Having already experienced many backcountry lodges in the BC Interior, the Backcountry Skiing Canada duo thought a trip to the coast might be fun for a change. We were guests at the Journeyman Lodge, which is about 25 minutes south of Whistler Blackcomb Resort. Like so many huts and lodges, throughout BC, there’s a rich story behind the Journeyman Lodge and how it came into being.
Brad Sills is part-owner/operator (with help) and he shared a bit of the story with me on the hour+ cat ride into the lodge (if you’ve never sat in the front seat of a cat, you should. It’s easily as entertaining as a heli). The lodge is named the Journeyman as a nod to the many master carpenters, craftsmen/women who busted their butts to get the massive building built. Many of these same people are still part owners today.
On approach, The Journeyman Lodge, which officially opened its doors in 1998, is a heck of an impressive structure. At 5,000 square feet, you can almost feel the effort that went into the place—most of which was built in the winter to facilitate the transport of materials. In terms of its finish, it’s unlike any other lodge we’ve seen in the interior. It has the kind of touches that only come from people who know their craft.
We were there for four nights, which seemed a little longer than many of the guest we met. The lodge accommodates 24 people and features a wide assortment of rooms; everything from the swanky superior suite (with ensuite) to the more basic, and very functional, standard lodge rooms. Let us illustrate with some photos, shall we? But first, let’s talk a look at the overview video we shot on the trip:
Here’s a shot of the dining room on the ground floor. It’s where we met every night for a delicious meal—and every morning for a serve-yourself breakfast. While we were there, attendance in the dining room ranged from full to 2/3 full. The lodge tends to be busier on the weekends.
One floor up is where the common room is. It’s a great space to hang out and chat about the day’s exploits. It’s also where appies are served every night; a little something to tide you over ‘til dinner time. The ping pong table flips up to reveal a pool table for even more fun. This space is also where lodge host Ryan Malcolm played guitar and sang for us weekend nights. Ryan is an accomplished musician and one-time rock star who was the consummate host. Ryan’s wife Rebecca was the chef in charge and, together, they were one heck of a team.
Here’s a shot of one of the Superior Suites with ensuite bathroom. The rooms with bathrooms were on the second floor, up top on the third floor, bathrooms were shared. We were with the shared bathroom program and availability was never an issue. There was also a hot shower—not the all-too-common “backcountry shower” we’ve come to know and love at lodges in the interior—this is a full, running water, just-like-at-home shower.
The term “rustic luxury” is how the lodge is described and I’d say that works. Because of its size, it has more of a “grand” than cozy feel. Things like electricity for all but a few hours a day, hot and cold running water and flush toilets make for a pleasant stay. These kinds of features are a step up from some BC huts with their outhouses and haul-in water. The lodge being outfitted this way means that it attracts the kind of clientele who may be happier with some of the creature comforts.
As we explain a bit in the video, the Callaghan Valley is an anomaly within the Coast Range. Glacial activity smoothened out some of the features to make for slightly less rocky, and more skiable, terrain than you’d usually find parked next to the Pacific. Brad Sills and partners worked in the forestry sector and were able to scope out the Callaghan Valley while flying overhead in helicopters.
We had a smorgasbord of weather up there—note that if it’s pouring rain in Whistler Village, it’s likely puking with snow at the lodge’s elevation of 1370 metres (4500 feet). The claim is that the lodge gets hit with Whistler storms harder and first. From our experience, I’d add the word “dryer” too. First, harder and dryer.
Arriving in the valley, you are first struck by the grandeur of the lodge, then, looking around, you get blown away by the terrain that surrounds you. Just prior to our visit the valley had experienced a massive avalanche cycle, with slides running on all aspects. In a way, this was good news because we could use the slide paths to get to difficult spots with more safely. It was not so good news because a lot of the good skiing had been flushed out. Not to worry. The terrain options are multitudinous and massive—way bigger vistas and feel than in BC’s interior.
We poked around on our own for the first day (albeit, loosely following a guided group) and linked up with a fun and very competent Seattle couple for the last two days.
This was day 1 of 3. Lots of post-avalanche-cycle viewing like seen in this pic, here on a north aspect, lookers left as you look up-valley from where the lodge sits. This is immediately adjacent to the Solitude Glacier.
Speaking of avalanches debris, here are a couple pics of our uptracks through spent avalanches. Sublime vistas all around. This is the Morning Glory zone on the valley’s north side.
What goes up, must come down. These three pics are also from Morning Glory, where we found our best skiing of the trip. Very nice indeed.
Our time at the Journeyman Lodge in the Callaghan Valley was very special. Not having experienced much, if any, touring on the coast—it was different and cool at the same time. Snow conditions weren’t ideal but we managed to find some really good snow and got in some great travelling across remarkable terrain. All the bases are covered at the lodge in terms of winter fun—snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and backcountry touring. As a ski tourer going into avalanche terrain every day, a little more info on the avalanche conditions and weather would have been appreciated. There is no Wi-Fi available at the lodge so checking avalanche.ca on your own isn’t an option. One would likely find more of this type of info sharing at a dedicated backcountry ski touring lodge.
The lodge set-up is different than many other backcountry lodges around BC. You don’t necessarily “hunker down” with a group of 12 souls for a solid week. Because of its proximity to Vancouver and environs, the lodge attracts a wider range of guests—and more of them for shorter stints. This means you get to meet and hang out with more fun folks, it also means that if you are there for the “full“ four days you wind up saying goodbye a little more often than you might like. This is neither a plus, nor a minus; rather, it’s just a factor to consider when considering the Journeyman.
The food was delicious and Ryan and Rebecca were outstanding hosts. I wholehearted recommend the Journeyman Lodge for anyone looking for a close-to-an-urban-centre, yet comfortable and in-the-wilderness, winter getaway.
Thanks very much to Brad Sills and the whole crew for having us and to Discover BC for their help making this happen.
Because there are a multitude of packages for a multitude of prices, your best bet is probably to visit the very thorough and informative website at: The Journeyman Lodge.
Price: Our package - all inclusive, 4 nights in a standard room with a cat ride into the lodge - would cost approx. $820 pp all in. See www.callaghancountry.com for pricing details.
Location: Just 20 minutes south of the town and Whistler BC and 1.5 hours north of Vancouver.
Size: 12,000 hectares of non-motorized alpine terrain.
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