majority of the Hearthstone’s units are studios or loft studios, outfitted with sturdy, functional furnishings. All the units have sofa beds, fireplaces, and efficiency kitchens equipped with a full-sized refrigerator, dishwasher, and stove top.
The Hearthstone Lodge has a small gym and two outdoor hot tubs, and several restaurants are connected to the property.
Canadian ski racer Nancy Greene, who won a gold medal in the giant slalom event in the 1968 Winter Olympic Games in Grenoble, France, and her husband Al Raine, built the first condominium hotel in Sun Peaks Village, which opened in 1995.
Greene is now Sun Peaks’ Director of Skiing — you might see her on the mountain, where she often skis with guests — and she and her husband live in her namesake property: Nancy Greene’s Cahilty Hotel & Suites.
All individually owned units, the Cahilty Hotel’s 150 rooms come in a large number of different types, ranging from compact standard lodge rooms with two queen beds, loft units with a sleeping space upstairs and a living area below, studios, and one- and two-bedroom suites. They’re not fancy and could use some modernizing, but they’re functional.
Some of the most spacious units are the grand studios on the top (4th) floor, which have high, sloped ceilings. In some, the small bedroom is separated from the living area — not an entirely separate one-bedroom space but more private than a standard studio. Families might opt for these units, or the larger suites, since the standard rooms would be cramped with the kids in tow.
Most of the lodge rooms have mini-fridges and/or microwaves, while the larger units have either a kitchenette or full kitchen. The Cahilty Hotel also has a small fitness room, as well as indoor and outdoor hot tubs.
One unique feature about the Cahilty Hotel is that, on Sunday evenings, Greene and Raine regularly meet guests at a welcome reception. It’s not every day that you get to chat with an Olympian, is it?
That’s just one more surprising fact about Canada’s second largest ski resort.
Room rates for all three of these Sun Peaks properties start at about CAD$150 per night for their smaller units, although prices rise on winter weekends and for larger rooms and suites. Go to the resort website to make a reservation or an online booking agency such as Hotels.com
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Ski lift photo courtesy of Sun Peaks Resort. Other photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Thanks to Tourism Sun Peaks for arranging my stays.