In 1999, Dale McKnight and Dan Josephson were approached with the idea of starting a new cat ski operation. Dan and Dale had been friends since childhood and had spent many years working in the logging and ski industry. The government of British Columbia was providing new land tenures and soon the pair had made a detailed application. After a long waiting period, they, along with two others – Matt Cochand and Dave Markel, were awarded the 25-year tenure to operate Chatter Creek.
Now the real fun began! Soon the pair laid out detailed plans and searched the tenured land for the ideal location of the lodge. The building was not easy; the site is 100 kilometers from Golden, BC and marginal logging roads access the area. Building the lodge had to be done from logs as any other type of material were simply too expensive to transport. Within one year, in 1999, our first lodge the “Spruce Goose” was complete. Many of our original guests reminisce fondly of the backcountry experience they had that first winter. That spring Powder Magazine came for a visit and with their endorsement, it enabled us to get started the following fall. Soon we had reservations! Today, the “Spruce” is where our guides live and conduct their daily guide meetings.
Within two years, it became evident that the terrain was exceptional for cat skiing. Despite the limited backcountry accommodations, guests kept returning because of the terrain, snow and skiing! Our staff, in our first winter, slept in tents. Thus, in 2002, the impetus began to construct a new lodge. One of the first decisions made was to purchase a portable sawmill, bring it to the site to mill all the dimensional lumber. After many months of planning, the formidable task was begun.
Vertebrae Lodge Construction
The construction of Vertebrae Lodge took just seven months from April 2002 until December 2002 in which time we completed everything except some of the finishing touches. This was a monumental task due to the size and location of the project. Returning guests now flew to Chatter Creek and they were overwhelmed by the beauty and magnitude of the 9,000 square foot facility. The four-floor structure accommodated 24 guests, a large dining room and commercial kitchen, a lounge, massage rooms and dry room. Each room had en suite bathrooms and hot running water! Practically overnight, guests could enjoy the luxury of a well-appointed hotel while enjoying the remoteness of Canada’s backcountry.
Solitude Lodge Construction
Chatter Creek’s popularity continued to grow, so the team decided to expand the accommodation one more time. Solitude Lodge was built in the summer of 2004 using the same methods as when Vertebrae Lodge was built. The efforts were more efficient this time, workers were more experienced at milling lumber and using other machinery. The construction progressed well with fewer workers. As well, a new heating system was designed (a glycol based system), which minimized the temperature variances in the facility. With the construction of the new lodge, guests now enjoy more space to relax, an expanded lounge (in Vertebrae), 12 more bedroom suites and a much larger drying room for equipment. We were now able to accommodate 36 guests.
Both lodges are a welcome sight at the end of a deep and snowy day in the mountains. A hot meal, cold drink and great entertainment all make the experience a memorable one!