With each step, our skis carve v-shaped marks into fresh snow. As we pull ourselves and gear up the final stretch of mountain I lean hard on my poles, hoping to ease my burning quads and calves.
Turns out the rumours are true about Banff National Park’s Deception Pass – it is indeed a worthy adversary. A few paces ahead, my husband gasps. Stopping in my tracks, I share the same thought: we made it! Squinting into the afternoon sunlight, I can see a charming log cabin nestled in the valley below, with a plume of smoke curling up from the chimney. It’s a scene straight out of a fairy tale. We catch our breath and with a quick grin, find that last spurt of energy to glide into Skoki Lodge.
A Perfect Winter Retreat
About 11 km (6.8 mi) from Lake Louise, at an elevation of 2,164 m (7,100 ft), the journey to Skoki is challenging, but definitely worth the effort. In winter, the alpine retreat is surrounded by pristine snow draped wilderness awaiting exploration. After a day of cross-country skiing or snowshoeing in the backcountry you’re welcomed back with warm laughter and a crackling fire. Guests from around the world gather in the lodge’s living room, sharing stories like old friends – a tradition since Skoki Lodge opened in the 1930s.
Skoki Lodge Gourmet
With our ski boots kicked off, and gear stowed away in our room, we curled up in front of a crackling fire. Our cheeks, rosy from the crisp alpine air, are now warm from the heat of woodstove. We joined in the lively conversation among guests, eager to learn more about the area’s best trails. When the aroma of freshly baked bread wafts in from the kitchen, our stomachs growl in response. The excited chatter fades as the gourmet feast is served. Dinner is a communal affair, sharing tables with other guests. The food is scrumptious and the conversation is equally matched. I can only imagine the music, laughter and camaraderie these walls have felt.
Exploring the Backcountry
After the best sleep I can remember, snuggled under flannel sheets and a fluffy down comforter, we awaken to the aroma of scones hot from the oven. One breakfast has been devoured, we are ready to strap on the skis to see the area’s picturesque views and wildlife, like bighorn sheep and marmots. There are five adjoining valleys to explore and the wonderful Skoki staff have helped plan our route for the day – not to mention packing us the perfect picnic lunch.
The best part is we get to do it all again tomorrow. And in the summer when the wildflowers fill the valleys, we’ll be back for a hiking holiday. Memories are made of stuff like this.