For most skiers, a true wilderness experience-where nature is in charge and motorized conveniences don't exist-is as rare as a traffic-free drive to the slopes. But 22 easy miles from the bustle of Whistler/Blackcomb, amid a rolling 8,610-acre preserve of old-growth forest, glacier-capped peaks and serious powder, Callaghan Country Lodge stands serenely alone.
Guests can access the lodge only by snowmobile (or, in the case of serious fitness buffs, on cross-country skis). The 14-mile, 2,700-vertical-foot journey winds steadily uphill through the Lower Callaghan Valley, past an old mine and a pounding waterfall, through forests of western hemlock and yellow cedar to the Upper Callaghan Basin and the site of the lodge. The building itself-a blend of Craftsman and Alpine styling-sits perched on the shore of a pristine lake, encircled by 20 miles of groomed cross-country ski trails, rolling subalpine meadows and 8,500-foot peaks. The snowmobiles don't get turned on again until guests leave.
Lodge staff (a chef and hostess who double as caretakers) greet newcomers with slippers, hot beverages and fresh-baked treats. The 5,000-square-foot building's ground floor houses a spacious dining room and lounge area with slate and pine flooring, hemlock wainscoting and edge-grain fir trim. Wing-back armchairs command views of a crackling fireplace. Three distinctive deluxe suites and another large common area, fully outfitted with comfy couches and well more than a week's worth of books and games, occupy the second floor. Suite guests enjoy private baths, queen-sized beds, goose-down comforters and views of the surrounding glaciers. Third floor rooms feature Scandinavian-style cupboard beds and bunks, with newly built shared washrooms and baths. The lodge, in its current configuration, can accommodate 22 guests (though they ask that you leave children under 13 and pets at home).
Outdoors, ski touring tracks head toward every point of the compass. Ascending one of the many nearby peaks (with a certified guide) takes less than two hours, but the ski terrain-trees, chutes, faces and rolls-will keep you busy for days. Meanwhile-or at least until 2010, when the Lower Callaghan Valley is slated to be developed, adding three nordic stadiums and housing for 8,000-the solitude is complete. The only people you'll see are lodgemates. The only sounds you'll hear are the quiet hiss of snow beneath your skis and the whisper of the wind overhead. "The whole idea," says the lodge'sco-founder Brad Sills, "is to forget all that stuff you come here with, have some fun and reconnect with yourself and the world around you." When you're done with all that reconnecting, the Callaghan's staff will be waiting with warm smiles, a roaring fire and a hearty gourmet meal.
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