A few years ago I was talking to Mike about where to bring his group. The problem these days is that there are too many ski tourers and not enough lodges. An enviable problem for backcountry ski lodge owners, but for independent guides like myself as well as groups looking for a place to ski you really have to be organized years in advance. I made a few suggestions but all of them were booked up for the week Mike & his group likes to ski: end of Feb/beginning of March. A couple of weeks later Mike said he’d found a place: Mt. Carlyle Lodge. To be honest, I’d never heard of the place. Eventually I figured out that it was somewhere in the Kootenays and owned by Brian Cross and not too far from Valhalla Mountain Lodge. Well, I figured, it’s worth a try and since Mike was willing to do all the legwork and fill the lodge with guests I was more than happy to join him.
My co-guide for the week was Conrad Janzen. Conrad is one of my favourite guides to work with: an ideal combination of layed back and hard working, and he loves to ski more than anyone I know.
I was skiing in Revelstoke with my family the week before our Carlyle trip, which worked out great — I left my car in Revy at friend’s house and hitched a ride with Mike and Amber to Kaslo. We rendezvoued with the group that evening at the Taqueria El Corazon and signed waivers handed out by the custodian Gord. Kaslo is a cute little town, way out of the way on the west shore of Kootenay Lake far from the hustle of highways, trains and industrial scale tourism. We spent the night at the Kaslo Motel and the next day a short drive took us to the heliport and from there a quick flight to the lodge.
Sprawling terrain, spacious lodge
First impressions from the air were positive. There is an abundance of mellow, safe lightly treed terrain surrounding the lodge with countless alpine bowls separated by rocky-spined ridges — perfect ski touring terrain. Sprawling in fact. The lodge is kind of the same — sprawling. Most backcountry lodges are relatively tight quarters but Carlyle is a funky hodge podge of buildings and additions where everyone can find a quiet corner. It’s comfortable bordering on luxurious with a rustic yet refined feel. The food was plentiful and tasty, the dining area and the adjoining nooks relaxing. Brian has done a great job of attending to the little details. Everything was logical and worked.
Well, almost. It was a pretty cold week and for some reason the water line froze. In most lodges this would have been a complete disaster, but Brian had anticipated this possibility and actually had three backups. Unfortunately throughout the week Gord spent a lot of time trying to diagnose the problem only to have each line ice up and freeze solid one at a time. By the end of the week we were limping along with little more than a trickle, but we had survived just fine thanks to Gord’s efforts and the backup lines. Brian flew in armed with bottled water and some serious looking equipment intended to solve the problem. I never heard what happened but I assume they got it all back to normal soon enough especially as the temps warmed up again in March.
The skiing terrain is really as good as it looked from the air. There was a funky weak layer on south aspects that steered us clear from a few zones, but as the week went on we were able to step things up and skied some really great steep north lines. Really steep and deep! Amazing tree skiing and sensational open alpine bowls running down into avalanche paths to valley bottom. And — we had incredible low densite powder snow the whole week. I’m looking forward to returning, but it looks like I’ll have to lay down a deposit for 2023 at this point. BC needs more backcountry ski lodges!!