Opening Whitecap Lodge
The flights are booked, the logistics are covered, now it’s time to head into the lodge and get ‘guest ready.’ Day 1 starts in Squamish at 7 am with Stefan “Lil’ Ron” Shier and Marty “Officer” Lazarski meeting for coffee. The lodge caretakers hit the road with stops to fill propane tanks and jerry cans and, of course, more coffee. Three coffee stops later the caretakers finally arrive at the Pemberton airport around 9 am, the helicopter is on the tarmac with the head honcho, Ron Andrews, just about packed up. Before lifting the team have to make sure a large bag of firewood makes it to the Darcy staging area. With the help of Blackcomb Helicopter’s forklift, the bag is lifted onto the back of Ron’s 25-year-old trailer and the team heads off. Stefan, Rachel and Ian flying from Pemberton and the rest of the team off to Darcy.
Arriving in Darcy the team sets up the net and the many propane tanks in preparation for a sling load, where the net will hang below the helicopter for the flight into the lodge. Then remaining team members, Ron, Marty, Riley and Tundra the dog load the helicopter and head out to the lodge. From Darcy a quick 20 minute flight over Anderson Lake, the Highline and the McGillivray drainage they land at the lodge.
The fire is going inside while the team starts hauling gear on the toboggans through the deep snow. Once the gear is inside the unpacking begins paired with more coffee. Food and miscellaneous items are unpacked and the propane heaters are turned on in the lodge and sauna building. They won’t be able to turn the running water on until the buildings warm-up, usually on day 3. The day’s game plan was pretty easy, the team had to dig, stomp and snow blow all the walkways. With three pairs of snowshoes, the team members started walking the paths to each building making solid walkways. Lil’ Ron tells the team that the walkways need to be so solid that you can walk to each building in skate shoes and not get wet socks. The day ends after 10 000 plus steps packing down the deep snow and a filling dinner made by Ron.
Day 2’s mission – the yurts. They had to be dug out, stomped down and cleared. The entryways were completely not accessible due to snowfall and they had about 140 cm of condensed snow packed on top of them. They looked like snow mushrooms. Setting up the ladder they start chipping away at the thick snowpack loaded on top of the yurts. It takes a while but the team gets through all 3 yurts, moving the ladder to their next mission, Woodhall. The ladder gets set up to the roof of Woodhall where Marty wants to clear the snow overhanging the side of the building and the back. With Rachel supervising he slowly works his way from one end to the other and then along the back. He is standing on 140 cm of dense snowpack on top of a slanted roof slowly shovelling away pieces of the overhanging snow. While this is happening the rest of the team dig the yurts out of all the snow that had just fallen from their roofs. A successful full day of digging and the yurts are completely cleared and packed down and accessible. The team is ready for day 3’s tasks.
They wake up on Day 3 to a beautiful 45 cm of fresh snow, as excited as they are about the new snow, they know it is just back to step one. They strap on their snowshoes and skis and start stomping down the lodge zone once again. While some are stomping the group solid others are prepping the yurts for propane and heat. The yurts need to start warming up for guests coming in 3 days. Today is also the day for running water, the main lodge is now warm and ready. Moving from the lodge zone the team starts stomping the helipad and the highway from helipad to lodge. The OCD from the lodge caretakers kicked in and the highway has to be perfectly straight. The afternoon is spent stomping out the most beautiful helipad and walkway. The snow continues to fall so they find themselves constantly going back and re-stomping all the lodge zones to condense the snow as much as possible. They finish their day outside to come inside to a warm lodge with running water and a huge charcuterie spread.
Day 4 begins with more stomping, of course, as it snowed another 40 cm overnight. The snow is light and fluffy and very tempting. Day 4 is also inventory day, all the rental equipment and merchandise at the lodge needs to be counted and sorted and put together. While the caretakers sort out the beer kegs, the others are inside putting together ski and board rental sets. As well as counting, recording and folding hundreds of shirts and making everything look ‘guest ready,’ knowing that it will never look this good again. The helipad is looking good, the snow plot trail is packed down and all the buildings now have water and heat. The kegs are ready to be tapped and all gear and merchandise are accounted for. The list is getting smaller and the team knows it.
Waking up to blue skies on Day 5 was just what the team was hoping for. After all the snowfall and stomping around the lodge, it was time to go for a ski. With Marty breaking trail they head up Home Run for a couple of mellow laps to celebrate their hard work getting the lodge ‘guest ready.’ The snow is deep and surfy and with the lodge in the valley below they cruise on home together. At dinner, they discuss the next day’s logistics and are in communication with the team in Pemberton. Everyone is ready and excited to welcome guests and head home.