Vancouver has been on my bucket list for some time and our plan was always to combine a visit with skiing in Whistler. Whistler often wins the award for the best ski resort in Canada, but this means that prices are sky high.
Once I booked our flights, I started researching hotels and ski passes. (Find out how we saved over £6,400 on two first-class flights, and paid just £1,200.) It soon became evident that you pay a huge premium to ski in Canada’s best ski resort. I struggled to find accommodation for six nights, for less than £2,000 (and let me tell you the choices were far from luxurious). Ski passes were an eye-watering $644 (4 days skiing from 21/2/19). I quickly realised a change of plans might be required. So it was, that we chanced upon Sun Peaks, and this is why you should visit the second largest ski resort in Canada.
Sun Peaks Resort
Sun Peaks is around 4 to 5 hours east of Vancouver and north of Kamloops. The drive takes you through increasingly dramatic scenery, as you approach the mountains and the resort is surrounded by pine clad mountains.
It has a whopping 4,270 acres of skiable terrain, 137 trails and 17 gladed areas. 13 lifts serve the resort, including 4 high-speed quad chairlifts, 2 quad chairlifts, 1 triple chairlift, and 6 surface lifts. The longest run is a blissfully beautiful 5 miles, accessible to even novice skiers or boarders. The resort is often voted the second best ski resort in Canada, and even ranks above Banff and Lake Louise.
The village is a ski-through, European style resort, jam-packed with quaint shops, cafés, bars and restaurants. It is nestled at the base of three mountains with rental stores conveniently located next to the lifts. Lit with fairy lights, it is incredibly pretty during the day and at night.
It might not have the pumping nightlife of Whistler, but nor do you have to take out a second mortgage for a week here. It nevertheless has a good selection of restaurants, including local fare, Italian, Japanese, and Mexican options. There is also a choice of bars including Bottoms, Masa’s (in the village day lodge), Morrisey’s and Cahilty Creek.
Whistler accommodation costs
In Whistler, the cheapest accommodation for a four-night stay starting 21st February was a whopping £2,334 at the First Tracks Lodge. This is a 3.5 star hotel, 2.1 miles from the village centre but close to the free shuttle bus route.
If you wanted to stay in the village itself, your next cheapest option was a huge £6,661 at the Westin Resort & Spa Hotel.
And finally, for the ultimate in luxury, you could book into the Four Seasons resort for a mere £12,268.
Realistically however, which mere mortals can afford to fork out over £500 a night on accommodation?
Sun Peaks accommodation costs
Sun Peaks resort offers much more reasonably priced accommodation. We stayed at the Burfield which costs just £499 for these dates. This hotel is on the very outskirts of the village, directly opposite the Burfield. You really can ski in and out of this property, and the rooms are comfortable and well equipped with full kitchen facilities.
There’s a games room, common room, ski room and laundry facilities. Plus, the hotel is conveniently located just a few minute’s away from the shuttle bus stop into town. You can download the shuttle timetable here.
Alternatively, if you want to be in the centre of all the action, you could book into the Residences in the Village for £1,543. A positive bargain compared to Whistler!
Wow. The skiing in Sun Peaks is up there with the best I’ve skied. Unlike the overcrowded slopes of Europe, it is not uncommon to find pistes where you can ski the entire length without seeing another soul. Just check out these pictures to see what I mean!
Even on the busiest day, we never queued more than five minutes for the lifts. The pistes are utterly stunning, with far reaching views over the mountains and plentiful snow.
We had a fresh dump during our stay, so enjoyed lush powder on our last day of skiing. There’s certainly no shortage of snow with a whopping 6 metres snowfall during the season. Whilst Whistler receives an average annual snowfall of 11.4 metres, it also attracts hoards of visitors. We heard stories of people queueing for as long as two hours during peak season. When temperatures are minus 14, that is not my idea of fun!
Admittedly Whistler offers a larger ski area. With over 200 marked runs, 8,171 acres of terrain, 16 alpine bowls, and 3 glaciers combined, it sounds pretty epic. However, we didn’t come close to skiing everything at Sun Peaks, and certainly didn’t feel hard done by. What’s the point of going to the best ski resort in Canada if you can’t experience everything?
Here are the trail maps for Sun Peaks and Whistler so you can compare the mountains yourself. Just remember, like kids in a sweet shop, there are only so many sweets you can eat. If you only have a week, you can’t do everything.
We booked ski passes and ski hire online as a combo. This is the best way to book as you can secure discounts of up to 40%. For the same four days as I quoted above, the ski pass for Sun Peaks costs just $267.99.
If you want to book the same combo as us, including skis, the price increases to $431.99
In Whistler, you can save up to 25% by booking 7 days in advance online. However, for four days from the 21st February, your ski pass alone costs $700. To hire basic skis costs an additional $319.65 per person.
Thus, your ski pass and lift ticket for 4 days would cost $1019.65 in Whistler, compared to just $431.99 in Sun Peaks. That is almost an extra $600 each. Now think of all the cocktails and meals you could enjoy with that money.
You will need a car to visit Sun Peaks. Whilst there are regular buses to Whistler, it’s a little more difficult to get to Sun Peaks on public transport. It pays therefore to hire a car and the cost can be substantial as you will need winter tyres and a SUV. We booked our car through Holiday Extras and paid £303.91 for ten days. However, in my naivety, I’d booked a car that was totally inappropriate for the mountains and we ended up paying an additional £800 at the airport to upgrade. If you select winter tyres and a SUV at booking, it will cost so MUCH LESS!
A quick search for the 21st Feb on Holiday Extras shows that it is possible to pick up an SUV for around £50 a day if you pre-book. As you can see, that is much less than we paid!!!!
Now, if you are still not convinced that anything other than the best ski resort in Canada is for you, pay heed of the following tip. I normally advise again package holidays, as usually you can save a fortune by going it alone. Plus it allows me to use air miles to fly business or first class for a similar cost to what I would normally pay for economy.
One way to reduce the cost of a trip to the best ski resort in Canada
However, if you are really determined to go to Whistler, your best option is to book a package holiday. The price for a week at the Four Seasons was less than £2,000 a person with Crystal ski and this includes flights. You will still spend more than £6,000 for two with ski passes and lift tickets but it is much cheaper than a DIY trip.
But honestly, why go there when you can go to Sun Peaks Resort and enjoy these incredible views.