I slowly opened the door to Mistaya Lodge and instantly the warm air kisses my cold cheeks and the aroma of baking cookies tickles my senses - I hadn’t even seen inside yet but this kind of cosiness at 2590 meters was not expected. It was decided, calling this place home for the next seven days would be easy.
Whether or not it’s your first backcountry lodge trip with lots of mystery to be unfolded or you’re a self-proclaimed backcountry lodge resident, the allure of these remote accommodations never loses there grasp on an adventurous soul. Smitten by both the amenities and comfort of the lodge as well as the vast and easily accessible terrain it’s easy to see the draw to any backcountry lodge. So what’s standing between you and a place like Mistaya Lodge? Probably some unnecessary murkiness in the preparation - oh and a helicopter ride, but don’t worry that’s a logistic that the lodge will flawlessly set up for you, you just need to show up packed and ready to go.
Speaking of packing, each lodge will have their own set packing list that will be emailed to your inbox after confirming your booking or some are available on their website. As a bit of a Lodge connoisseur, I’ve been to more than my fair share of lodges (it’s for work, don’t judge me) over the years and have a few tips. Packing light is key for helicopters as they do have weight limits and you probably want to pack in some booze (more on that below) which weighs more than your long underwear so here’s my version of what to bring, what to leave and how to pack it.
HOW TO PACK:
- Pack your daypack (30-40L ski touring pack) first with everything you need to go skiing.
- Dress yourself in everything you need to go skiing (helmet and ski boots included).
- Pack the leftovers in a duffle.
WHAT TO PACK:
- SKI CLOTHING: gloves usually a warm pair for skiing and a lighter pair for touring, ski socks (two pairs), base layers (sweat quicking and warm), underwear (two pairs or more), a mid-layer (fleece or synthetic), another layering piece - down is ideal, goretex shell jacket, Goretex shell pants, toque, hat and buff.
- TOILETRIES: Sunscreen, toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, lip balm, medications, glasses/contacts and any other personal items you require.
- GEAR: Transceiver, shovel, probe, goggles, ski boots, poles, skins, skis/snowboard, helmet and goggles. *Crampons are always welcome.
- OTHER: Camera, water bottle/thermos, personal aid kit including a blister kit, sunglasses, pocket knife, multi-tool for your gear, bring a couple sets of hand warmers and toe warmers just in case you’re surprised with colder temps, extra batteries for your transceiver/headlamp, charging cords and skin wax for spring trips.
- LODGE THINGS: Indoor shoes (slippers or sandals), head to toe change of clothing for indoors (informal) and something comfortable to sleep in.
IF THERE’S ROOM
- A Book to read. All lodges will have a collection of books, usually mountain inspired.
- Alcohol - check it see the lodge regulations on purchasing or bringing your own as well as material preference (some lodges say no to glass).
Check out if you should bring these things before you jetset.
- Swimsuit for a sauna
- Some lodges have soap in the shower for you, some ask you to bring your own when in doubt bring some so you don’t get smelly.
- Towel – some provide and some don’t.
- Check if you need to arrive with your own lunch on day one or if you’ll pick it up from the lodge upon your arrival.
- Glacier travel kit.
BACKCOUNTRY LODGE PACKING TIPS
Arrive at the helipad dressed for skiing/snowboarding, wear your ski boots, transceiver and have your day pack packed for a day of skiing including avalanche gear, first aid, multi-tool, extra layers, snack, water bottle sunglasses, ect..
If you’re approaching weight restrictions and want to pack an alcoholic treat, forgo the beer and opt for some nice gin and a small bottle of lime juice or whiskey. Spirits pair nicely with backcountry icicles. Remember that glass weighs more than plastic and is harder to recycle for beer bottles, wine and/or spirits. Some lodges won’t allow glass or alcohol at all - do your research before purchasing.
No ski bags. Your skis fly naked in the basket. Bonus points if you ski strap them and your poles together as a nice package.
Pack everything you don’t need for ski touring in a small duffle bag. It’s better to have two small duffels than one big one for guides playing bag Tetris while loading the helicopter. Absolutely no flagging tape on bags going into the lodge. You might have used it to mark a bag at the airport or from a transfer out of a previous lodge but a piece of flagging tape means your bag is valley bound and might not meet you where you need it.
Car keys. If it is an option leave them at the base safely with the heli hangar manager or make sure you store them someplace safe in your bag for the duration of your lodge stay. Nothing worse than ending a trip by paying for a helicopter to retrieve your car keys from the backcountry.
GOLDEN BC BACKCOUNTRY LODGES
Mistaya Lodge: My personal review of Mistaya is a solid five out of five. Actively run by its owners you won’t find a more involved and passionate dynamic duo behind a lodge of this calibre. Every amenity you could ever dream of is here including a sauna, big gorgeous views, an impressive library of books, games and stretching supplies, friendly vibes, indoor toilets, motion sensor lights, decadent meals (what other place has a two course breakfast?!) and don’t even get me started on the terrain. Long smooth glaciers surround the lodge, exciting ridges with couloirs for the adventurous, pillow fields for days (seriously, days!) and gently treed slopes - it has everything, absolutely everything. Can I move in now? Full amenities list here.
Amiskwi Lodge: Neighbours in location to Mistaya Lodge it offers the similarly epic terrain but Amiskwi offers a very different experience. For those looking to make their own atmosphere, this lodge offers a self-guided and self-catered lodge experience. A rarity in the lodging world - most lodges are a set deal of guides and chef pampering but Amiskwi bridges the gap between hut life and lux lodge life. You’ll get the benefits of indoor toilets, a sauna, a grandiose backcountry kitchen and epic terrain at your fingertips. Full amenities list here.
Purcell Mountain Lodge: Looking to dip your feet in this whole backcountry skiing thing? Purcell Lodge is “an ideal lodge for first-time skiers to the backcountry with diverse terrain offering a variety of runs for all levels.” Whether you’re lounging by the fireplace on the cosy couch after dinner or skiing until the sunsets on a powder day Purcell is all about making your trip the best trip for you. Trust the experts at Purcell Mountain Lodge to help you make the most of your first or hundredth backcountry lodge experience. Full amenities list here.
Golden Alpine Holidays: Nestled into the Selkirk Mountain Golden Alpine Holidays offers endless terrain ripe for skiing/snowboarding. Over 130 named runs stretch across an area larger than 150 square kilometres - I can’t even imagine! Spanning the terrian are four lodges each offering a very different experience including Sunrise Lodge, Sentry Lodge, Meadow Lodge and Vista Lodge. Connecting them is possible via ski tour or helicopter bump. Or for the decisive soul commit to just one. With so much to offer there’s a reason, people keep going back to Golden Alpine Holidays for years. Full amenities list here.
Icefall Lodge: The mountaineer's dream. Okay you don’t have to be a mountaineer to enjoy the wild views and big terrain offered at Icefall Lodge but if you’re into the whole ski
mountaineering thing you’ll have a heyday bagging peaks deep in the Canadian Rockies. A variety of experiences can be had at Icefall Lodge because there’s more to Icefall than just Icefall - it’s satellite Snowfall Lodge widens its reach to 30 glaciers, 20 peaks, over 100 ski runs - some that offer over 2000 vertical feet! Inbetween these two Lodges were rustic meets luxury is two huts and whispers of more in the works. Connect an epic ski traverse with the comfort of lodges and huts when you plan an adventure with Icefall - don’t worry there’s a sauna for you! Full amenities list here.
Campbell Glacier Chalet: Situated in the Rocky Mountains north of Golden the Campbell Glacier Chalet sits just below the alpine with skiable terrain in all directions. Offering a bit of everything when it comes to terrain selection it is undoubtedly bragable to have runs over 1500m long - wow! Flush toilets and a steamy sauna will make your stay at this remote lodge feel extra comfortable. Choose between catered or self-catered and see the full amenities list here.
Battle Abbey Lodge: Perched at 2200 meters you can quite literally ski out the front door of Battle Abbey into the awaiting trees below. Skin up and reach the multitude of glaciers hanging overhead and return to a pampered experience back at the lodge. Fully catered you won’t lift a finger while staying at here, until you have to put your skins on of course. The luxurious living is well received by its guests, many clients are yearly repeaters as they just can’t seem to get enough of this Selkirk paradise. Hint hint, that means you need to book now for next year. Full amenities list here.
Canadian Mountain Holidays: Okay so it’s not ski touring, it’s full-on heli-skiing but it’s based out of a remote backcountry lodge. These CMH locations are located in the Golden area: Adamants, Bobbie Burns and Bugaboos. Please note packing will vary greatly with CMH, check out their website for packing details.
Lodge connoisseur? Had an epic first time? Got a tip for us? Show us the good times you’re having by tagging us on Instagram - we welcome the case of FOMO. Happy backcountry-lodging friends!