Learn to ski the Olympic way

Who better to witness your wipe-out on the slopes than a Canadian gold medallist? Slow mover Matt Carroll finds Nancy Greene an amicable mentor at Sun Peaks ski resort

It's not every day that you get to ski with an Olympic champion. This is the thought that crosses my mind as I nervously take my place next to Nancy Greene on the chair-lift at Sun Peaks Resort in Canada. The sun is riding high in an electric-blue sky overhead, and minty fresh peaks are stretching out into a distant haze; all in all it looks like a perfect day to be on the mountain. But I'm worried.

Nancy is no ordinary Olympic champion; the 1968 gold medallist is a national hero in Canada. There are lakes and mountains named after her. Everyone here recognises her - even though she's trussed up in her winter woollies and hidden underneath a huge pair of goggles. If I wipe out there are so many people watching I'll never live it down.

To make matters worse, the odds of coming a cropper are pretty high: this is my first outing of the season, and I'm a little rusty. Nancy doesn't seem to mind, though. As we arrive at the top of the Sundance Express lift (and I do my best to avoid crashing into her as we dismount), she seems reassuringly relaxed. "What a beautiful day!" she declares, a big smile spreading across her face. "It doesn't get much better than this."

I have to agree. Casting an eye at the deserted slopes spread out before us, I'm reminded why an increasing number of British skiers are heading to North America every year. But it's not only because you get the pistes to yourself; another enticing factor is that lift queues are almost unheard of. On top of this, the cost of living in Canada is much cheaper than Europe; an on-slope burger at Sun Peaks costs around £4, compared to £7 for spag bol in Verbier, Switzerland.

And as if all this wasn't enough to tempt you across the pond, consider the fact that you're pretty much guaranteed to get amazing snow conditions as well. Especially if you come to Sun Peaks. Year after year, this place delivers white stuff by the bucketload.

Indeed, even in 2005, when Whistler, Banff and Canada's other major resorts suffered their worst season for 30 years, skiers at Sun Peaks were enjoying knee-deep powder all season long.

So why haven't we heard more about the place? This was the question I was busy pondering as I strapped into my bindings and prepared to follow Nancy down our first run of the day.

Thankfully it was a gentle, cruisy blue run that meandered its way through well-spaced pine trees - nothing too challenging yet. "There's no point rushing straight into the steep stuff," said Nancy as she disappeared off into the distance. My sentiments exactly.

Apart from the fact that I hadn't been out for the best part of a year, I was on a snowboard, while Nancy was on skis. Anyone who's had the (mis)fortune to go skiing with snowboarders will know that we tend to be a lot slower.

Normally, this results in lots of impatient sighing and tutting from so-called skiing "friends"; however, Nancy was refreshingly down-to-earth about my relative lack of pace. Besides, it gave her an opportunity to stop and point out the spectacular British Columbia countryside. The scenery is breathtaking. While there's plenty of tree-skiing to satisfy off-piste junkies, in contrast to resorts such as Red and Jasper, there's a lot more terrain that lies above the tree line. On the more exposed slopes, blizzards blast across ridges and whip through trees, creating "snow ghosts" - pines so heavily covered with snow that it looks like they're wearing huge snowy overcoats, their branches sticking out like spectral arms.

Sun Peaks is British Columbia's second-biggest resort, with 117 runs spread over three mountains - Tod, Sundance and Morrisey. Over the past decade, a huge amount has been invested in new lifts here; many of the runs are now serviced by high-speed chairs, which is another reason for the absence of queues. Indeed, in terms of modern facilities and exciting terrain, Sun Peaks is every bit as good as Whistler. And, of course, it boasts a resident Olympic legend. Before coming here, I have to admit that I had no idea quite how Nancy's fame had endured for nearly four decades. Every time we paused to admire the view, someone would come over and ask to have their photo taken with her. Amazingly, she never refused.

Nancy is one of those people who has a seemingly endless supply of energy. She may be 63, but when she smiles you can still see the 24-year-old girl who represented her country in Grenoble all those years ago.

Needless to say, she's still an absolute demon on skis. Having warmed up with a few mellow blasts between the trees, we headed through the underpass at the bottom of the valley and over to the other side, to Mount Morrisey.

If you're looking for gently sloping pistes with plenty of room to lay out big, wide turns, this will be your favourite side of the valley. A particularly nice run is C C Riders, which forks off halfway down; head right and you can weave in and out of little trees all the way to the bottom. Carry on left and it's a clear run down.

A substantial dump of overnight snow had left a satisfying layer of powder on top of the groomed corduroy, creating ideal conditions. As my confidence increased, so did my speed, with the result that Nancy was no longer having to wait around so much while I played catch-up. Of course, over-confidence inevitably breeds wipe-outs sooner or later, and it wasn't long before I found myself face down in the fluff, eating ice-cold humble pie.

"Ten out of 10 for aesthetics," said Nancy, as I dusted myself off and emptied the snow from inside my ears. If you're going to make a fool of yourself, you might as well do it in front of an expert.

Luckily for me it was our last run of the day; my legs had turned to jelly, and any semblance of skill that I'd tenuously grasped earlier had been replaced by fatigue and hunger.

Away from the slopes, Sun Peaks has a good selection of restaurants to choose from. Everything you need here is only ever a short walk from your hotel. There are nine hotels, all centred around a few little streets and a village square containing various shops and bars. If you're still up for it by 10pm, head to Mackdaddy's and elbow your way on to the packed dancefloor. The crowd here ranges from baggy jeans-wearing boarders to parents who should know better.

Despite my passion for dancing to Justin Timberlake, however, my day on the hill with Nancy had taken its toll and I headed back early to my room at the Cahilty Lodge.

It turns out that Nancy's guided resort tours take place every day - and are free for anyone staying here. So you can ski with an Olympic champion every day, if you wish.

TRAVELLER'S GUIDE

GETTING THERE

The writer travelled with Air Canada (0871 220 1111; www.aircanada.ca), which flies to Vancouver from Heathrow, with onward connections to Kamloops, around 45 minutes' drive from Sun Peaks. Vancouver is also served by British Airways (0870 850 9850; www.ba.com) from Heathrow; Zoom Airlines (0870 240 0055; www.flyzoom.com) from Gatwick, Belfast, Glasgow and Manchester; and Air Transat (020-7616 9187; www.airtransat.co.uk) from Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester. Vancouver is around four hours' drive from Sun Peaks.

STAYING THERE

Nancy Greene's Cahilty Lodge, 3220 Village Way, Sun Peaks (001 250 578 7454; www.cahiltylodge.com). Doubles start at C$126 (£60), room only.

EATING & DRINKING THERE

Bella Italia, Hearthstone Lodge (001 250 578 7316; www.hearthstonelodgeatsunpeaks.com).

Bagg's Sweets, Hearthstone Lodge (001 250 578 0322; www.hearthstonelodgeatsunpeaks.com). Bottom's Bar & Grill, Sundance Lodge (001 250 578 0013; www.sundancelodge.com).

Masa's Bar & Grill, Village Day Lodge (001 250 578 5434). Mackdaddy's Nightclub, Delta Sun Peaks (001 250 578 2582; www.deltahotels.com).

MORE INFORMATION

Sun Peaks Resort, British Columbia: 001 250 578 5474; www.sunpeaksresort.com

British Columbia Tourism: www.britishcolumbia.travel

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Voices
Mosul dam was retaken with the help of the US
voicesRobert Fisk: Barack Obama is following the jihadists’ script
Arts and Entertainment
Loaded weapon: drugs have surprise side effects for Scarlett Johansson in Luc Besson’s ‘Lucy’
filmReview: Lucy, Luc Besson's complex thriller
Arts and Entertainment
tvExecutive says content is not 'without any purpose'
News
A cleaner prepares the red carpet for the opening night during the 59th International Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2006 in Cannes, France.
newsPowerful vacuum cleaners to be banned under EU regulations
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
sportLeague Managers' Association had described Malky Mackay texts as 'friendly banter'
News
A polar bear’s diet is rich in seal blubber and half of its own body weight is composed of fat
i100
News
peopleCareer spanned 70 years, including work with Holocaust survivors
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
people
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
News
London is the most expensive city in Europe for cultural activities such as ballet
arts
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson has rejected criticisms of his language, according to BBC director of television Danny Cohen
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape