We Skied 22km for a One Night Stay at Skoki Lodge
Updated: Aug 2
And let me tell you, it was worth it!
Skoki lodge is a local backcountry gem situated in the beautiful high alpine region of Banff National Park. Access to this lodge is by hiking or skiing/snow shoeing depending on the season, but is accessible to all levels year round. Once at the lodge you can access a number of breathtaking mountains ridges, alpine lakes or explore different adjoining valley options.
Summer to Winter travel looks a little different but guaranteed, if you ask anyone thats ever been to Skoki, they're longing to go back. Those that have not been, cannot wait to go! There seems to be a sense of magic surrounding this place, so naturally, I had to find out for myself!
In April of 2021, we booked a one night stay in the Honeymoon Suite to close out the winter adventure season! Given that Covid-19 is never-ending and still to this day interfering with all travel plans, Skoki Lodge was the perfect option for a staycation.
We booked online through http://www.skoki.com/
Normally, a two night minimum stay is required, unless a reservation is made two weeks or less prior to the date of arrival. This is how we secured one night.
Once our booking was confirmed we were sent an email with instructions for check-in. The whole process was seamless and streamlined beginning with a quick visit to Whiskey Jack Lodge at the Lake Louise Ski Resort for check in, VIP parking passes and access to the gondola. Depending on your method of travel, you can ski down from the gondola, or take the chair lift to Temple Lodge. Once at Temple Lodge, climb upwards of around 100m until you see the marked trailhead turning left into the forest.
The other alternative is a 24km backcountry ski in via the Pipestone River, but you must be a very strong skier to attempt this.
Once on the trail, if the conditions are favourable, the ski in is quite enjoyable. If you're sticking to the main route, avalanche risk is nearly non-existent. Whether you're on skinny skis, tour skis or snow shoes, allow yourself between 3-5 hours of travel time. There is a total of 4400m of elevation gain with a 350m drop in elevation once you reach the top of Deception Pass. Bring a lunch and snacks for the trail and make sure to pack warm layers as weather conditions can change quickly.
The beginning of the trail meanders through the forest for around 3.5km and brings you to Halfway Hut. This is the perfect place to fuel up or take refuge from the winds on a cold day. Originally constructed in 1931 as a shelter to provide overnight refuge between the CPR station at Lake Louise and the Skoki Ski Lodge, this hut is a recognized federal heritage building.
From here, continue following the trail markers up to Boulder Pass - obvious due to the large amount of boulders and where the breathtaking mountain vistas truly begin to shine. Depending on the amount of snow covering the rocks be prepared to take off your skis and walk a portion of the trail (early season)
From here until you reach the tree line on the other side of Deception Pass, there's no protection from the wind. Be prepared for high winds, and on a blustery day crossing Ptarmigan Lake, know that whiteout conditions can occur. Trail markers are evenly spaced every 40m or so and act as a guide during such events.
Once across the lake, the climb to the top of Deception pass and the majority of the incline begins. This is the most challenging portion of the ski in. Make sure to enjoy the views once at the top. On a bluebird day, I can imagine there's not another sight like it!
From the top of Deception Pass, if you're on tour skis the real fun begins. You can choose to follow the trail makers all the way down or take your skins off and enjoy some turns in fresh powder. Guaranteed, if you look left, you'll see other tracks from fellow travellers and lodge employees doing the same. This last leg of the journey may take you only half hour or upwards of 90min again depending on your method of travel. Rest easy knowing the lodge is near.
We had exceptional conditions on our ski in. It was late April, and nearing the end of the winter season. The weather was warm, and the trail was packed, making for a very enjoyable experience. Although overcast, our journey through Ptarmigan Lake was met with ease as winds were non-existent besides a slight breeze. The snow began to fall once we lost elevation from Deception Pass to the lodge, but time passed quickly with the descent as we carved our way through the forested Skoki Valley.
The total trip in took us between 3-4 hours on tour skis. We stopped often to take photos, and video footage for our Skoki Vlog, which you can find and watch on YouTube.
On arrival, I was immediately taken with the main log cabin and the inviting smell of firewood and smoke. Nestled between the great wall of Jericho and Skoki Mountain, I could finally see why Skoki was such a sought after retreat. All I could muster was a sigh of relief knowing our journey had gone smoothly and that my first backcountry lodge experience was about to commence.
We were met with smiling faces when we entered the lodge and freshly baked cookies right out of the oven. Like still warm!! Nothing has ever tasted so good! We took off our ski boots and changed into our hiking shoes and were shown to our rustic honeymoon cabin. I swung open the door and both Pete and I looked at one another and exhaled. This is where the true enjoyment and relaxation of our trip began.
Price rates range between the lodge rooms and private cabins, but start from $240 a night.
First off, I have to talk about the bed. King size! We are currently sleeping in a double, so the fact that no parts of our body needed to touch during the night was a very exciting thought! The fluffy duvet cover to match made the bed feel like a cloud.
Within half an hour or so of our arrival we were brought a charcuterie board and hot chicken & rice soup. It goes to say that with your booking, all meals are included with the exception of beverages. We definitely enjoyed a solid beer and cider to celebrate our arrival.
Due to Covid -19 Restrictions the lodge was restricted to lodge guests only, so given we were staying in a separate cabin all of our meals were plated and delivered to our door.
While we could have ventured off on another side trip from the lodge, we chose to unwind, enjoyed the warmth of the fire place, and a good book in hand before drifting off into the most peaceful nap. This was truly luxury.
I'm busy, both mentally and physically so when booking this trip, relaxation was the key word! What we had experienced so far was exactly what we were looking for. A little getaway (within the allowed Covid-19 restrictions) away from screens, service and civilization. This was our vacation, and our chance to disconnect. And while it was only for one night, we intended to soak up every last second, and I can honestly say, we did just that!
Once we awoke we were greeted with clear skies and the most beautiful evening light. We went for a stroll around the resort and bumped into other guests in passing. When the lodge is open, guests mingle and swap stories inside, but given the restrictions and the main dining area only accessible for lodge guests, we visited outside. It made me nostalgic for days past, as I can only imagine the energy amongst backcountry enthusiasts after a day full of adventure.
Our prepared meal for that evening was Pork Tenderloin with Mac and cheese and vegetables. This is gourmet dining friends and the most satisfying way to replenish the calories you spent on the trek in. Add some wine with an alpine view from your window and you're in heaven! We finished off with a chocolate, rum sauce dessert to die for. Take Me Back!
Nightfall came quickly as we sipped wine and hung out by the fire. As photographers, the opportunity to shoot the stars only comes so often with the variable mountain climate we live in. We took full advantage, geared up in warm clothes, and spent a few hours with our cameras capturing the golden light filtering through the lodge windows under the night sky. Meteors flashed across the horizon and headlamps of skiers lit up the night as their laugher echoed across the valley. Late night skis are the way at Skoki Lodge. I only wish I had reserved the energy to join them.
Theres something about the backcountry experience and working for the comfort that brings on the most beautiful sleep. We rested easy and woke again to a beautiful day.
Breakfast was served with coffee and juice as we welcomed the morning light and warmth of the sun. It was difficult to tear ourselves away, and we literally spent every last minute we could before checking out. We were sent off with a packed lunch consisting of a delicious sandwich, cinnamon sugar glazed nuts and two cookies.
The ski out was a little easier then the ski in as the only elevation is between the lodge and Deception Pass. The remainder of the journey, elevation is mostly lost as you make your way following the trail markers back to Temple Lodge. If you're on tour skis, you can take the ski out to the Lake Louise Ski Resort. If you're on cross country skis or snow shoes, make sure to plan your trip accordingly as the last chair lift to the Gondola leaves at 3:30pm. If you miss this lift, prepare to add on an extra 3.1km to the parking lot.
We didn't leave until nearly 12:00 and took our time snapping photos and video. It also goes to mention that Pete's ski bindings inconveniently broke as we were departing the lodge and he had to borrow a pair of rubber boots and snow shoes to make the trip out. He had to turn on the gas at the end, but we arrived just in time to take the Gondola out!
Now that I've had the chance to experience the charm of Skoki for myself, I feel like I can better answer the following question that I heard from so many of my peers once they found out we were going.
Why would you want to ski 22km for a one night stay in a backcountry lodge do you ask? Because the beauty of the alpine is unparalleled, and until you leave all that is comfortable behind, you cannot fully experience the rawness and realness of nature. But that's not it!! Whether you choose to make the journey on cross country skis, snow shoes or tour skis, a winter paradise, mind-blowing food and rustic luxury is waiting for you upon arrival.
Our only regret was that we didn't have more time. I definitely recommend booking at least two nights. This way, you can relax upon your arrival and spend the next day enjoying the many side trips and excellent ski conditions surrounding the lodge. If you do plan to enjoy a side trip tour ski, make sure to bring avalanche equipment and know how to use it.
Reflecting on this trip makes me excited for the possibility of returning during the summer season. The idea of the surrounding valleys and lakes opening up for exploration without the risk of avalanche while blooming with wild flowers sounds very appealing. Regardless of timing, I can say with complete confidence that this will not be our last trip to Skoki.
Remember, you want to pack light, but pack smart!
separate pair of shoes for the lodge
neck warmer and buff
two pairs of mitts
first aid kit
sun glasses or ski goggles
topo map or satellite GPS phone with trail navigation (INreach)