hotels in the sky:

Canada’s commercial backcountry ski lodges

For many years, if you wanted to stay in a hut in the mountains the choices were very limited. The Alpine Club operated a few tiny shacks that were little more than bivouac shelters. And there were a few classic old lodges like Assiniboine or Skoki that offered great amenities and views but were limited in terms of the skiing options.

The exception was the Stanley Mitchell Hut in the Little Yoho Valley. While not offering high-end amenities it is sprawling and comfortable for an Alpine Club hut, and offers fantastic skiing right out the door. It is such a good venue that Hans Gmoser, back in the late 50s and early 60s, used it for some of his earliest guided ski touring trips. Hans later became famous for the development of the first heli-ski lodges in the world starting with Bugaboo Lodge.

Then in the 1970s the commercial backcountry ski lodge phenomenon really started to gain traction. Battle Abbey, built in 1977-78, is one of the oldest and most famous of the commercial backcountry ski lodges in Canada. Bill Putnam and Hans Gmoser found the perfect location and supplied the momentum for its construction. Roger Laurilla, a young teenager at the time, helped with the construction along with many others. For close to three decades it was owned and operated by Bill and Hans serving clients of Canadian Mountain Holidays. In 2004, around the time Hans sold CMH, ownership passed, fittingly, to Hans’ son Robson and Roger. Hans and Bill have since passed away and Robson’s life was claimed in a tragic avalanche at Sorcerer Lodge in 2015. Roger is now the sole owner of The Abbey and carries on the tradition of fine hospitality and Supreme Skiing.

Battle Abbey was soon joined by many other commercial lodges and today there are a total of 32 members of the Backcountry Lodges of British Columbia Association.

Sawback Alpine Adventures runs trips out of many of these lodges each year. We try to mix it up with a wide variety of lodges to keep things fresh and interesting.

57 Hours recently promoted these trips with an information page featuring five of our favourite “hut trips”. Click the thumbnail below to check it out!


57 Hours hosts some great webinars on the “Epic Adventures” series. This winter they featured our Hut to Hut traverses. Check it out by clicking on the YouTube video below. Let us know what you think!

Tom on Emerald Peak, 2021
Tom Wolfe
Owner / Lead Guide Mountain Guide ACMG/IFMGA