By SHANNON KELLY
Opened in 1931, Skoki Lodge was Canada’s first commercial ski lodge. The National Historic Site in the Canadian Rockies‘ Banff National Park still retains an early 20th-century charm, due in no small part to its remote location. No roads lead to the log-cabin lodge, which is an 11-kilometre (three- to five-hour) steady, gradual uphill hike or ski from Lake Louise Ski Area, and you’ll have to trek in with all your gear—the lodge doesn’t provide any transport.
The journey is all part of the appeal for the adventurous guests who clamor to stay here. They come for the excellent skiing (all levels of cross-country, downhill and Telemark) in winter and for the hiking and horseback riding in summer. Guests also rave about the food: three meals per day, served family style and prepared on site by chef/co-0wner Katie Mitzel, from ingredients transported via horseback or snowmobile. The cuisine might be described as hearty natural gourmet: locally raised Alberta beef, P.E.I. rock crab, wild salmon, and a rainbow of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs in salads, and desserts, such as sweet potato pie and beets with Gorgonzola and blueberries.
Those who make the trek here are also rewarded by astounding natural beauty. The remote site—at the centre of five valleys—was chosen for its views in every direction.
The three private cabins and six rooms at Skoki can accommodate a total of 26 guests, which keeps things intimate. Decor in the log structures is appropriately rustic. Communal areas are stocked with historic books and decorated with historic photographs and memorabilia. Rooms are sparsely and simply furnished, even the Riverside cabin, where William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, stayed on their Canadian tour in 2011; though that cabin does have a superior location by a trickling river.
Maintaining an authentic wilderness retreat does require some modern-day sacrifices. The lodge has no electricity and is heated by wood stoves, coal stoves and propane heaters. Lighting is via kerosene lamps and candles. Running water is also absent; rooms have wash basins and guests have access to warm water heated by propane stove and stored in insulated dispensers.
For all its merits, the warmth and friendliness of the staff and fellow lodgers is what guests seem to take away from a stay at Skoki. The owners, married couple Katie and Leo Mitzel, live here with their family and have managed to create a warm and welcoming place to stay, minus any sense of trespassing on a family home.
The Lake Louise Ski Area
1 Whitehorn Rd.
Lake Louise, AB T0L 1E0
1-888-997-5654 or 403-522-1347
www.skoki.com Open late December–mid-April and late June–late September.
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