Life as a Local: Head over heels for Sun Peaks

Laurie Hirtle catching sunset from the chairlift at Sun Peaks. Photo supplied

Laurie Hirtle grew up worlds away from the mountain town of Sun Peaks. His childhood in Turo, N.S. wasn’t a ski-centric place but he did what he could.

“Skiing does not come easy on the East coast of Canada with frequent seasons of skiing glare ice and strips of man made snow across grass,” he said.

He learned to ski at Ski Wentworth, a hill with a whopping 815 vertical feet.

“Wentworth was small,” he said. “Only one chairlift, 20 runs, and a staggering 250 meters of vertical. It didn’t matter, I skied the heck out of that little ski hill and it created a fire inside me that has turned into a life-long love for gliding on snow.”

Hirtle was drawn to the opposite coast by his love for the environment and outdoors, earning a degree in science in forestry and working in a small coastal town. With no ski town nearby he found himself visiting friends at Sun Peaks.

“This was the beginning of my love for this ski area, the village, and the community,” Hirtle said. “Living in Sun Peaks had been my dream ever since that first visit to the resort.”

When he landed a new job in Kamloops he was able to make that dream a reality. He now works as Land and Timber Manager with the Mountain Resorts Branch within the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

“After a decade of working in the logging industry, I was very fortunate to be offered an opportunity with Mountain Resorts Branch which meant my career as a forester would now be focused on forest management on the province’s ski resorts. I believe I am one of the lucky few people who are fortunate enough to have a job they love.”

While living in Kamloops, Hirtle spent each day off commuting to Sun Peaks to ski, then he got an idea.

Hirtle finding the powder. Photo supplied

“I always enjoyed my time spent in Sun Peaks and I never wanted to leave. I started thinking ‘why not make this my home and commute to work on the weekdays instead?’ Besides, it’s much easier to commute in work clothes than in ski boots and a car packed full of gear.

“When I was living in Kamloops, I always resisted leaving Sun Peaks and going home after a day of skiing. I would often catch myself delaying my drive home by staying in the village for dinner or getting last minute hotel rooms so I could stay and enjoy the nightlife and vibe of the village. I was always sad to leave the mountain and go back to Kamloops, but now leaving Kamloops to go back home in Sun Peaks really makes me feel like I am heading on vacation every day after work.”

He’s lived in the resort with his son, girlfriend and dog for a year now and hasn’t looked back.

“I have had nothing but an amazing experience so far while living in Sun Peaks. I believe that living here forces you to get outside, be active and be social.”

Hirtle said he loves the sense of community he feels here and what it provides for him and his family. His son has joined the Sun Peaks Racers and he takes part in the Friday Race Series, reigniting his love of racing.

They’ve also fallen in love with the biking, hiking, swimming, and skating just outside their door.

Living on the mountain has given Hirtle the chance to learn downhill biking. Photo supplied

“Our backyard provides so many opportunities to try something new and to get outside and explore. When I first moved to Sun Peaks I had no downhill mountain biking experience and I hadn’t ski raced in over 15 years. Simply because I was living up here last summer I decided to go all in on learning to downhill bike. I never dreamed I would enjoy myself so much on a bike and now I am so stoked to have an activity to enjoy on the off season from skiing.”

For Hirtle, life as a local means embracing what Sun Peaks has to offer.

“It means getting out there and taking advantage of the many activities available our backyard. It also means supporting and being friendly towards your fellow locals as well as the tourists who come from afar to enjoy our amazing community. Having that local knowledge and enthusiasm, it feels good to be able to answer questions and give directions or help to tourists. And most importantly, as a local I know the sweet and sendy spots on the mountain, as well as where to get those powder stashes that the tourists don’t know about.”

With so much love for his new home, Hirtle doesn’t see himself leaving anytime soon.

“Life here has not only had such a positive impact on me, but my family as well.”

And he’s always looking for new people to ride with.

“If you see me around the slopes please don’t hesitate to grab me and we will go send some runs together…if you can keep up!”

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