Small Town Stories: Sun Peaks

By Jill Sperling
February 10, 2017 - 1:00pm

SUN PEAKS, B.C. — With three mountains and thousands of acres of skiable terrain, the Resort Municipality of Sun Peaks is a major draw for tourists. However, the community is trying to market itself as a place to set down roots year round. 

Sun Peaks' population has grown by 66 per cent since 2011, and young families are choosing to stick around. 

Reporter: Jill Sperling | Video / Editing: Adam Donnelly 

As Canada's second largest ski resort, Sun Peaks draws visitors from all over the world every winter, and sometimes those visitors become full-time residents.

That was the case for Greg Sissons. 

"Came here on vacation with my wife five years ago, just for seven days, and as we were about to leave, we were just having coffee outside Balacco, and I said to my wife, 'I could live here,'" Sissons said. 

Sissons moved to Sun Peaks from New Zealand in 2015. He recently opened the community's newest ski shop, Freefall Sun Peaks. 

"When we came to the market we wanted to have some product that was different from the rest of the resort," Sissons said. "There's been some challenges in trying to find things that fit in with the resort that aren't already represented within the resort."

For now, Freefall Sun Peaks is all about winter recreation, but Sun Peaks is working to make itself known as a year round resort. 

"We've been working hard at building summer, because if we don't have a strong summer season, we don't have jobs for people who are here in the winter time," said Sun Peaks mayor Al Raine. "So, we have to get year-round jobs, and health centre is also a community service that's badly needed, and I think we'll be ready to open the health centre in October this year." 

The community of Sun Peaks raised more than a $1 million to begin construction on the new 5,000 sq. ft. health centre. It will replace the small health clinic that is open two hours a day, depending on physician availability.

"The province put $100,000 towards equipment," said Health Minister Terry Lake, "but a lot of fundraising in the community because this is a build it and they will come kind of approach, that I think will be very successful for Sun Peaks."

The community is in the process of raising additional funds to equip the facility and is trying to attract a family physician. 

"We have to be focused on building a strong community," said Raine, "and you can't be a great resort if you don't have a strong community. If the people who live here aren't happy and don't believe they're living in the best mountain resort in Canada, then they're not going to deliver the job that we need for our guests and our visitors."

Sun Peaks' population has been steadily increasing, and it's now home to approximately 600 residents. 

"The school is probably the best gauge we have now," Raine said. "We know six years ago we had 16, 18 kids in the first year, and this year we're just shy of 100."

"It used to be years ago once the children got to school age the professionals would leave and now they're coming here instead, so that's a really nice change," said Liz Forester with Sotheby's International Realty Canada.

With its world famous slopes, a brand new NHL-sized outdoor rink, and mountain biking and hiking in the summer, tourism remains Sun Peaks' main industry. 

"People comment over and over about how easy it is, how easy their experience is in Sun Peaks," said Arlene Schieven, president of Tourism Sun Peaks. "They come here, they park the car, and that's it, you can walk everywhere. It's just a nice safe environment. So that's sort of the feedback that I've been hearing a lot of, is just how easy their vacation experience is."

On a busy day there could be well over 10,000 people in Sun Peaks. If they fall in love with the community the way Sissons did, Sun Peaks is sure to keep growing.

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