Winter in interior BC and Alberta has had a fantastic start this season. The last few weeks especially has seen a number of good, solid dumps. Even better, there haven’t been any long cold dry spells in the Selkirks which means no persistent weak layers like surface hoar or facets to complicate the snowpack.
So I was really excited to head into Selkirk Lodge last week. The weather forecast worried me a bit — cold arctic weather with wind and some snow didn’t sound like much fun. But I felt pretty confident in the group’s hardiness and a comfortable lodge close to some great skiing. And once again, Selkirk Lodge delivered. Like last January we had incredible snow conditions: deep light Selkirk powder, and first tracks in the truest sense: being the first group on an regular ski program at Selkirk this season, most of the runs we did hadn’t been skied yet this winter! As for the temperatures, being fairly far south and west we didn’t suffer as much as other parts of western Canada. The temperatures briefly dipped to -26 Celsius, “but at least it was windy”! Three days were in the sub minus-20 range and the rest in the balmy mid-teens. We packed toe warmers, covered up, and had long ski days for this time of the year, starting before 9 a.m. and finishing at 4:30 or even later. Like I said — this was a hardy group dedicated to getting the most out of our early winter ski week!
A lot of people confuse Selkirk Lodge, which is south-east of Revelstoke, with Selkirk Mountain Experience, north-east of Revelstoke. The two areas share a lot in common: they were built roughly at the same time, were both carved out of Selkirk Tangiers Heliskiing’s tenure, and both have an excellent snowpack and stunning terrain. But there are many differences in style of operation. While SME is known for the iron rule of Ruedi Beglinger, a Swiss-born mountain guide who has a reputation of favouring the strong and shunning the weak, Selkirk was owned and operated by Grania Devine for over 30 years until last year when she sold the business to her daughter Kate and son in law Joel. The Devine family is a true “local” family whose oldest clientele are neighbours and friends visiting for a good time with kindred spirits. There’s a lot of good vibes at Selkirk Lodge.
Don’t let the good vibes lull you into a sense of complacency. The terrain is serious and really big. I just can’t believe how many amazing (and accessible) lines there are, and it would take years of guiding there full time to do them all. Go prepared to ski your legs off. Of all the lodges I’ve guided at (and I’ve been to all but one of the best), Selkirk gets the top mark for terrain. If you are a skier and want awesome, abundant terrain then Selkirk Lodge needs to be on your shortest list. The lodge is situated on a knoll just above treeline, giving quick access to some entry-level alpine and tree skiing right out the door. The terrain Selkirk is famous for of course is the mind-blowing alpine skiing, like the south face of Mt. Virtue (a 6000+ ft run), the top of which can be seen from the front door. But a superhuman effort of glading, headed up over the years by Grania’s partner Mike, has resulted in accessible, excellent gladed tree skiing just below the lodge.
I just can’t get over how beautiful and functional Selkirk Lodge is. As a result of a recent renovation is now sleeps 14 guests, 3 guides and 3 staff comfortably. Bedrooms are spacious and comfortable. There’s room to stretch, to read, to socialize, to hang out for a beer with your friends by the fire. It’s really just about perfect.
There are only three relatively minor areas where Selkirk comes up short: the water source is melted snow; the outhouses burn human waste with propane; and there’s no sauna. As it happens, Kate and Joel have plans to upgrade the outhouses with composting toilets (thus saving thousands of litres of propane per year) and are building a sauna this year!
As for the water supply, there’s nothing that can change the fact that there is no running water supply. But Selkirk has melting snow down to a real science. A mega-espresso tamper tool packs snow into 5 gallon pails, which is easily transported to the nearby woodfired stove which is custom-fitted with a highly effective stainless steel water jacket. The resulting meltwater tastes clean and pure, with a refreshing hint of balsam, and it only takes a few minutes a day per person to meet the lodge’s needs.
The food at Selkirk is good, nourishing basic fare. Sure there are lodges with a higher standard but food at Selkirk is tasty, plentiful, and comes plated in three courses served by kind and hard working staff.