When I was in Canada a few months ago I had the opportunity to visit a back country lodge in the middle of Winter. It was just a quick over night trip but one that I will never forget. Knee deep in snow my friend Kristin and I snow shoed our way through 13km before arriving at Shadow Lake Lodge just before sundown. It was one of the hardest hikes I have ever done in my life but a very rewarding one. So I want to let you know the do’s and don’ts of visiting Shadow Lake Lodge, Banff in the middle of Winter.
The best way to get there:
Kristin and I had never cross country skiied before so we though that a 13km trek was probably not the best time to learn. We opted to snow shoe instead. I’m going to be honest here, don’t snow shoe to this place unless you are super fit. I’m pretty fit but this was a massive mental struggle for me. It took us 5 hours to get there by snow shoe and we only took 2 fifteen minute breaks to stop and have some food. I was in a world of hurt after the first kilometre because one of my snow shoes was digging my snow boot into my heel.
Basically from the start until you are passed the two hour mark it is all up hill. So my advice would be to cross country ski to the lodge. We were the only ones snow shoeing and now I know why! Luckily the scenery was pretty nice to look at the whole way!
Once you arrive:
After a tough 5 hours we finally arrived at Shadow Lake Lodge. We both nearly started crying we were so happy to see the place. This is a family run business which really shows by the way in which we were greeted by the warm & friendly Allison Brewster. We were welcomed into the main dining cabin for some much needed afternoon tea. After removing our snow covered boots and leaving them at the door, we grabbed a plate of food and a cup of tea and sat down for the first time in 5 hours. We were so exhausted we couldn’t even talk. After our bellies were full and warm we headed over to our cabin for a bit of a rest.
The cabins are simple but so cute. Shadow Lake Lodge offers private log cabins with comfortable beds topped with a fluffy down duvet, propane heating, solar-powered lights, historic photos and a washbasin. All cabins have a porch and outdoor log furniture set up to take advantage of sweeping views across a meadow to the mountains beyond.
The best thing about being here in Winter is the sauna which was built by hand by Allison’s husband Bryan Niehaus. It is just the thing you need to ease sore aching muscles and to warm the body up after being out in the elements. A perfect way to relax.
The Dining Experience:
The best thing about staying at Shadow Lake Lodge is the dining experience. When the dinner bell rings you know that it’s time to head to the dining cabin. Choose a seat around one of the large tables and start up a conversation with your fellow guests. Artisan breads, hearty soups, distinctive main courses and delectable desserts are a staple on the menu and all prepared in the kitchen next door. Buffet style service, with frequent replenishment, ensures you eat what you want, with plenty of opportunity to enjoy second helpings. After dinner everyone heads over to the recreation cabin and sits by the fire to enjoy some live music or a board game.
Hikes you can do from Shadow Lake Lodge:
There are numerous hikes that you can do from Shadow Lake Lodge. From an easy 1 to 2 hour hike around the lake edge up to a strenuous 9 hour return hike. The scenery is breathtaking. Unfortunately the mountains were covered in cloud while I was there but the photos that I have seen from this place look stunning. I think I need to go back again to witness it for myself. Here is a list of all the hikes you can do from Shadow Lake Lodge: http://shadowlakelodge.com/hikes/
The history of Shadow Lake Lodge began in 1930, when the Canadian Pacific Railway constructed a modest log rest house overlooking a meadow below the outlet of Shadow Lake, deep in the backcountry of Banff National Park.
After the Great Depression, the CPR began selling off it’s properties, including Shadow Lake Rest House, with ownership transferring to Brewster Transport in 1938. The property has been in the Brewster family ever since.
In 1991, the first guests arrived to find the original log cabin renovated and a string of new cabins. In the following years, more guest cabins and a dining room were constructed, with the original 1929 cabin now used as a guest lounge, complete with a wood-burning fireplace extensive library of local books.
Today, Alison Brewster, daughter of Bud Brewster, along with her husband Bryan Niehaus and their daughters Morgan and Joleen operate Shadow Lake Lodge, continuing the long and storied history of the Brewster family’s link to a very special backcountry lodge.
The people you meet:
While we were staying at Shadow Lake Lodge, a famous Canadian Olympic cross country skier and her gorgeous family were staying there too. Their two young daughters, one who was only 3 years old cross country skiied in to the lodge. I felt slightly embarrassed for struggling just to walk in!
After a gruelling 5 hour snow shoe to Shadow Lake Lodge, the hospitality, amazing food and good company of fellow guests makes you quickly forget about the walk. I would definitely cross country ski if you are planning a trip in Winter. This place is exquisite in Winter and makes you feel like you have really gotten away from modern day life and all of it’s stress. If you are in need of some down time then you should add this to your bucket list. It was such an amazing experience and one I won’t forget in a hurry.
A big thanks to the Brewster family for hosting Kristin and myself and for your warm hospitality. It really makes the stay so much more enjoyable. Also a big thanks to Banff Lake Louise tourism for hosting me while I was explore the amazing country that is Canada.
If you would like to stay at Shadow Lake Lodge yourself, the details are below:
Shadow Lake Lodge
Toll Free: 1-866-762-0114
Have you stayed at a back country lodge before or is it something that you would like to do? If you so leave a comment below and let me know. 🙂