So many of us hope for a Bucket List experience on New Years Eve, but inevitably we end up disappointed. It’s such a meaningful night in our youth – the passing of a year – but as we get older the night becomes an anniversary of unfulfilled promise blended with the resignation of the passage of time. I’ve spent New Years Eve in some pretty amazing places on Earth, and the most important aspect of the night just about always came down to who I was spending it with, not where I happened to be.
This year, I was with my family for the week in BC’s Sun Peaks Resort, now the second largest ski resort in Canada. It was my first visit, and I was delighted to find a family-friendly, homely resort with gorgeous runs on three beautiful mountains, all blanketed in soft, dry snow. Sun Peaks might lack the sophistication, slick service or size of Whistler, but it also lacks the crowds, and altogether feels wonderfully accessible – especially for my wife and nieces learning to ski.
The resort’s Ski Ambassador is none other than Nancy Greene Raine, a Canadian Olympic skiing legend, named the Canadian Sportswoman of the 20th Century. With unlimited energy, she’s appears to be everywhere: inviting skiers to join her for a run each afternoon, or meeting guests on Sunday evenings for a personal introduction to the village. Nancy showed me around the mountain on my first day, taking me on some of the finer runs of Tod Mountain. I was able to keep up with my snowboard, but only because she let me. When I told her my wife and I have never skied before, she felt compelled to remedy that situation. With our rentals sorted out through the Elevation Ski Shop, Nancy had us both skiing down the mountain in less than two hours. Maybe this is because of the way she patiently explained how to ski. Maybe this was because neither my wife nor I wanted to disappoint a living legend. As for my nieces, aged eight and six, they were bulleting down the lovely 5 Mile run on their second day of Ski School.
But I’m here for the Bucket List, which is how I found myself standing behind Nancy high on the slopes in the dark, holding a flare connected to a wooden pole, with dozens of people behind us. Each New Years Eve, Sun Peaks has a torch light procession, free and open to the first 200 people who sign up. I knew this was a Bucket List experience the moment I left the Sundance Express chair, descending to the rendezvous point by moonlight and lanterns. It was the first time I’d ever snowboarded at night, as exhilarating and thrilling as the first time I scuba dived at night. Lined up into four groups, we all descended in formation, creating a beautiful sight for the crowds amassed at the bottom of the slopes. Once we reached the village, a countdown began, and at zero, we snuffed out the flares in the snow, initiating an impressive fireworks show. It was magical stuff, even more so because it was only 9pm – early enough for entire families to participate. I haven’t had as memorable a New Years Eve in many years. Snowboarding directly behind Nancy Greene, under the stars, holding a flare in formation, with my family waiting below – yes indeed: New Years at Sun Peaks is definitely one for The Great Canadian Bucket List.