If you want to make the most of a long, snowy winter one of the best things you can do is visit backcountry lodges in BC and Alberta.
I’ve been looking out at snow on the ground for over a week already. I guess I got off easy last year – which was my first year in Calgary – because I don’t remember anything but a few flakes until well into November.
So how do you survive a long, cold snowy winter when you live in a city like Calgary?
Embrace it is what I say. And what better way to embrace winter than to visit one of Alberta or British Columbia’s backcountry lodges. Some are rustic. Some are luxurious – considering their location. None are cheap. Still there’s nothing wrong with a little dreaming.
I went to work researching what lodges were out there – in the Canadian Rockies only and not in the Purcell or Selkirk ranges. The ones I found all offer snowshoeing and cross-country or backcountry skiing. Some are more rustic than others and many are accessible via helicopter only. None of these though are the heli-ski lodges that the downhill skiers would use.
Here are 8 backcountry lodges in BC and Alberta – four of which I have visited.
Purcell Mountain Lodge is accessed via a 15 minute helicopter flight from Golden, BC. They offer what they term the gold standard for luxury for backcountry lodges. Fantastic world-class back country skiing and snowshoeing lies just out the front door.
Skoki Lodge, located eleven kilometers away from the Lake Louise ski area via a crosscountry ski trail offers up rustic charm in a high alpine setting. I can attest to the superlative food presented by Katie Mitzel. It’s worth a weekend for the food alone. You can read my account of our two day stay in January of last year.
Talus Mountain Lodge lies 21 kilometers southeast of Mount Assiniboine as the crow flies. The lodge sits at 2300 meters and is accessed via a chopper flight from either Canmore or Mount Shark. Views from the place are outstanding – and so is the skiing and snowshoeing. In the winter they are open from February 15th to April 29th. The lodge is a two story chalet offering five simply furnished bedrooms and a large dining/living area.
Assiniboine Lodge is a remote backcountry lodge and the first to be built in Canada. It’s 28 kilometers from the nearest road and completely off the grid. The lodge is close to the Mount Shark set of ski trails which aren’t far from Canmore. In theory you could ski into it ( its 25.7 kilometers to get in) but conditions would have to be ideal and you’d have to be a pro at navigation. Most people opt to fly via helicopter. The area is renowned for its beauty in both the summer and winter. You can read about my two night stay here.
Lake O’Hara Lodge is an option if you can actually get a reservation. The lodge fills quickly with many regulars returning season after season. The lodge is more easily accessed than most – via an eleven kilometer straight forward ski in up an access road off the Trans-Canada Highway, not far from Lake Louise. The scenery around the lodge is outstanding as are the meals. The bedrooms aren’t fancy and bathrooms are shared but the atmosphere in the lodge is friendly and welcoming. Guides are part of the package and options for the day are discussed over breakfast. It’s a place to savour the outdoors with a comfortable bed, delicious food and really interesting, engaging people at the end of the day.
Shadow Lake Lodge is located in the high alpine meadows not far from Banff. To access the lodge you must ski in 14 kilometers (9 miles) from the Red Earth parking lot which is 19 kilometers west of Banff. The lodge can also be reached via Sunshine Village, the Egypt Lake trail or Gibbon Pass from Highway 93S. Cabins with outhouse facilities are provided as are all your meals plus an afternoon gourmet tea. Once at the lodge there are numerous day trips available for the cross country skier. My account of a weekend stay complete with photos is here.
Mistaya Lodge , accessed via helicopter, is described as a comfortable lodge located in the Wildcat Creek Basin in a remote area bounded by Banff and Yoho National Parks. The 2000 square foot lodge sitting at an elevation of 2040 meters offers six guest rooms with a combination of single, double and bunk beds. Like many of the backcountry lodges, a wood-fired sauna is available too. There is a lot of glaciated terrain as well as glades and open tree skiing – perfect for novice to expert backcountry skiers using either telemark or randonee equipment.
Icefall Lodge, also accessed via a helicopter flight from Golden, sits at 1900 meters. Nine bedrooms and two lofts are spread out over two lodges. Tree runs are right outside the front door. And the area available to ski is more than ten times the size of Whistler-Blackcomb. You can book the lodge with and without guides and you can also pick whether or not you want it catered or non-catered. Yet another option for keen skiers is to sign up for one of their week long hut to hut traverses in April.
UPDATE 2015: I can also recommend a stay at Sundance Lodge – one of the more accessible lodges from the town of Banff. It’s also one of the few lodges that doesn’t have a two night minimum stay. You can read the full account here.
Are you aware of any other backcountry lodges in BC and Alberta that should be added to this list?
Other posts you might find useful:
- A Winter Weekend at Lake O’Hara Lodge in Yoho National Park
- A Winter Visit to Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park
- Hotel Review: The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
- Hotel Review: The Post Hotel in Lake Louise, Alberta
- A Visit to the Banff Springs Hotel – A Rocky Mountain Classic