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Mountain History & Landmarks in Sunshine's Growth

An early Sunshine Fan Remembers

Sunshine Village History Landmarks Banff, Alberta (AB)


Prehistory

  • Sunshine meadows used to be deeply buried by glaciers.
  • Signs of men’s presence around Sunshine go back towards the end of the ice age.
  • The Sunshine area was a route between the territories of neighboring Indian tribes.
  • Circa 1800-1850. Beginning of European contact.
  • 1841. The Shuswap Indians used the Shuswap Pass to trade with the Stoney Indians in the lower Bow Valley. Sir George Simpson is the first European to travel through the Pass while on trek around the world.


European contact

  • George Simpson’s journal remains the first written record of the Sunshine area. Since the Indians had no written language we have no written records of their lives and history.
  • 1857-1860. The Palliser Expedition led by Capt. Palliser explored the Banff region to look for feasible areas to settle. Eugene Bourgeau, after who Mt. Bourgeau is named, is the botanist of the expedition.
  • 1859. The Shuswap Pass is renamed Simpson Pass by James Hector of the Palliser Expedition, to honor the accomplishments of Sir George Simpson. Hector made mention of the Hot Springs.
  • 1883. The Great Canadian Railway reached Banff vicinity. A few buildings are thrown together and are referred to as siding 29. Soon after, the Hot Springs are officially discovered by two railway workers and will soon attract visitors.
  • 1885. The government established the Banff Hot Springs Reserve (10 sq. miles).
  • 1886. J.J. MacArthur drew first map of Sunshine area while doing topographic survey for the Government. It’s the first known documentation of Sunshine.
  • 1887. The Government of Canada established the Rocky Mountain Park (260 sq. miles), which later becomes Banff National Park. It included Banff and the Hot Springs and over the years, the boundaries have expanded and shrunk as policies have changed. CP Railway provided the main source of transportation.
  • 1888. In Banff, CP Rail built the Banff Spring Hotel and created grand scale facilities and services for wealthy people to enjoy, in order to offset the cost of the railway through the Rockies. In time, the flagship of the railway’s hotel chain became one of the most famous hotel around the world.
  • Guides and packers hired by the railway stayed on to work in the hotels and guide guests in the wilderness. Swiss guides were imported to guide guests on more adventurous outings up to the summit of surrounding peaks. Eventually the area became a destination place and business flourished.
  • John Brewster established the first dairy in Banff and his sons became well acquainted to the wilderness of the area through numerous exploration excursions.
  • 1899. Walter Wilcox was the first tourist to travel through Sunshine while on his way to attempt Mt. Assiniboine for the second time; he took the first photograph of Sunshine area.
  • 1902. The Park enlarged to 4,900 sq. miles.
  • 1911. The Park is reduced to 1,800 sq. miles and became the responsibility of the Department of Forestry.
  • 1913. Bill Peyto joined the Warden Service and patrolled the Sunshine/Healy Creek area.
  • 1920. A.O. Wheeler surveyed the Continental Divide between the US border and Mount Robson. He was the first president of the Alpine Club of Canada and developed “Walking and Riding Tours” from Banff to Mount Assiniboine. Tee Pee Town Meadow got its name because of the tee pees that Wheeler set up at his semi-permanent campsite there.
  • Early 1920’s. Most of Banff was boarded up. Not many lived in the town all year round. Only a few Europeans, usually guides and mountaineers working in the park in the summer stayed to ski over the winter. In those days it wasn’t a fashionable thing to do. A party led by Pat Brewster found Wheeler’s campsite but decided to move on to another location for camping and found the site now known as Sunshine Village.


Founding years

  • 1927-28. CP Rail built a cabin for the Trail Rider’s of the Canadian Rockies on the site of the present day Old Sunshine Lodge.
  • March 1929. Cliff White and Cyril Paris were the first ones, but not the last ones, to ski the sunshine Meadows after an adventurous Citadel Pass crossing. They missed the cabin due to a white out and were forced to camp out in the open.
  • 1930. Rocky Mountain Park became Banff National Park (2,564 sq. miles).
  • 1932. Pat, Jim and Dell Brewster, together with Austin Standish skied from Hillsdale Meadows through to Egypt Lake and all the way to Sunshine. On another occasion Pat Brewster and Dick Smith on an excursion through the Sunshine area were force to stay at the CPR cabin due to an accident. While in the area, the Brewsters noticed and were convinced that Sunshine would be the perfect place for a ski resort development.
  • 1933. The Brewsters set out on a ski trip through the Sunshine area to seriously evaluate it’s potential as a ski resort.
  • 1934. Jim Brewster, president of Brewster Transport Company, leased the C.P.R. cabin and in February Sunshine hosted its first paying winter guests.
  • 1935. CPR published it’s first ski publicity folder about the ski areas including Sunshine.
  • 1936. Brewster Transport bought the CPR cabin for roughly 300 dollars, including the national park lease for the quarter acre plot it stood on; built a two-story addition then another two-story addition in 37-38. Summer mountaineering guides were hired as winter ski instructors. Customers paid $5.00/night or $30.00/week to stay at the Sunshine Lodge and it included food and guides.
  • 1938. Extension of Healy Creek warden road, 3 miles of skiing in order to get up to the Lodge. Radio communication was established with the Mt. Royal Hotel in Banff. The Canadian National Ski Championships were held at Sunshine. Skiing was becoming very popular and skiers were wishing to spend more time going down and less time climbing up.
  • 1940. Further work was done on the warden road.  Only one mile of skiing was needed to get to the Lodge. The first generator was installed.
  • 1942. A portable ski rope tow was installed on Strawberry without approval from national parks, causing considerable controversy. The lift was only used for the later part of the day. Skiers went out in the morning with guides and used seal skins to make their way uphill. They would ski out into the meadows and ski down to the lodge for lunch. In the afternoon, the lift would operate briefly so skiers could practice their turns.
  • 1945. A permanent one-inch rope tow, powered by a Mercury V8, was installed on Strawberry. 5% of the gross profit was paid to the National Park. But an overwhelming increase in the popularity of downhill skiing did not happen overnight. Sunshine suffered some tough time while gradually developing an international reputation. The late 1940s were especially unprofitable.
  • 1946-48. The resort was managed by Frank Hayes.
  • 1950. A promotional Snow Train carrying skiers from the east was discontinued.
  • 1952. Brewster Transport decided Sunshine was too expensive to maintain and sold the venture to George Encil, principal of the Banff Chairlift Corporation, which owned the Mt. Norquay Ski Area. It is Encil who gave Sunshine its “Village” name.
  • 1953. 2 diesel engine generators were installed.
  • 1957. A platter pull was built on Strawberry, acting as an extension of the rope tow.


Modern era

  • Spring 1960. Sunshine Village was sold to Cliff White and his wife Beverly. Cliff was the first owner to attract skiers to Sunshine as early as November.
  • 1962. Sunshine Village installed its second lift, the Wawa T-bar. It changed the whole nature of the ski area, attracting crowds with its high capacity of 1,200 person per hour. In those days and for nearly 20 years, skiers were brought up from Bourgeau parking lot via Brewster buses on a very wild and winding Sunshine road. Miraculously and thanks to the expertise of the bus drivers, there never was a fatal accident. Summer use was promoted.
  • 1963. The Power Corporation of Canada purchased Sunshine when the Whites elected to sell the bulk of their shares to finance necessary hotel expansion and other improvements. The Strawberry T-bar was built to replace the rope tow and platter pull. The Whites stayed on as managers.
  • 1965. The lodge closed while the Sunshine Inn was built. Electricity was installed. The Standish Chair was built. Cliff White changed Sunshine Village forever and made it a world class resort with his effort to provide great facilities and services.
  • 1969. Sunshine sold again to Warnock Hersey International, which at the time acquired an impressive list of holdings. Cliff White remained to watch over the growing reputation of the resort. Angel Chair was built and Standish Chair rebuilt. Banff was designated an international winter resort with the opening of the Banff Springs through the winter.
  • 1970. Great Divide chair lift was built. Sunshine management began to work on a master plan for the area’s development that would take in consideration environmental concerns raised by all. For the next 7 years, Cliff White worked with Parks Canada, gradually gaining approval for new lifts and facilities that doubled the size of the ski area.
  • 1974. The present Strawberry Triple Chair was built.
  • 1977. Laryx, Mountainholm, and Sunburst staff accommodations were built. With the future of the master plan worked out, Cliff White finally retires. John Gow, a former guide and mountaineer with extensive experience in the Rockies, takes over the management position. Gow took on one of Cliff’s vision and soon started consultation with a Swiss Company to design a gondola system that could bring 1,800 skiers per hour from Bourgeau to the village.
  • 1978. Assiniboine T-Bar and Tee Pee Town Chair were built. Wawa T-bar was rebuilt.
  • 1979. Construction began on the 12 million-dollar gondola installation. The Fireweed T-bar, Arnica staffs accommodation and Sewage Treatment Plant were built.
  • 1980. The gondola opened for operation and it terminated the Brewster bus service, which was becoming increasingly stressed out by the growing popularity of the Sunshine’s expending facilities.  Brewster Transport graciously wound down a schedule that took skiers to Sunshine by horse, car and bus for more than 40 years. The road was converted into a ski-out and the gondola became the only means of transportation up to the village.
  • 1981. Ninga Enterprises owned by the Scurfield family, purchases Sunshine Village for roughly $24 million. Ralph D. Scurfield, a lawyer and avid skier, becomes president. John Gow leaves after 17 years of service. The Day Lodge was renovated, the Nordic Center opened and the Rental Shop situated in the Old Sunshine Lodge moved to Bourgeau Base. For a decade, skiers had been venturing into Delirium Dive, but due to an alarming number of accidents, the Park Service responsible for the area’s avalanche control decided to ban skiing there and violators faced a $500 fine.
  • 1983. The Summer Use Plan, a tri-party agreement between Parks Canada, BC Parks and Sunshine was signed. A self-guided interpretive trail for summer use was constructed.
  • 1984. Sunshine celebrated its 50th Anniversary. The Wheeler chair was built. The gondola operated for the first time in the summer. Inauguration of the Interpretive Center and Rock Isle self-guiding interpretive trail. The Inn was reopened after having been closed during construction of the trail. Ninga Enterprises changed its name to “Sunshine Village Corporation”. The name was changed to emphasize a concentration of its resources on the operation and development of the resort.
  • 1985. Standish chair was rebuilt. The Women’s World Cup Downhill was held at Sunshine. More summer trails were built.
  • 1986. The Women’s World Cup Downhill returned to Sunshine. Again, more summer hiking trails were built. The Long-Range Development Guidelines Agreement was signed.
  • 1987. The Sunshine Inn renovations were completed.
  • 1988. Angel high-speed quad chair was built.
  • 1995. Goat’s Eye Express high-speed quad chair was built. Trailers were installed to provide shelter, cantina and toilets. 
  • 1996. The Executive Office building was constructed at the Bourgeau Base.
  • 1997. Great Divide Chair was rebuilt.
  • 1999. Delirium Dive reopened after Parks Canada and Sunshine Village agreed that Sunshine would be responsible to control and patrol the area, also providing rescue service if necessary.
  • 2000. Goat’s Eye Garden tent was erected. Cosmetic renovations were done throughout the Sunshine Inn. New Beaver Tails concession at Bourgeau Base.
  • 2001. Renovations at Bourgeau Base in the Executive and Gondola buildings. New Ticket Sales windows, Guest Services desk and Pass processing area below rentals. New Creekside Restaurant and bathrooms below Gondola. Wheeler Chair replaced by Wolverine High-Speed Quad Chair, and Fireweed T-bar replaced by Jackrabbit High-Speed Quad Chair. New magic carpet installed at the Ski School Learning Area beside Strawberry Chair, and also at the Daycare playground area beside Gondola terminal. Trapper’s kitchen was enlarged and renovated. Beaver Tails concession relocated where the Village rental shop use to be, and rentals are now in the Dynastar performance tent.