Tag Archives: Island Lake Lodge

Moose on the loose at Island Lake

With nature, timing is everything. Some days you can hike 20 kilometres in the backcountry and see nary a bird; other times you hit the wildlife jackpot with minimum effort. Such was our hot July afternoon at Island Lake.

A mother moose grazes while her calf eyes us up at Island Lake near Fernie, B.C.

A mother moose grazes while her calf eyes us up at Island Lake near Fernie, B.C.

We drove from Fernie up to Island Lake Lodge to rent a canoe ($10 for one hour) and paddle around the lake. The lake is named for the small island in its centre that makes a fun target to navigate around. After situating Bennett and Avery inside the canoe, with instructions to stay as still as possible in spite of the crazy swarms of mayflies (in other words, no tipping!), Blake and I dipped our oars toward the island.

The mayflies were swarming us in the canoe. Good thing they don't bite!

The mayflies were swarming us in the canoe. Good thing they don’t bite!

I spotted movement along a shaded bank. As we glided closer I saw it was a mama moose and her baby, which appeared to be pretty darn new. The pair were busy munching on leaves along the water’s edge. Mama raised her head and stared us down (Blake stopped paddling; I was busy taking endless photos), then hunger drove her back to her afternoon snack. Baby tried unsuccessfully to nurse several times, but was repeatedly dissuaded by a guttural moan from its mother, who clearly needed sustenance after birthing and nursing her calf. We watched them in awe for 10 minutes or more, marvelling at the tiny, fuzzy baby and its skinny, gangly mama. As we paddled away the small family headed inland on the island.

Mama and baby moose pause to glance at our approaching canoe.

Mama and baby moose pause to glance at our approaching canoe.

We continued our trip around the lake, chasing ducklings (much to Bennett’s delight) and letting Avery try to catch tadpoles. A final circle of the island showed no signs of the wildlife sheltered there.

Canoeing at Island LAke is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Canoeing at Island Lake is a great way to spend an afternoon.

Later, over cocktails on the Bear Lodge patio, Island Lake Lodge marketing guy Mike McPhee told us that a mother moose swims out to the island every spring to birth a calf. She shelters it there for awhile, then they move back to the mainland for the rest of the summer. Smart mama — what a beautiful place to raise a babe.

Catskiing at Island Lake Lodge

How’s this for a powder fantasy — two days of catskiing on virgin slopes at one of B.C.’s premier operations: Island Lake Lodge. This dream became my reality for two days in December on assignment for awesome Canadian travel blog Toque and Canoe. My story will be up on the site soon; in the meantime, here’s a sneak preview of what makes Island Lake special.

The Lodge(s)

The snow cats are warm and comfy too: cushy seats, lots of snacks and lively conversation.

The snow cats are cozy too: cushy seats, lots of snacks and lively conversation.

A cluster of timber-frame lodges greets skiers after an evening snow cat ride up a secluded, winding road. The accommodations are anything but rustic —  well-appointed rooms, comfortable beds and gourmet Rocky Mountain cuisine help skiers catch their zzz’s and fuel up for days of shredding the gnar (sorry). The setting is a little slice of Canadiana.

The Views

Spectacular, isn't it? It's like being on top of the world.

Gorgeous, isn’t it? The vistas make you feel like you’re on top of the world.

The Lizard Range of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Fernie, B.C. is spectacular anyway, but Island Lake Lodge boasts a trifecta of limestone peaks that stand out. The Three Bears, pictured above, lord over the range and collect all the white stuff that blows in from the west.

The Pow

Fresh pow: bring it!

Fresh pow! Bring it!!

There’s a reason we’re called powder junkies — ski fresh tracks on a virgin slope like this one and you’ll be hooked too. Bonus: you don’t have to be an expert skier. Island Lake Lodge boasts a range of terrain — from gentler, gladed slopes to open runs with steep pitches — and lots of it: there are a staggering 7,000 acres shared between a maximum of 36 guests. The one thing all the runs have in common is powder.

The Après-ski 

Island Lake Lodge apres-ski

Guided beer drinking is part of the package. And a snow flurry every afternoon. Kidding!

The guides at Island Lake Lodge are fantastic: professional, helpful and attuned to skiers’ needs. For example, they snowmobiled a crate of cold beer up to us so it was waiting at the bottom of our final run on Day 1. Nice!

And to make sure you get a good night’s sleep, there’s a custom skot-ski inside Bear Lodge. The days soon take on an enticing pattern: eat, ski, beer, hot tub, eat, shot ski, sleep. The good news? Being powder junkies, we’ll be back!

Nothing says Canadian pares-ski quite like a Burt Reynolds shot ski!

Nothing says Canadian apres-ski quite like a Burt Reynolds shot ski.

Getaway to Island Lake Lodge

We go to Fernie a lot in the summer and have spent the past several years exploring the many hiking trails in the area. A favourite place to go has been Island Lake, a beautiful mountain lake located up a winding dirt road that travels through Mt. Fernie Provincial Park. We usually just walk around the lake with the kids — or canoe on it — but this summer we had the opportunity to leave the children in Fernie with Grammie and spend a night at Island Lake Lodge to celebrate our anniversary (16 years!). This meant we could graduate beyond the lake trail to the more difficult ascents above timberline.

Taking a rest on Spineback Trail.

Taking a rest on Spineback Trail.

The lodge is best known as a cat-skiing base during the winter, when feet of epic Fernie powder fall on the slopes that surround the lake like an amphitheatre. Come summer the area transforms into a beautiful mountain sanctuary, with old growth cedar forests giving way to sub-alpine meadows dotted with wildflowers and rocky escarpments inhabited by marmots and pikas.

We opted for Spineback Trail, a hike that climbs 530 metres over 3.5 kilometres up a ridge. The payoff? It’s a great workout and there’s a lovely wooden bench at the trail’s terminus that affords an eagle’s eye view of Island Lake and the lodge far below.

Look down, waaaay down: Island Lake and the lodge as seen from the top of Spineback Trail.

Look down, waaaay down: Island Lake and Island Lake Lodge as seen from the top of Spineback Trail near Fernie, B.C..

We boogied back in a short but insistent rain storm and headed straight for the hot tub to help us warm up and rejuvenate our over-tired muscles. Then it was time for a rich dinner of duck, lobster, creme brûlée and lots of wine, served in the main lodge. The mountain air afforded us a sleep in (kid-free, hooray!) and we emerged for a buffet breakfast and a short hike around the lake. There wasn’t a lot of time to luxuriate in our cozy room in Cedar Lodge (complete with balcony and mountain view), but the point of an escape to Island Lake is to get active in a breathtakingly beautiful place. What a great way to spend our anniversary — doing something we love, together, in the mountains. We’ll be back!

A beautiful summer morning at Island Lake.

A beautiful summer morning at Island Lake.