BLBCA – A Brief History

Association of Problem Solvers

The people who own and run BC’s backcountry lodges are, by necessity, tinkerers. Far from town, operating at the whims of Mother Nature, and with infinite variables at play, they get good at coming up with creative solutions.

But even after nearly 20 years of helping with the problem solving at Golden Alpine Holidays (GAH), a trio of backcountry lodges north of Golden, B.C., Brad Harrison wasn’t ready for the doozy that landed on the industry’s plate in 2003. Following a challenging avalanche season, the insurance industry decided either not to renew, or to charge exorbitant rates, for affected insurance policies. A commercial general liability policy is a BC Government requirement needed to operate on crown(public) land. As a result, GAH and every other commercial backcountry lodge were all left wondering how they move forward.

But as is often the case, a crisis created a chance to improve.

At the time the 25 odd commercial lodges in B.C. often looked at each other as competitors. In the insurance issue Tannis Dakin, then owner/operator of Sorcerer Lodge saw an opportunity. She believed in old adages like “a rising tide lifts all boats” and “don’t waste a good crisis”.

Dakin teamed up with two Calgary insurance agents, Bill Dunlop and Angela Dunlop McKenzie, to sort out a way to recapture the much-needed liability insurance policies. Standard operating protocols were researched, created and readied to be implemented or recommended. Protocols included waiver administration, human resource procedures, risk mitigation, information sharing processes and other business practices. Insurance underwriters agreed to make liability insurance available if an association was created and members of the association agreed to follow the aforementioned and other standard operating procedures. Hence the Backcountry Lodges of B.C. Association was created in 2004. Margie Jamieson, owner/operator of Ptarmigan Tours was the association’s first president.

Six years later, Harrison and his partners sold Golden Alpine Holidays and he became the Executive Director of the BLBCA, a position he still holds. His past experience helped, given the trials and tribulations of operating GAH. And by not owning a lodge anymore, he was in an impartial position, both in actuality and perceptively.

“I was well situated to help operators use the backcountry in an appropriate and responsible way,” he says. It’s a mission he continues to pursue.

The BLBCA gradually matured, members saw more value in working together. At annual meetings they would share their experiences and learn from each other. Learnings like effective solar panels, the best composting toilet, preferred water treatment systems were routinely shared. We realized if we help each other, everybody gains, says Harrison. 

Soon, the BLBCA started working with the BC Provincial Government in earnest and introduced an association-wide marketing program, with the integral help of Destination BC. Although themes of the marketing program have varied over the years, the overarching tenets to Regenerate, Reconnect and Recreate Responsibly have remained.

Harrison and the BLBCA are very focused on informing listeners on the value of wild places. The Wilderness Tourism Association of B.C. estimates the economic impact of B.C.’s adventure tourism industry at $2-billion, Value of Adventure Tourism. Although difficult to quantify, the socio-economic value to Rural BC is significant. Health benefits of time spent in nature are well-documented, Canadian doctors can even prescribe it, Announcing a New Collaboration between PaRx and Parks Canada.

Now with outdoor recreation booming and government budgets stretched thin, Harrison thinks the BLBCA can play a role in enhancing and expanding a culture of stewardship. The lodges are perfectly positioned to support the BC Gov’t with citizen science data on species-at-risk, like Whitebark Pine, Wolverine, amongst others. And they hope to help new outdoor users learn the art of treading lightly, Backcountry Trail use is Booming.

The BLBCA hopes to help inform backcountry users with blog posts like these, Whitebark Pine – Save the Ents, The Ultimate Winter Specialist and Responsible Recreation in the Backcountry.

“A lot of new backcountry users aren’t yet sure how to treat Mother Nature with respect,” he says. “Lodge owners interact with a lot of backcountry users. It’s a perfect interface and opportunity for them to inform and influence backcountry users.”

And solve one more problem.

Written by Ryan Stuart

The Rewind

Welcome to our series, “The Rewind”, where we share some of our older, most-loved community content–because great stories deserve a second telling! In our latest edition of The Rewind, we’re kicking it back to the importance of recreating responsibly, a blog originally posted in April, 2021. We hope this is helpful as you head out into BC’s amazing backcountry.

5 Tips for Your Safety and Well-Being – Along with the Environment’s

Those of us who have had the good fortune to enjoy adventures in the backcountry know what it’s like to take in the unspoiled environment and scenery. It’s important to recognize and understand the impact that our recreation can have on the backcountry environment and be mindful of how to recreate responsibly, so we can minimize the effects of our use. 

It’s on all of us to ensure that the backcountry remains as unspoiled as possible, and so we’ve rounded up five tips to help you recreate responsibly in the backcountry.

Prepare and Trip Plan

Aside from having and sharing your trip plan with a responsible family member or friend, it’s also integral to have the necessary equipment required for the type of trip you’re embarking upon: adequate clothing, food and water, and a first aid kit, along with rescue equipment, such as a shovel, beacon, and probe if you’re recreating in the winter. Safety trainings, such as First Aid and Avalanche Training, are invaluable and chances are the more time you spend in the backcountry, the more likely you will be required to implement what you’ve learned in these trainings in a real-life scenario. For more tips on preparing for your next outdoor activity, head over to AdventureSmart.

Pack It In, Pack It Out

Help keep the backcountry clean and litter-free, by bringing anything that you brought into the backcountry, back out with you as you go and dispose of all waste properly. And yes, that does include human waste – especially in the winter-time. We like to go one-step beyond that to collect garbage along the way, so we can leave the land better than we found it.

Minimize The Impact

Where you trek, camp, and light campfires is certainly something to be mindful of when recreating in the backcountry. Trek and set up camp on durable surfaces, like gravel, deep snow, trails, dry grass, bare soil. Build and maintain low impact campfires by managing the size of the fire and impact on the surrounding area. Be sure to check for fire bans in the area before setting out – you can check BC Wildfire Service for more information – and have an understanding of fire safety measures.

Respect Wildlife

If you’re heading into the backcountry, it’s likely you’ll encounter wildlife; perhaps wildlife viewing is even the reason you’re out there. Always give proper distance to animals in the area and don’t approach or follow. Ensure your food and garbage is stored properly and do not feed them. Finally, if you’re hiking with a dog, ensure that you have the dog under your control at all times, to avoid it chasing or harassing the wildlife.   

Leave Behind Whatever You Find

Nature is full of beauty and intrigue and it can be tempting to want to take a piece of it home with you, but it’s important to leave shells, rocks, flowers, plants, and other natural objects where you find them. When it comes to flora and fauna, avoid introducing or transporting non-native species, which can have a negative impact on the local environment.

How do you recreate responsibly in the backcountry?

Tell us in 100 words and/or share your photos with us be entered to win one of three backcountry getaways to a BLBCA lodge. Enter the #myBCbackcountry Through Your Lens Photo Contest now through April 19th.

A Prescription for Nature

News flash: Getting outside is good for our health and ultimately good for the planet.

British Columbia doctors can now prescribe a national park pass to patients facing physical or mental health issues. The program is being spearhead by PaRx, a nature prescription program led by Vancouver family physician Dr. Melissa Lem. Through a partnership with Parks Canada, health-care professionals registered with PaRx can provide a free annual Parks Canada Discovery Pass to patients.

“We have a standard recommendation, based on the latest research, that patients spend at least two hours a week in nature and at least 20 minutes each time,” said Dr Lem in a recent Global News story. “So, this is all about breaking down those barriers to access to nature.”

You’d think in a country like Canada outdoor activity would be a fact of life for everybody. But it’s not. For some people, there’s a financial barrier. Others might have been raised in a family that considered a trip to the shopping mall a form of recreation. It could also be a function of too much time in front of a gaming console or other electronic device. Many patients would rather walk out of the doctor’s office with a prescription for drugs rather than make any substantive lifestyle changes. And more than a few physicians have been happy to oblige this dependence on pharmaceuticals like, for example, Ritalin, widely prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD.)

That’s why this program is a positive step forward in terms of how we view health care and value time in the outdoors. Despite the fact that it applies to only national parks, seven of which are in BC, it sends an important message. 

There’s a growing body of research showing how time in nature can reduce the onset of ailments like diabetes and heart disease, as well as benefits for people suffering form depression and ADHD. For example, a 2008 ADHD study conducted by the University of Illinois found that a 20-minute walk in a park can improve concentration scores in kids suffering from this condition. A regular stroll in the woods can also reduce levels of anxiety. 

This is old news in Japan where doctors have been prescribing time outdoors for decades. In 1982 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries coined the term shinrin-yoku, which means literally “forest bathing.” It has since spawned a global forest bathing movement. There are even shinrin-yoku guides. Forest bathing, despite how it sounds, is far from a flakey, new age fad. There’s real science behind it. Trees – especially evergreens like pine, cedar and spruce – release phytoncides, natural oils with anti-fungal and anti-bacteria properties. Phytoncides linger in the air. When we breath them in, we can receive a host of health benefits. A study of forest bathing published in a 2016 edition of the journal, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that a walk in the woods can result in reduced pulse rates, anxiety, depression, and fatigue, among other benefits. 

Research into the other health benefits of getting outside, such as greater creativity and sharper cognition, is still not well understood. But if you’re like me, you’ve experienced ah ha moments of clarity while doing something outside. That’s no accident. 

 It’s not exactly a revelation that exercising in the outdoors is good for you. Who doesn’t experience an overall sense of well being after a hike, ski tour, or rambling ascent up an alpine ridge?

There are considerable social benefits as well. Children and adults who spend time outdoors are more likely to become champions for conservation and environmental stewardship, according to a recent study from the University of Plymouth. The planet needs people like that more than ever. 

So, bravo to the National Park prescription program – it’s a small but significant step.

The Rewind: The Whitebark Pine – Save The Ents

Welcome to our new series, “The Rewind”, where we’ll be sharing some of our older, most-loved community content–because great stories deserve a second telling! To kick it off, we’ve combed through the archives to reshare the incredible story of the endangered whitebark pine, written by Tannis Dakin of Sorcerer Lodge. We hope you enjoy!

Some trees just deserve respect. We all know them. They lodge themselves in our memories like markers of special times and places. These old giant moss covered characters have been standing watch for hundreds of years providing shelter, food and protection for so many generations and types of animals and plants that it’s difficult to really grasp their impact on our psyche and our world. It’s big.

BLBCA at the BMFF

The BLBCA is proud to sponsor the best “Mountain Short Film” award at this year’s virtual Banff Mountain Film Festival. We hope you get a chance to watch some of the films.

Don’t forget to enter, 3 groups of prizes that are perfect to set you up for the winter. Tickets are limited, you have an excellent chance to win and includes a free BLBCA Affiliate Membership.

The BLBCA is a member-directed group of independantly-owned lodge operations, located throughout the major mountain ranges of British Columbia, Canada. Due to their remoteness, lodge access is mechanized in the winter (mostly by helicopter). In the summer several lodges are accessible by hiking. Once at the lodge, all activities are non-mechanized, falling in line with our commitment to leave as small a footprint as possible. All lodges are located in mountainous regions of British Columbia, usually situated at or above treeline in what is generally referred to as the “alpine”.

Your British Columbia backcountry adventure begins with us. Visit a BLBCA lodge, #unpluginBC, revel in your adventure tourism experience. Enjoy your chance to explore some of the world’s most remote, pristine locations feeling safe and comfortable.

NASCAR Champion Becomes Lodge Owner

BLBCA member lodge owners come from many walks of life. I have been in the adventure tourism business most of my life and know all of our 32 owners pretty well. Along with his wife Carrie, Cole Pearn is the newish owner of Golden Alpine Holidays, a system of 4 backcountry lodges located in the Esplanade Range of the Selkirk Mtns, NW of Golden, BC.

Cole took a bit of a unique path on his way to being a backcountry lodge owner. He was a decorated NASCAR champion when he abruptly retired at the end of the last full season and decided to buy the GAH business. I am confident in saying that I don’t know any other lodge owners that have followed the exact journey that Cole has. Welcome to our family Carrie and Cole.

Our friends at Pique Newsmagazine recently published an article highlighting Cole’s racing career. Give it a read if you have a moment, NASCAR champion Pearn up to speed with Daly at Indy 500.

Explore BLBCA Lodges….later

We, the BLBCA members, can’t wait to get off our computers, phones and get back into the mountains, where we are most at home.  We would love to have you join us again and we are anxiously waiting and hoping the Covid-19 pandemic will subside as soon as possible

But, as Destination BC – has suggested, #exploreBC…later. We are readying to re-open as soon as it is safe to do so. And, we are  keen to once again have you escape the crowds, #unpluginBC , and enjoy your backcountry adventure at a BLBCA-member lodge.

The world will undoubtedly be different once we emerge from this crisis. BLBCA members will be at the forefront and doing our best to adapt to the new “normal”. We will do everything we can to make you feel confident and comfortable about visiting our facilities once it is appropriate to do so.

Take good care,

Brad Harrison, BLBCA Executive Director

BLBCA Welcomes Tyax Adventures

The BLBCA is pleased to welcome Tyax Adventures as the newest full member to our association. Tyax Adventures is located in the heart of British Columbia wilderness, specifically in the unique landscape of the South Chilcotin Mountain Range.

The operation recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, and is operated by Dale and Jane Douglas. Their vision has created a world class destination using historical trail network from the gold-rush era and the First Nations peoples. They operate 5 backcountry camps, supported by a supply chain of tried and true horseback packing and seasoned wranglers, who keep our camps stocked with necessities and luxuries for our backcountry guests.

Within the tenure and operating areas, their guests enjoy multi-day backcountry adventures, under their own steam; while being guided and fed by Tyax’s handpicked team. Tyax operates mainly in the summer months, catering to mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners. Access to routes near remote lakes is either by non-mechanized means, or by a float plane drop in a De Havilland Beaver. Guests are whisked into the backcountry and enjoy comfortable accommodation while traveling back to civilization. As the principal commercial operator in the region, Tyax Adventures is committed to working with local stakeholders; maintaining trails and supporting the pristine backcountry.

In the winter months they rent their Eldorado Cabin, which supports small group, self-catered/guided ski touring for week-long pristine backcountry skiing in the Southern Chilcotin Mountains. If you are interested, they have one prime vacancy, from February 21st-28th, 2020. Contact Tyax Adventure for info.

We are two decades into Tyax Adventures (time flies!), and it is still such great reward to be able to share this magnificent environment with our guests, both the returning ones, ( & now their kids), as well as the new ones who discover us for the first time!” says owner/operator Dale Douglas

 

BLBCA Lodge Catches the Eye of 57 Hours

Backcountry Skiing at Burnie Glacier, Northern British Columbia | 57hours

Review by Lee Lau – Vancouver-based backcountry skier, mountain biker and writer. Revelstoke, Whistler, Rogers Pass, the Selkirks, the Rockies. Mention Canadian ski destinations and the eyes of powder hounds glaze over and their minds travel to these hallowed lands, these meccas.

Assiniboine Lodge – Jewel – Video

Built in 1928, Assiniboine Lodge is North America’s first backcountry ski lodge. It is located in Mt. Assiniboine Park. In 2010 BC Parks, working with the current lodge operators Andre Renner and Claude Duchesne, initiated an extensive restoration and stabilization project on Assiniboine Lodge. Achieving the project goal of maintaining the lodge’s historical significance and character, it remains a jewel in this magnificent part of the Canadian Rockies.

A Peek at Purcell

It was another gorgeous summer at Purcell Mountain Lodge, filled with long hikes and stunning backcountry. There’s over 3,000 acres of rolling alpine meadows, endless fields of wildflowers and countless peaks and ridges, set against a backdrop of tumbling glaciers and alpine vistas.

Take a peek at the past summer season

Summer Days at VMT

It was a beauty-filled summer in the backcountry at Valhalla Mountain Touring.

In summer, guests can stroll on paths and trails to access flower filled ridges with big mountain views, peaks and alpine lakes. It’s perfect for hikers, photographers, wildlife and wildflower viewing. 

Hiking the Summer Away

Summer is always a beautiful time of year at Selkirk Mountain Experience.

Featuring amazing hikes, wildlife, swimming, beautiful sunsets and more, there’s something for everyone.

Views From Talus Lodge

The fine folks at Talus Lodge have been busy this spring and summer.

It’s Wildflower Season

Wildflowers are in full bloom at Sorcerer Lodge!

Spectacular Summer So Far

Summer 2015 has been spectacular so far at Canadian Adventure Company’s Mallard Mountain Lodge. The scenery has been dazzling for guests.

Summer at Mistaya Lodge

A few beautiful images of the recent summertime at Mistaya Lodge.