Sometimes you can’t control the voice in your head. Like when you’re ski-touring across a frozen lake, approaching a snowfall-obscured route named Deception Pass and somebody calls out, “Don’t worry. It’s not as far as it looks.” If that were true, that little voice says, why is it named Deception Pass?
But sometimes that little voice is wrong. As in this case. It wasn’t as far as it looked. And it came with a bonus. Deception Pass is the summit on the route to Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park. Which means that after reaching the pass, it is all downhill from there. Our group took a moment to fuel up, take in the scenery and adjust our skis in preparation of the fun part of the trip. And a bit of extra bonus motivation came next. “OK, everybody,” said our guide. “Think of the charcuterie!”
Charcuterie is an unexpected motivator while in the rugged backcountry of the Canadian Rockies in the middle of winter, but it highlights an odd thing about Skoki Lodge. Despite the lodge’s location amid some eye-wateringly beautiful scenery, its ruggedness and its history is a crucial link in the development of ski culture in Canada, the thing that previous guests gush about is the food. When a local hears you are planning a trip, their reaction is some version of this: “You’re going to Skoki? Oh my God, the food is so good.”
And it is. And that food is a good motivator on the 12-kilometre ski to the lodge from Lake Louise Ski Resort, which is accessible in winter only on skis or snowshoes (you should be moderately fit to make the trip). And if you plan your day right, you’ll arrive just at teatime which, for our group, meant clomping into the rustic lodge to a warm greeting from fellow guests, peeling off our outer layers and immediately sitting down to a steaming bowl of soup and the promised charcuterie plate. Ecstatic moaning followed.
Here are the facts about Skoki Lodge: It’s a National Historic Site inside Banff National Park. It opened in 1931 as an accommodation for skiers when the sport was nascent in Canada. It’s a log cabin and has changed little since. An addition was added in 1936. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) spent their honeymoon here. It’s off the grid: No electricity. No plumbing. No Wi-Fi.
Here’s what the facts don’t tell you: It might be the coziest place you’ll ever visit, unless you’re a fetus. Surrounded by snowy mountains and frozen lakes, it’s warmed by wood-burning stoves, welcoming staff and features a communal room filled with books, blankets and board games. And the smells wafting in from the kitchen are a warm hug.
Nighttime at Skoki sets a magical mood. Travel Alberta/Banff & Lake Louise Tourism
During the day, some people head out to explore the nearby trails. Some use cross-country skis. Others go ski touring to try to catch the untouched powder on nearby slopes. Others just sit around in their slippers playing Bridge and waiting for the next meal.
For many, the highlight of the day is when evening comes. It gets dark early, so the candles and lamps are lit and placed on the communal table while everyone gathers for the final meal of the day. Inside, warm and cozy, feeling fresh after a day outdoors in the mountain air, the food and wine tastes especially delicious.
This is when that uncontrollable voice in your head may come back, but with a different message this time. “This,” it might say, “is all right.”