In the back woods of Canada's far west, you can rough it in style with expert skiers or enjoy the snowy wilderness with little ones.
It has been a long day – exhilarating and exhausting. We have skied up and down several mountain peaks in the spectacularly remote Selkirk Range of the British Columbia Rockies. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. Many kilometers – and a helicopter ride – from Revelstoke, the nearest town. But tonight, instead of crawling into a cold, damp tent and melting some snow to make instant soup, my fellow backcountry skiers and I will luxuriate in the cozy warmth of a tastefully decorated chalet, while dining on four courses of mouthwatering European-style cuisine.
We are enjoying the hospitality of Ruedi Beglinger and his wife, Nicoline. The Beglingers own and operate Selkirk Mountain Experience (250/837-2381), a remote backcountry ski operation accessed only by helicopter, which allows skiers to get away from it all, without leaving the luxuries behind. The Beglinger’s Durrand Glacier Chalet looks like something right out of the Swiss Alps (and if Ruedi is having a particularly great day, you will hear him yodeling down the mountainside just like he did in his native Switzerland). Selkirk Mountain Experience is just one of several backcountry ski operations in British Columbia which have recognized that while people may desire a wilderness experience, they still want great food and a comfortable bed to sleep in.
Purcell Lodge (250/344-2639) near Golden is the largest and most luxurious of the remote backcountry operations. Like all of the remote lodges in British Columbia, it is only accessible by helicopter. In fact, all of the building materials for the deluxe 3-story structure were flown in by chopper, too. Purcell Lodge accommodates up to 30 people and has showers, flush toilets and electricity. During the winter months you are able to visit for 3,4, or 7 nights; and in the summer visits can last 2,3,4,5, or 7 nights. Their dining room has even been reviewed by Gourmet Magazine. During the day, you have the option of exploring the mountains with a fully qualified mountain guide, or if you have some previous backcountry experience, you can take off on your own and enjoy the peace, tranquility and awesome powder. At night, you wine and dine in the lap of luxury, before tumbling into bed under a fluffy duvet.
If you don’t mind roughing it just a little bit, Wells Gray Chalets (888/754-8735) near Clearwater offers a very comfortable experience at a bargain price. They have three chalets placed strategically in the Cariboo Mountains in Wells Gray Provincial Park. You can spend a few days at each chalet, or hunker down in one cabin and use it as your base. Each chalet has clean, cozy rooms and a sauna. As well as finding the best – and safest – ski runs, the guides do the cooking and cleaning, with a bit of help from the guests. It keeps the costs down and there is a satisfying sense of participation.
Families with young children who want a wilderness experience might want to check out Tyax Mountain Lake Resort near Gold Bridge (250/238-2221). Tyax is accessible by car – just a five-hour drive from Vancouver – but it is still very remote, tucked away in the Chilcotin Mountains. You can stay in the Lodge – with its 30-foot high stone fireplace – or in one of the self-contained lakeside chalets. There are lots of cross-country ski trails, as well as skating, sleigh rides, snowmobile tours and a spectacular outdoor hot tub.
After we take off our ski gear, we head for the sauna at Selkirk Mountain Experience. All of the backcountry operators know there is nothing like relaxing in a steamy, hot sauna after a long day in the mountains. As our muscles start to unwind, a deep healthy glow moves through our bodies. It becomes almost impossible to move. The only thing that finally stirs me from my lethargy is remembering that Nicoline and her kitchen staff have prepared a delicious selection of aprÃ¨s-ski appetizers. This is definitely roughing it in style!
For More Information
The staff at Tourism British Columbia ( 800/HELLO BC or 800/435-5622, toll-free in North America) run a helpful reservation and information service year-round. You can research your getaway through their site, or call to speak with a travel expert who can provide free help with planning or booking — from travel ideas and tips to booking your accommodations, tours, and transportation — for any type of BC vacation. You can also order your free copy of the “BC Escapes Getaways Guide,” or read more from Laurie Cooper, the Tourism British Columbia writer who provided this helpful backcountry lodge roundup.
Winter Festivities 2007-2008
by Susan Finch
This Fall, British Columbia kicks off The Annual Okanagan Wine Fall Festival from September 29th through October 7th. The best wines, food, fall foliage, and over 165 events will keep parents’ palettes satisfied and the kids happy exploring, taking in the music and crafts, and playing in the leaves. This festival continues to be ranked in the top 100 events by the American Bus Association. For more information, please visit www.owfs.com.
Kids looking to play in the sun and get active will love visiting Kelowna’s waterfront. Popular with children, City Park overlooks a fun floating bridge and is equipped with playgrounds for young and older children. There is also a Skateboarding bowl, soccer fields, basketball nets, and tennis courts. Fall also brings plenty of festival fun with an Apple Fair on October 20th and Holiday Festival of Creations on November 10th and 11th. Please visit www.tourismkelowna.com for more information.
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