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

BC Rivers Day; Just Around The Bend

Celebrating The Province’s Naturally Flowing Waterways on September 26th

For more than four decades, British Columbians have celebrated BC Rivers Day on the fourth Sunday in September, making it the largest river appreciation event throughout Canada. The day serves to both celebrate and build awareness of our natural waterways through independently hosted events from local government, conservation organizations, recreation clubs, community groups, schools, and more. Events have included film screenings, group paddling trips, river clean-ups, and community gatherings and ceremonies.

The theme for this year’s celebration on Sunday, September 26th echoes the theme of last year: Waterways in our Community, with subthemes such as the need to maintain and restore stream connectivity as well as highlighting the link between rivers and oceans.

Our waterways are incredibly important and yet rivers and freshwater ecosystems are among the most at risk ecosystems on the planet, threatened by pollution, urbanization, industrial development, invasive species, damming, and climate change. BC Rivers Day aims to increase community awareness about our local waterways through celebration and making a difference for clean and healthy water, rivers, and communities across the province.

To learn more about BC Rivers Day, join an official event, or host your own, visit the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC.

Want more BLBCA in your life? You’ve got it!

The BLBCA is excited to announce Mountain Escapes | A Backcountry Podcast! Our host and Executive Director, Brad Harrison, connects backcountry enthusiasts with the stewards and caretakers of lodges throughout British Columbia. Mountain Escapes | A Backcountry Podcast also includes a segment aptly titled My Backcountry Story where we hear from members of the community who share their backcountry experiences.

Listen to our inaugural episode featuring a conversation with lodge owner, Jasmin Caton of Valhalla Mountain Touring located near New Denver, BC. To listen, click here to tune in on your favourite podcast platform and hit subscribe so that you never miss an episode!

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.

A Unique Opportunity

Ever wondered why every single backcountry lodge has a special feel to it? I’ve visited many of them and am trying to get to more because they are always carefully placed by people who understand a human desire for wilderness. They are remote, beautiful and welcoming and they encourage a relationship with the people we play with and the land we are privileged to visit.

Whitebark — Save The Ents

Some trees just deserve respect. We all know them. They lodge themselves in our memories like markers of special times and places.