Two feet and a heartbeat, goes the saying. With the growing interest in self-propelled recreation, we rundown four of Canada’s best stay and play lodges, as featured in the 2015-16 edition of the Mountain Life Annual.
Winner of a 2012 Ontario Tourism Award for sustainable tourism, this small, friendly lodge with dedicated microhydro sits on the southern border of venerable Algonquin Provincial Park. Summer and fall activities for wilderness enthusiasts are obvious in this hiking and paddling paradise, but there’s also plenty to do and see in winter—wildlife included. One of the largest single trail systems in Southern Ontario includes over 40 km of groomed trackset and wilderness trails for cross-country skiing, dog-sledding, and snowshoeing. A perfect base from which to experience the brumal charms of Algonquin Park and its eastern Canadian sub-boreal forest. algonquinecolodge.com
ARCTIC WATCH WILDERNESS LODGE
This out-there Nunavut resort, located 800 km north of the Arctic Circle on Somerset Island, has isolation, uniqueness and hospitality going for it. A world-class beluga whale observation and research site, this brainchild of famed polar explorer Richard Weber also offers hiking, kayaking, and guided Arctic safaris with muskox, polar bears and more—a wildlife photography mother lode. You don’t have to be an explorer to experience the vast and incredibly beautiful Arctic tundra, but it just might turn you into one. Furthermore, guests feast on the same fresh, chef-prepared five-star cuisine you’ll find in the best urban restaurants. arcticwatch.ca
A leisurely but stunning 3-hour ski tour from Alberta’s Lake Louise ski resort, historic Skoki Lodge radiates the kind of authenticity that inspires both exploration and homage. Buried in a valley beneath majestic peaks, arriving at the snow-covered log structure—the first facility built specifically to cater to ski-tourists in North America—feels like going back in time, the interior virtually unchanged from the day it opened in 1931: wooden skis and snowshoes adorn a large stone fireplace and the aromas of fresh bread and soup stir the air. Accommodating up to 22, Skoki is a region-defining must-visit for backcountry aficionados. skoki.com
LAKE O’HARA LODGE
Eleven kilometres from the nearest road and completely off the grid doesn’t necessarily mean the end of civilization. This revered backcountry hiking and skiing lodge in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park has been showcasing the heart of the Canadian Rockies to solitude seekers since 1926. Lakeside cabins with claw-foot bathtubs, goose-down comforters and food as over the top as the scenery greet hikers after a day spent trekking around alpine lakes, through meadows, and beneath spectacular peaks. In autumn, the area’s golden larch forests are the stuff of painters’ and photographers’ dreams. lakeohara.com