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Skoki Lodge Turns 80

March 22, 2011 - Legendary Skoki Lodge, the Canadian Rockies’ premier backcountry lodge, and the first commercial ski lodge in western North America, is celebrating its 80th anniversary this month, and a group of local “Lake Louise Ski Friends” plans to mark the occasion with a journey of historical proportions.

Skoki LodgeWhile the world has changed significantly during the past 80 years, Skoki Lodge, located in the backcountry just 11 kms from the present day Lake Louise Ski Area, has retained much of its original design, charm and rustic character.

To celebrate the arrival of Skoki’s first commercial guests more than 80 years ago, a group of 15 Lake Louise Ski Friends plan to step back in time and ski into Skoki Lodge, utilizing pioneering ski equipment and wearing clothing of the 1930’s. This historic expedition will take place on March 30, 2011, and start from the Lake Louise train station, where the original guests began their journey into the mountain wilderness.

“When the Europeans first arrived in Banff National Park by train back in the early 1930’s, they could have picked any location in the Canadian Rockies for their first ski lodge, and they chose the area where Skoki Lodge now sits,” beams Charlie Locke, the proprietor of the Lake Louise Ski Area. “The building  of Skoki Lodge marked the beginning of Lake Louise as a world class ski destination. We are thrilled that the current generation of Lake Louise Ski Friends is marking this anniversary with this ceremonial backcountry journey”.

Photo (and interview) opportunities for this historical journey will be available on March 30, 2010 at both the Lake Louise Train station (9 am), or the Lake Louise Ski Area base (11 am).

For further information on the Ski Friends’ historic journey to Skoki Lodge, please contact Rob Butler (robutler@gmail.com) at 403-678-3905 or cell at 613-794-5810. The schedule, and additional information, can be found below.

Skoki Lodge


Skoki History

It was September, 1930.  Deep in the Rocky Mountains, a handful of Banff skiers started construction of Skoki Lodge, the first structure of its kind in the area.  With access made possible by rail, work carried on throughout the winter, and the first guests arrived in March, 1931. They skied the entire 19 kilometres from the Lake Louise train station to Skoki, sometimes staying overnight at the bare-bones Halfway Hut, that had also been built during the previous winter for just this purpose.  Using the ski touring equipment and clothing of the period, what would that trip have been like? 

Skoki registers


The Event

On the 80th anniversary of the arrival of those first guests, 15 Lake Louise Ski Friends intend to find out exactly what the Pioneers, Guests and Skoki Staff, experienced as they made their way from the train station to the Lodge.  Each Ski Friend will assume the persona of a unique pioneer and wear equipment and clothing similar to what would have been the dress of the day. Our modern-day pioneers will then follow the route guests and staff would have travelled 80 years ago.



March 30

9:00 AM -         The Ski Friends will assemble at the Lake Louise Train Station.  The talk will wander to the atmosphere that must have prevailed when Niall Rankin and his new bride, Lady Jean, arrived at noon ready to embark on the ski trail to Skoki.  Did they have second thoughts?  There wasn’t much infrastructure in 1931. Ultimately, they stayed at Skoki for a month on their honeymoon.

9:30 AM -         A similar event will take place at the Post Hotel.  Sir Norman Watson, who spent most of his life trying to develop Lake Louise into something resembling the ski resorts of the Swiss Alps, owned the Post Hotel for many years, and a photo of this eccentric visionary still presides over the bar.

11:00 AM -      The “pioneers” arrive, on skis, at the Lodge of the Ten Peaks, the central facility of today’s ski area.  In this beautiful setting, so different from what early visitors experienced, the “actors” will mingle with present-day guests, to share the colourful history of Lake Louise, by word and visual impression.  This impromptu   interaction with the public is intended to convey the rich heritage of the area, something   Ski Friends do every day in the regular course of their volunteer hosting activities.  This time, however, they will put it into context.

13:15 PM -       The group leaves, on skis, for Temple Lodge.


March 31

9:00 AM -         Depart for Skoki.  While in Skoki, the Ski Friends will remain in character, taking full advantage of Skoki’s history-soaked ambience,   its spectacular surroundings and its many and fascinating artifacts, creating an experience that will be both nostalgic and dramatically educational.

April 01

10:00 AM -     Depart Skoki for the Lake Louise Ski Area.  The intensity of this learning experience, however, will not end the ongoing heritage training benefits for all Ski Friends  and all future guests.


Ski Friends

In 1978, a group of local Lake Louise skiers, whose vision was to share their passion for this spectacular place with guests from all over the world, came together to create The Lake Louise Ski Friends. This volunteer program quickly set the standard for ski-hosting organizations that were springing up all over North America, and though the Lake Louise “Friends” have been almost universally imitated, they have never quite been equalled. Today, 107 members carry on the tradition of warm, genuine mountain hospitality that began at Skoki Lodge so many years ago. They greet arriving guests in the early morning with beaming smiles, provide complementary 2-hour tours for skiers and riders of widely varying abilities and interests, and enthusiastically pass on their wealth of varied knowledge, to enrich visitors’ Lake Louise experiences in myriad ways that go far beyond the skiing itself. The intrinsic value that the Ski Friends add to the Lake Louise Ski Area is best illustrated by the fact that guests return, year after year, specifically to enjoy more of this unique, on-mountain friendship and fun.

Click here to visit the official Skoki Lodge website.

Published - March 22, 2011.

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