Snowshoes and fondue
They had me at fondue.
How else can you explain me voluntarily signing up for the Sunshine Village Historical Snowshoe and Fondue Tour - a two hour long trek through the back country of Sunshine Village in a pair of snowshoes? It had to be the promise of a gourmet fondue sit-down afterwards that lulled me into completely ignoring that this was going to require some physical stamina.
I’ll admit, I was a little nervous wondering if I was ready for this fresh air experience or not. To my surprise, however, it didn’t take long into the adventure to realize those fears were unfounded.
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Our group of 12 was varied with a near equal split of men and women, some with snowshoeing experience, others like me, newbies. We set off from the top of Mount Standish with the helpful words from our guide to “just walk like normal”. Our first pit stop, only moments from the lift, was an outlook with a giant map of Sunshine Meadows – the area we were about to descend into. It is vast and it is spectacular, situated at an average elevation of 2,180 metres (7,300 feet) with views of some of the highest peaks in the Rockies.
After slipping and sliding but managing to stay on my feet, we made it down the backside of the mountain and into the softest, most pristine, untouched snow imaginable. I know this because at one point I took the Nestea plunge! I have never felt snow like this, it was liking falling onto my pillow top mattress, only softer.
Our trek takes us through the meadow and into territory untouched by humans in recent days but clearly visited by animals. Tracks from a pine marten could be seen running perpendicular to our path and our guide informed us that they, as well as snowshoe hare and even lynx are common to the area. We don’t see any on this day but the thought of us sharing this remote piece of beauty makes me smile.
The landscape is incredible and near indescribable in just how truly breathtaking it is, with 360 degree views of the majestic Rockies. Serenity is easily achieved as there is no one but our dozen out here surrounded by snow, snow and more snow – not to mention the wilderness and before we know it, we have surpassed the half way mark. Our guide stops us near the frozen and nearly indiscernible Rock Isle Lake for a break – hot chocolate and cookies which she has secretly carried in her back pack! A few of us venture off to explore, still well within site of the group, before we start off on the final stretch home.
The entire journey takes us just over two hours to complete but it doesn’t feel anywhere near that long. Walking on the snow in snowshoes is simple and despite the thinner air, there is little fatigue. In fact some in our group decide to try out a few lunges in their snowshoes just to add a degree a difficulty to the hike. Our guide tells us we can walk in deeper snow if we really want a challenge. I’m fine thanks!
And now on to what I thought was the prize – the fondue! Served in Sunshine Mountain Lodge’s Chimney corner Lounge, it is a delicious blend of melted cheese served with fresh, slightly warmed bread and it was the perfect, filling snack to have at the end of the hike. The real prize in all This though? An outdoor experience unlike any other in a setting unmatched by any other in western Canada that I’ve been to.
For more information on Sunshine Village’s Historical Snowshoe and Fondue Tour visit the Ski Banff website.