This post by Lisa Monforton was originally published on the Travel Alberta website.
My sister said she'd never forgive me.
I’d taken her on a long hike in the Rockies the last time she visited, and the next morning she couldn't get out of bed. I’d pushed her too hard. Lesson learned. Next time, I’ll take her up the quick and comfy summer gondola and chair-lift ride at the ski resort of Sunshine Village. It’s a more sisterly way to show her the magnificent Rocky Mountains.
Return to the past
Sunshine introduced the summer gondola ride in the summer of 2016, after a hiatus of more than 20 years. On Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays in the summer, the gondola takes hikers and sightseers to the base of the ski hill. From there, travellers can hop the Standish chair lift for a trip up into the alpine meadows.
Having slogged up mountains for magical views, I was delighted at how effortless it was to be at 2,200 metres after a week of solid desk time. Nearing the height of wildflower season, the ground was a patchwork blanket in shades of impossibly pink paintbrush and perfect blooms in shades of gold, lavender and red. It looked like the kind of spot I could lay down for an afternoon nap.
An easy trip to paradise
If you haven’t driven the road up to Sunshine in summer before, you’re in for a treat that sets the stage for your hike. Surrounded by mountains and pine forest, I rolled down the windows and let the pine-infused cool air fill my car as I drove to the base – 1,660 metres above sea level. I happily stopped a few times to let the mountain goats amble by.
The 20-minute gondola ride up to the village gave us a whole new view of Healy Creek Valley and Goat’s Eye Mountain. We spotted a fat brown marmot in the grass, which seemed to stop and watch the strange sight of our gondola passing by. Within 10 minutes, I was standing in a bowl of green 2,200 metres up, trying to identify my favourite ski runs amid the rock and grass. From there, I was whisked to the top of the hill on the Standish chair lift, backed by a warm gentle breeze. Getting off the lift without being weighed down by ski boots was a breeze. I looked out from a viewpoint to the lushly treed Simpson Valley in the distance. For day trippers, there is system of gravel trails for a leisurely amble and a picnic lunch.
When my sister comes to visit in September, this hike will be at the top of our list. We’ll go to see the golden blaze of the larch trees turning colours with the season followed by a leisurely plate of nachos and a cold one on the deck at Mad Trapper’s Grill.
- The gondola and Standish lift are available Fridays, Saturday, Sundays, and Mondays from late June to early September.
- The gondola runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., while the lift stops at 5 p.m.