“That was the best ski day I’ve ever had,” exclaimed a member of my group after I’d taken them around Sun Peaks’ black runs on a foggy February Monday.
This is the kind of positive response that makes the Sun Hosts’ job a win-win experience. I’m just one of the huge team of around 60 volunteers who guide skiers of every level up and down the slopes twice daily throughout the season.
Sporting bright orange jackets, we meet at the orange boards near the Sunburst chair lift twice a day, welcoming newbies and returnees to the resort. Sharing personal knowledge of the 4,270-acre terrain, volunteers guide competent green, blue, blue-black and black-level groups on two-hour mountain tours.
Some skiers and snowboarders come just once, typically on their first day at the resort, to learn about the bewildering network of runs scattered around the horseshoe of three mountains. Others, like athletes who ski Sun Peaks annually, join in almost daily.
When members of the Ski Bees, an Ontario travelling ski club, visited in December, Debbie Martin was one of its newest recruits.
“In a one-week trip, I skied every day with the Sun Hosts. I loved every minute of it due to their local knowledge, generosity of spirit and easy companionship,” she said.
Like many people who fall in love with Sun Peaks, Martin is now planning to come back for a longer stay and maybe become a host herself one day.
Others have been provided with the chance to share their love for the region as Sun Hosts volunteers. With 24 seasons of experience in Sun Peaks, Dawn Matte and her husband Dan are two of the newest Sun Hosts.
“We know the mountain extremely well and also know a lot of the history. We first started coming here before Morrissey was developed,” said Matte, who travels to Sun Peaks from Seattle every winter.
“My favourite comment from guests is, ‘you Sun Hosts are all so nice and happy,’” she enthused. “My response is always, ‘how could we not be happy living in a place like this?’”
Matte sees her role as an ambassador, giving guests a road map of terrain suited to their ability to enhance their on-hill enjoyment as well as background history and information about local businesses. Culinary recommendations are often a topic of chairlift conversation, especially après events.
Sun Hosts are pivotal to the positive experience of many Sun Peaks guests, providing local insight and that all-important personal touch. For the hosts themselves, volunteering serves as the ultimate way to give back and feel a valuable part of the community while making new friends.
Many of the Sun Hosts help out at resort events, too, including Air Nation, the TELUS Nancy Greene Alpine Classic, the New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and Demo Days.
Malcolm MacPhail, the coordinator for the Sun Hosts, said the organization’s good reputation serves it well when it comes to finding helpers.
“Volunteers for the Sun Host program come to us through word of mouth,” he said. “The most important attributes are friendliness and an ability to communicate and talk to everyone.”
Knowledge of the area and strong skiing skills are additional considerations for potential hosts. Those interested in becoming a Sun Host are encouraged to email email@example.com to learn more.
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