“My sense of pride at his amazing accomplishments overrides a father’s fear about his son’s safety,” says John Stutz, the former mayor and Paul’s father. “From the time he was 4 to his first World Cup race when he was 18 at Kitzbühel [Austria] — the Super Bowl of professional ski racing — to his position today as six-time Canadian alpine champion and Sochi [2014 Winter Olympics] medal favorite, Paul has worked his tail off to achieve success.”
John Stutz also credits Paul’s childhood environment, specifically the opportunity to ski three world-class areas on any given day depending on conditions and training goals. The rest of us, even if we only whip the Kitzbühel downhill in our dreams, can plot exactly the same course.
“The three ski areas each have specific attributes, and you can ski them all with just one pass,” John Stutz explains. “Lake Louise offers big and long runs down, Sunshine combines altitude with all that natural snow, and Norquay [Banff] tosses in steeps and deeps just minutes from town.”
I awake early, having made the easy, 90-minute drive from Calgary International Airport the night before, check the previous night’s snowfall (nine inches) and depart Buffalo Mountain Lodge for Sunshine Village, about 30 minutes north of Banff on Highway 1. Morning breaks in the Canadian Rockies like time-lapse photography, and today is no different. The sun lays siege upon Castle Mountain, doggedly creeping up this series of 9,000-foot peaks from the Bow River Valley.
The privilege of time on the slopes never escapes me, this opportunity where, as snow crystals come into focus, daily concerns disappear into a hazy memory. And although I believe every alpine trek transforms us a little, few sojourns compare with the passage to Sunshine Village, an 18-minute gondola ride that arrives not at the resort’s summit but at the base village itself.