Where Skiers’ Dreams Come True: New Powder Highway Backcountry Lodging

Where Skiers’ Dreams Come True: New Powder Highway Backcountry Lodging

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Backcountry wishes: fresh powder, local knowledge, all-day untracked lines — and then, a warm place at night to dream about doing it all over again. To create such havens, heli and cat ski operators along the Powder Highway work hard in the summers, refurbishing, renovating, and renewing.

But, every so often, we Kootenay skiers and riders are gifted with something that’s built-from-scratch new. And this, the 2016-2017 season, is one of those times.

Keefer Lake Lodge

It’s entirely new. In fact, though skiers are already enjoying the snow, as of this writing, Keefer Lake Lodge is counting down the days until the arrival of its first powder-hungry lodgers. And when they arrive, they’ll be welcomed into a 10,000 square-foot, four-storey, micro hydro-powered lodge. While indoors, guests stay connected to their surroundings via a glass wall delivering views of Keefer Lake and a glass elevator running through the centre of it all.

Deep powder at Keefer Lake Lodge (cat-skiing in the Monashees)

The lodge and operations are the dream of owner, Jeff Gostlin. Situated within a 36,000-hectare tenure near Cherryville, BC, Gostlin and his team take pride in not only the terrain — 360-degree alpine and gladed skiing off two peaks — but also the green-minded initiative under which the construction of the lodge was undertaken.

From locally-crafted alpaca duvets to locally-sourced meats and produce (when available) and solar power to supplement their micro hydro systems, Gostlin and team are trying their hardest to be good neighbours to the flora and fauna of the area. The smallest details were considered in keeping construction green, down to the stain and sealant protecting the timber beams. But the lodge’s purpose is as a refuge for tired legs (and the people they belong to).

Keefer Lake - New Lodge

For that, Keefer Lake Lodge is prepared: nine guest rooms — each with an ensuite bathroom, drying room to prep gear for the hard day’s 'work' ahead, wood-fired sauna to ease muscles, floor-to-ceiling rock fireplace and hand-carved Game of Thrones-style chairs for relaxing, and a large commercial kitchen in which 'globally-inspired menus' are created.

“It’s a full-service, 5-star operation,” says Gostlin, mentioning that even powder skis and boards are included with the stay.

Kingfisher Heliskiing

Travel 20 minutes west of Keefer Lake Lodge on Highway 6 and you’ll find a second powder-seeking dreamland in the folds of the Monashees: Kingfisher Heliskiing.  While Kingfisher Heliskiing has provided skiing for Powder Highway enthusiasts for four years, they are offering something new for 2016-2017 season: the Kingfisher Heli Village. The village takes its place in a forested corner of the Gold Panner Resort & Campground, an 80-year old campground that had fallen into disrepair — that is, until Kingfisher took over and revitalized it.

Like the aforementioned Keefer Lake Lodge, Kingfisher Heliskiing wanted to stay true to the surroundings and roots of the region. So they used timber and river rocks from the grounds to build a wood-fired sauna, provided wall space for local artist, Erin Foggoa, to add a human aesthetic to the area’s natural beauty, and on the grounds, allowed the relics from the campground’s mining past remain.

“The history of gold panning [in this area] goes back 150 years,” says Ian Ralph, director of sales for Kingfisher Heli. “The Heli Village combines the cool rustic trapper cabins, more modern and large family-style log chalets, and the brand new cabins. Dinner is served in the original Gold Panner Café [and 100-year old gold-panning sluices frame the background for brand new flying machines) — a cool combination of historic and modern touches.”

Inside the village, two 900 square-foot cabins let late-risers make it from door to flight in 30 seconds (eight, if they sprint). And though outside the cabin walls you’ll find more powder and ruggedness than back home, inside those walls, it feels like home: two bedrooms with full bathrooms, a full kitchen, and a wood-burning stove. Except, at this home, you just have to walk a few paces for a massage. Oh, and a helicopter.

Epic powder day with Kingfisher Heliskiing in the Monashees

In addition to Keefer Lake Lodge and Kingfisher Heliskiing’s new lodging this season, Ian Tomm, of HeliCat Canada gave a nod to The Powder Highway’s existing lodges and the renovations that took place in preparation for the season.  Some of these include:

*  New wood-fired hot tub at Fernie Wilderness Adventures
*  Geothermal heating & new bar installed at Mustang Powder
*  Newly renovated chalet at Purcell Mountain Lodge

Words by Gina Begin.  All photos courtesy of Keefer Lake Lodge and/or Kingfisher Heliskiing.

Gina Begin - 
Although she’s a Florida girl, exploration called her away after the final bell of her high school career. On a quest to reach the distant adventures of North America, she lived in her car, traveling to ski the backcountry of Alaska, sleep under the northern lights in the Yukon Territory, ice climb Colorado's frozen canyons, photograph Nova Scotia’s coves, backpack in southern US wildernesses and munch on sugared tamarindo in the jungles of Mexico. But after three years living on the road and seeing the many wonders this continent had to offer, she chose the place she knew would fit an explorer looking for a lifetime of wild wonder: British Columbia. Dual citizenship in hand, she settled along the Powder Highway in the Selkirks and is making her home between four walls and deeply wooded mountains.

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Tags: Columbia Mountains Explore Canada ExploreBC The Kootenays

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