Sun Peaks panorama

Sun Peaks – great skiing plus plenty more …

Sun Peaks—Canada’s second largest ski resort—yields a wealth of fun and activities in a pristine alpine setting. However, there’s a lot more here than you might imagine once you get off the slopes and trails.

 

1. Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival

The first time I saw Sun Peaks was back when the festival was almost entirely concerned with ice wine and known as the Okanagan Ice Wine Festival. There’s nothing wrong with ice wine—but there’s really only so much you want to taste or drink at once!

Dave Beaudoin and Gray Monk Bubble at Sun Peaks tasting Canadian Cheese Ambassador Dave Beaudoin readies a bottle of Gray Monk Brut Rosé to pair with an assortment of premium tastes at a Sun Peaks tasting

Dave Beaudoin and Gray Monk Bubble at Sun Peaks tasting
Canadian Cheese Ambassador Dave Beaudoin readies a bottle of Gray Monk Brut Rosé to pair with an assortment of premium tastes at a Sun Peaks tasting

It’s now the Sun Peaks Winter Okanagan Wine Festival, that spans 10 days. And it’s a ton of fun—especially if you like wine and winter sports. Or even if you just like wine and food. Head up for a slew of good tastings. (If you plug in ‘Sun Peaks’ in the search box to the right you’ll find find plenty of background information.)

Sun Peaks’ little festival that could has evolved and grown into a pretty cool event, with no shortage of seminars and activities. Unique is the Progressive Tasting, which sees 30 or so wineries dispersed throughout the village. You wander, glass in hand, tasting from station to station.

Spotted at Sun Peaks Progressive Tasting: very cool horseshoe bottle stands by Kamloops newcomer Monte Creek Ranch

Spotted at Sun Peaks Progressive Tasting: very cool horseshoe bottle stands by Kamloops newcomer Monte Creek Ranch

However, thanks to our liquor laws here in beautiful but backwards BC, you’re not actually allowed to have anything in the glass as you wander between the buildings. No, sir. Indeed there are volunteers stationed at every exit door to make sure no wine actually makes it outside. If that all sounds a little silly, it is. After all, why wouldn’t you want to wander outside with a glass of something crisp and white (or warmly red) to marvel at Sun Peaks snow and the stars, or just to hang out.

The crowd is always in good humour as they shoehorn around a tasting table that could be a whole lot less crowded if people were free to move on. Don’t get me wrong. It all works like clockwork. (And there have never been any ‘incidents). It just feels so nanny-state. And it is.

Next year’s festival is around Jan 15-24, 2016. Exact dates to be confirmed.

Forbidden Fruit's remarkable Cerise d'Eve, from the Similkameen Valley

Forbidden Fruit’s remarkable Cerise d’Eve, from the Similkameen Valley

 

2. Bolacco Caffé

Bolacco's superior java and a mustard spiced breakfast wrap. A great way to start the day...

Bolacco’s superior java and a mustard spiced breakfast wrap. A great way to start the day…

Sun Peaks isn’t short on cafés but it can be challenging to track down a cup of serious coffee. All the more reason to make a beeline for this (not surprisingly) busy, compact haunt. The espresso is as good as it gets. My deep, smooth and rich crema Americano was one of the best, ever. Plus, I was even more impressed when the owner remembered exactly what I ordered after only one visit. Also very good, made in-house bites.

 

3. Voyageur Bistro

Kevin Tessier, host raconteur par excellence, below classic canoe, at Sun Peaks Voyageur Bistro

Kevin Tessier, host raconteur par excellence, below classic canoe, at Sun Peaks Voyageur Bistro

This cosy haunt—which is dominated by a full-sized, exquisitely built vintage canoe takes both its food and theme seriously. The cuisine, described as ‘classic Canadian’, sports plenty of French Canadian influence (as in ‘voyageur’) plus there’s a lively bar where you can hang out before and / or after.

 

Creamy root vegetable soup with parsnip crisps, paired with Misconduct Chardonnay

Creamy root vegetable soup with parsnip crisps, paired with Misconduct Chardonnay

Owner Kevin Tessier is a seasoned guide (who runs Northwest Voyageur Canoe Tours in summer). He’s also a passionate historian and authority on the history of the fur trade—and how its rivalries shaped modern day Canada. Kevin often gives a witty and well informed talk at the end of the evening, complete with maps and not a few furs. For a history geek like me it was an added treat.

Duck carpaccio with Eagle Bluff Vineyards Crooked Post Pinot Noir

Duck carpaccio with Eagle Bluff Vineyards Crooked Post Pinot Noir

I was impressed not only by the calibre of the cuisine (with the kitchen under a lot of duress serving big numbers) but also by the wine matches.

Highlights ranged from a brightly flavoured scallop salad with apple cider vinaigrette (with excellent Bella sparkling Chardonnay), a smooth and creamy root vegetable soup with Misconduct Chardonnay, and beef Wellington with Ex Nihilo Merlot.

Good food and a well matched wine list makes this an obvious choice. Voyageur Bistro is in the Kookaburra Lodge.

 

4. Sun Peaks Sun Star Shuttle

OK, so it’s not hard to find the shuttle.  Chances are (unless you’re driving yourself) it’s how you’ll arrive and leave (and you won’t need a car while you’re there). That’s the beauty of Sun Peaks: it’s only about an hour from Kamloops Airport. Depending on how busy it is you might travel in a luxury 52 seat coach or a 10 passenger van, The shuttle’s secret weapon is Kevin (that’s “Kevin with the pony tail”), who gives a non-stop commentary ranging from local history to pointing out everything from mountain sheep to jackalopes… 😉 for unsuspecting Aussies. Service offered also from Kelowna Airport.

 

5. Mountain High Pizza

Mountain High Pizza —just a few steps from the foot of the chair

Mountain High Pizza —just a few steps from the foot of the chair

The best place to grab something between runs or on your way home. They always have at least three or four combinations ready to go by the slice. Or, you can grab a table inside or out. The pizzas are inventive, well made, generously topped and hot. There’s a good range of crusts, from regular to thin, whole wheat and gluten free. I liked the vibe—plus they do half ‘n halves, or just about anything you can think of—and they deliver. Find them here.

6. Nancy’s Medal Haul

Sun Peaks director of skiing Nancy Greene in her racing prime—and she still maintains a pretty crazy pace even today

Sun Peaks director of skiing Nancy Greene in her racing prime—and she still maintains a pretty crazy pace even today

Even if you’re not a keen skier, chances are you’ve heard of Nancy Greene Raine. Best kept secret? You can find a whole slew of her medals and plenty of retro pics, on display in the lobby at her Cahilty Lodge.  Greene says she likes having the extra space at home!

Winter Olympic poster 1936

Winter Olympic poster 1936

Take time to wander down the corridor to take in a truly fascinating collection of Winter Olympics posters. The resto here, Cahilty Creek Bar & Grill, run separately, has a good breakfast deal: The Little Tod (as in Tod Mountain, the original hill).

These days, in addition to being a full time Canadian senator, Greene is Sun Peaks Director of Skiing. Read more about her here.

Sun Peaks Village: a pleasing sense of scale, plus ski in and ski out everywhere

Sun Peaks Village: a pleasing sense of scale, plus ski in and ski out everywhere

The resort itself continues to grow in very controlled fashion. I like the Alpine village design, which is applied to all the development. Much of Sun Peaks’ appeal flows from its sense of scale and feeling that everything is manageable and within easy walking distance. It is. It all adds up to a family friendly, easy to get around place, where nothing is more than 10 minutes walk away.

 

More info at Okanagan Wine Festivals and at Sun Peaks Resort.