Opening a New Remote Mountain Heli Skiing Lodge

For most people, building a new house is a big project. Building a Lodge might seem a little more daunting. But, put that lodge at the end of a remote logging road in the middle of some of the most remote mountains in BC, and it takes it up a notch. Building a remote mountain Heli Skiing lodge is not for the faint of heart, and I can speak to that from firsthand knowledge now. The journey is fraught with obstacles and hurdles impeding success at every turn, but with success, just around the corner, I can now say, without hesitation, it was worth the effort.

Three years ago, Northern Escape Heli Skiing embarked on a journey to build a new remote mountain lodge, custom-designed for heli skiing. We owned the land, a 55-acre waterfront mountain estate in the heart of our best skiing and had chosen the building site upon it. Access was via a rough Forest Service Road for 24 km’s, but we would need permission to build a short road across Crown Land to provide access from the logging road to our build site.

Step 1 – apply for Crown Land permit for the 57 feet of road required to join our property to the Forest Service Road. Then build 1 Km of new road to build site once the initial 57 feet are tenured.

Step 2 is designing a building, all ancillary buildings, and a layout that will suit the build site. This would be the fun, imaginative part, or so you thought. Your Architect and you sketching your dream, visualizing the building as you walk through it; opening the doors, looking out the windows, and then pricing it all. This process is repeated several times until your dream fits within your budget, and many revisions still ensue. After some time, you and your builder agree on design, budget, and timeline. This was no easy task.

One must now imagine that the piece of land you call your build site resembles nothing as such. This is raw land in the middle of the remote mountain wilderness. You want to take into account the view, or more so what the view will be, you hope, which is rather hard to imagine while standing in a dense coastal forest of 100-foot trees. You want to envision sitting on the deck with a cold beer in your hand overlooking the deep green mountain lake with the snow-covered mountains beyond after a day of endless deep powder and faceshots. Good Luck with that!

Ok, so let’s assume you have now decided where, on the side of this mountain, you want to build and have imagined the view you hope you’ll have. You’ve figured out where the lodge will go as well as all the ancillary buildings and various zones such as maintenance, fuel, the heli pads, and most importantly, the septic system. You need to remember that there are no services here. There are no connections to water, powder, or septic. This entire site will live totally off-grid. That also means you need to consider power, generators to be exact, as solar power in the winter in Northwest BC isn’t reliable enough.

All right, the site is chosen. Now it’s time to bring in the logging crew to fall 10 acres of forest. You’ll have an endless supply of firewood for the magnificent fireplace you’re going to build in the lodge. Next comes the Civil Work. Big, really big, Tonka toys show up and start moving dirt. They will move dirt for weeks, maybe months. Slowly a level building site emerges. Access roads are created and that septic field, the massive septic field, appears and then is just as quickly covered up. The only signs of it being the “chicken heads”, small access vents, poking out of the football-sized field hidden behind where the lodge will be, hopefully.

Now, when they say, “shovels in the ground,” what the really mean are huge machines that excavate the deep hole for the foundation for the lodge. That hole is massive. Next, the cement trucks start rumbling up that long and rough road from town. 24 km’s on the Forest Service Road brings them to the “Driveway” for the lodge. It’s a little less than a km, but it is steep, so steep that to get the Cement Trucks up the “Driveway,” one needs to chain the biggest Tonka Toy you have to the Cement Truck and assist it in climbing the hill. This is quickly followed by significant bribes to the Cement Truck Drivers to bring the next of 20 truckloads, or more, up that road again. At some point, bribes become futile, and one must resort to simple begging.

With the foundation in place, the next order of business is to build the lodge. Pretty soon, walls are going up, the roof is on, and the windows are going in. Doors are next, and you’re to lockup. While this is going on, you will be working with the engineers to design the power systems and getting a well drilled. Yep, no services on site remember, you’re totally off-grid.

One thing not to forget, in this day and age, is the internet and connections to the outside world. When I first started heli skiing our guests came for the week and had zero connection to the outside world. They turned off for the week. Nowadays our guests and staff, and operations for that matter require the internet. Not just the internet, but high-speed internet. Now, remember again where we are, and you’ll see the dilemma. Just another huddle to overcome, but there will, by God, be high-speed internet up there.

By this time, shingles are on the roof, and siding is going on. While the drywalling commences, it’s time to consider furnishings and the grand room centerpiece, the fireplace. The fireplace is a big deal in a ski chalet, and it takes center stage in this lodge. Real wood burning, it sets the ambiance for après ski.

Soon the appliances for the commercial kitchen are being installed along with the draft beer cooler and the dual temperature wine fridge in the bar. Of course, you have applied for your foodservice license as well as your liquor service license. The latter of which requires a criminal record check by all partners in the company.

As the finishing touches are tended to, the furniture is put together and positioned. We find the “Furniture Building Party” to be the most efficient and cost-effective for this stage of the build. Invite as many couples as you can up to the lodge for a free weekend. Ply them with great food and wine and then casually mention that their bedroom furniture requires some assembly before they’ll be able to get into bed.

First up in the morning must be those that were good at putting their beds together and thus are perfect candidates for putting together the dining room table and chairs before breakfast. Any takers?

Opening Day is Dec 5th! The proof will be in the pudding. Our new Heli Skiing Lodge, home to our Elite Package, will soon be finished. Many weeks are sold out, but check the online booking app for current availability and pricing. Hope to see you soon!