Bridging the Gap

By Jane Cassie


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A blanket of cloud envelops our chair and the biting wind nips through our toques. We hunker down in silence, seeking refuge in our woolies and Gortex, and secretly think of our wishes. At least one of our kids will be hoping this resort soon lives up to its name. Another is likely dreaming about the stash of fresh powder that waits ahead. As for our hot-dogging son, Shaun, it’ll be the mogul fields and challenging terrain that fills his brain. But my thoughts aren’t on any of the above. Now that our five kids are adults, and we’re nearing our “golden years,” the ability gap seems to be widening. I’m just praying I can still do the descent without having a face plant. The familiar saying, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” keeps coming to mind.

But Sun Peaks Resort has the answer. This family favourite, 45 minutes from Kamloops, boasts an impressive line-up of multi-generation adventures and caters to every skill level. During this retreat with our energized offspring (and a couple of significant others), it also grants all of our wishes. Or should I say, nearly all.

By the time we reach the top of Sunburst Express, the clouds disperse and rays of sun attempt to burn through. From our scenic summit, a detailed map outlines the downhill offerings at this second largest B.C. ski resort. Etched into its three omnipresent peaks are 122 runs. They scrawl over 3,678 acres and interconnect with 30 kilometres of Nordic track, two alpine bowls, 12 glades and one wicked terrain park. They also come in a broad selection of expert, intermediate and beginner grades - so even us die-hard, grey-haired folk can get down.

“You go, Girl,” our daredevil Shaun cheers out as he showers me in a rooster tail of downy powder. Albeit, it’s been years since I’ve gone by this title, while donning my new rocket-red Heads and scarlet beacon-like helmet, I’m starting to feel that familiar surge of adrenaline.

For the sake of family togetherness, and capturing the perfect photo moment, we agree to do a few laid-back cruisers in sync. And, before I have time to worry about my weak knees, we’re off to the races!

While my husband and I glide on the groomers, two of our guys head for the untracked fringes and create their own squiggly lines on Old Man Winter’s face. Our daughter gravitates to the glades and carves through the frosty evergreens, and overactive Shaun gets big air when soaring over every bump in his path. Powder flies, giddy yee-haws are declared, and all have a youthful foray. From Sundance to Morrisey Express and up the higher reaches of Crystal, we start and finish together, yet always customize our own way down. The fresh dump is feather-light, subtly surreal, and every line is effortless - even the ones at the base of each chair!

It helps to have more direction from the acclaimed gold medalist/Senator, Nancy Greene, later in the day. At 1 p.m. on most weekends, this Sun Peaks ambassador can be found meeting and greeting any skiers who want to tag along. “Let’s give Burfield a try,” Shaun suggests, after getting a few tips from this pro. “I’ve heard it has lots of double black diamonds.” I can vouch for this fact when recalling the old Tod Mountain. Back in my teens, it was the longest chairlift in North America - and one of the toughest. Maybe the speed has been geared up a notch since then, but there’s no way of changing Mother Nature. It’s undoubtedly just as vertical. I quickly pass on this pitch and do an about face towards the village. With any luck, our hot tub will be vacant.

We’ve booked into the Kookaburra Lodge, the newest kid on Sun Peak’s block. As well as being centrally located in the quaint Bavarian-style village, our spacious suite has all the perks to please any large clan. Slate floors, gleaming granite, and contemporary décor find their way into this Zen-like gem. Before the bags were even unpacked, the steam showers, super-sized TVs, and pillow-top beds were put to the test. The village bistros, bars and eateries are a short stroll away, but home cooking is a breeze in our upscale kitchen. Did I mention the soothing hot tub? My rubbery ski legs can hardly wait!

“Wanna go dog sledding, Mom?” I forget about our two non-skiers, and when I return, my youngest son is flipping through a brochure. The other family member has booked herself in for a bit of bliss at the lower level Sun Peaks Spa. Although I’d like to find some solace, I can’t recall the last time my 22 year old asked me to do something with him. Here’s the chance. From skating and snowshoeing to snowmobiling and sleigh rides, there’s a gamut of non-slope activities. Even though I don’t have much muscle-power left, how hard is it to be pulled by a six-pack of Alaskan Huskies?

Not as easy as you may think! Our experienced guides, Philippe and Leandra Brient teach us everything from harnessing to handling, but this activity is not your typical walk in a dog park. These canines really move! “They love to serve,” Leandra explains, while introducing us to their pack of 40. “They’re bred to mush and want to be chosen.” It’s easy to see. Every time she leashes up one of the animals, the entire pack goes into a howling frenzy, as if to say, “Pick me, pick me!”

After one demonstration, my son proudly harnesses his team. But my mind’s still on all the commands - keep back from the sled ahead, don’t let the ropes slack, brake here, and push there. I’m starting to wonder if this quintessentially Canadian experience is something I can muster. Or musher! But before I change my mind, Philippe revs up his guiding snowmobile, and there’s no holding back. I let ‘em rip! Snow flies, tails wag, I sweat. We traverse over snowy golf greens, cross country trails and snowshoeing tracks. Our narrow route is flanked by snow-clad evergreens, and aside from the huffing pups, the air is still, serene. By the time we do the return loop, I’m feeling like Eskimo Jane - and a lot more connected to my son.

Meanwhile, my husband is spending slope time with the others - mainly Shaun. On his final run, our daring dude gets a little too much air for his own good and ends up spraining his ankle. “I guess I’m getting too old for these tricks,” he says, when claiming couch space back in our suite. I chuckle at this comment when bringing out his lit up birthday cake, a special celebration that doubles with this family getaway. Then, I reflect on a few revelations from the weekend. First and foremost, family time takes precedence over anything else. Secondly, the generation gap between the kids and us isn’t very wide. And lastly, Sun Peaks has granted all of our wishes. Or should I say, nearly all!

 

MARCH 2010 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER AND LOWER MAINLAND

 

 

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