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Sun Peaks, BC, Canada

Date: Jan 27-Feb 3, 2018
Trip Leaders: Alex Karger, John Kelly
(click pictures for high-res images)

Most of the group of 41 took the Club's bus from Piscataway to LaGuardia Airport on Saturday for an early morning flight to Kelowna (connecting in Toronto) on Air Canada. LaGuardia was empty as we checked in at 5am. When we arrived in Kelowna at 11:30am, we proceeded to our motor coach for the 3-hour drive via windy, covered in snow roads to the mountain village of Sun Peaks (in addition, we had 40 min stop over for small provisioning).

When we arrived at Sun Peaks Grand Hotel, we were greeted by the manager and his team. The trip leader received a packet with our lift tickets and room keys for distribution to Club members. Our luggage was delivered to our rooms promptly. Our meet and greet was scheduled for later, so some of us went to the ski shop to collect rental equipment. About 80% of people rented, mostly at McSporties. The hotel provided an orientation at 6:30pm at a nearby restaurant, where we were told what to expect during the week. We enjoyed drinks and a variety of appetizers. Some people stayed there for dinner as well. The large outdoor hot tubs and pool were frequent gathering places for evening relaxation.  Two more members who had arranged their own air from Florida to Kamloops joined us in the hotel, arriving late Sunday morning.

Our first day of skiing on Sunday morning began with light breakfast in the room or a heavier breakfast from the Grand’s buffet or other nearby restaurants. Sun Peaks has a wide variety of groomed and ungroomed runs. Off piste snow cover was very good, which thrilled some of our more advanced skiers who were eager to try the powder in Gil's area, even though the area required 10-15min of light hiking to reach its entrance. Weather presented some morning challenges with low clouds, heavy snow (be careful what you wish for), cold temperature, and flat light.  Every day brought new snow totals – 3 inches, 1 inch, 2 inches, 2 inches and 2 inches – so there was fresh powder every day. There was supreme skiing and short lift lines.

The Sun Peaks ski area is easy to get around. Signage is very clear and points to the direction of main lodge. Piste difficulty ratings (e.g., blue, red, black) can change in the middle of a run so people were advised to check the trail map to avoid surprises. A big highlight of the trip was the Mountain Hosts (tour guides), who were available every morning at 9:15am and highly valued by most of our members. The morning session ended around 11:45am and the afternoon session started at 1:00pm, ending around 3:00pm.The Hosts were outstanding. They seemed to enjoy their task more than any other hosts we have seen, and our Club's members ski at a lot of resorts. Hosts at most mountains do enjoy their task, but they usually do it in order to obtain free lift tickets for themselves and their families. One of our hosts was a guy who was a ski instructor 4 days a week. Why did he spend another day as a guide for no pay? He must have really enjoyed it. He led us on some tours that were amazing. Without a guide, you would never know how to access some of the fun trails through the trees where someone had constructed narrow runs with jumps and other fun stuff. The access points are not obvious. You think you are going blind into a very tight set of trees. You have to trust the guide when he says jump in, go through the trees, and then take a sharp left and it will open up. Then he led us onto a ski cross course. We went down 2 by 2 and it was very exciting to say the least. You could not ski it slowly.

There were blue/black tours and black tours. The blue/black tours stuck to blue runs and groomed black runs. Some of the black runs were very steep, but the snow conditions made them very easy. Many of our better skiers went on the black tours, which went everywhere, including some runs that were very steep and deep and a lot of work.
 

The trip leaders hosted après ski get-togethers in their rooms on Sunday and Thursday night, giving everyone an opportunity to relive the day’s victories and renew friendships. Dining opportunities were numerous, either at the Grand Hotel with their Bar & Grill or at the other restaurants in the village. A frequent topic at dinner was the debate over whether the skiing and resort experience at Sun Peaks was worth the long travel time from New Jersey, which is similar to going to Europe. The consensus was 'Yes', and the Club should go again. Sun Peaks has a typical North American feel, meaning meals were typical US fare, no language differences, and the ski runs are all designed to come back to a single village base area. A huge plus was the complete lack of crowds at Sun Peaks. The Club's European destinations tend to have vast ski areas that span multiple villages/towns with food that is, well, not US fare.
 

All good things come to an end.  Late to sleep and early to rise was the order of the day for our Saturday departure.  After loading the bus at 7:00am, it was off to the Kelowna Airport (3 hour ride). Unfortunately, for many reasons our flight was delayed long enough for us to miss our connecting flight in Toronto.  We landed in Toronto too late to make it through the  US Immigration and Customs office, which we learned closes at 9pm (really??).  As a result, we had an unexpected extra night stay in Toronto.  Air Canada provided hotel, transportation, and food vouchers and arranged new flights for the next morning.  However, the flights were not to Newark, as originally scheduled, but to LaGuardia.  It’s difficult to find enough extra space on one flight for a group of 38 so we were happy with any flight that got us close to home.  We arranged for our bus to change the pick-up day and location.

By 10:00am Sunday we were walking to the charter bus area at LaGuardia for our ride home to Piscataway. Back in Piscataway again, we loaded our cars and said our goodbyes. A good time was had by all – time to plan our Club's next awesome trip.

Alex and John would like to thank all the club members for a great week.

 

 

 

 

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