Island Lake Lodge, looking towards the Lizard Range. Submitted/Mike McPhee

Island Lake Lodge, looking towards the Lizard Range. Submitted/Mike McPhee

Diamond of the Elk Valley turns 30

Island Lake Lodge, located only 14 km from Fernie, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

By James Snell – reporter@thefreepress.ca

Island Lake Lodge, located only 14 km from Fernie, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. The 26 room lodge features world class cat skiing in winter, hiking and biking in the summer and food year-round.

The 7000-acre mountainscape property could easily be a backdrop for Lord of The Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia. Vast stands of old-growth cedar cover the area, thriving in a coastal-like microclimate populated by grizzly and black bear, moose, elk, deer, cutthroat trout, and a multitude of bird species. The bush is thick and green.

The mountain air is sweet as it moves over the Lizard Range, which reaches into the sky like a congregation of hooded monks. The smell is equal to the view. Standing next to Island Lake at night lifts you into unencumbered starlight that has the power to heal. In bad weather, patrons move inside to experience the best of British Columbia hospitality.

There’s fine dining in two beautiful restaurants supervised by Executive Chef Keith Farkas, who “believes there should be a strong connection between plate, planet, people and culture, which is reflected in the ingredients we forage around the lodge, or purchase from local farmers in Fernie and the Elk Valley.”

There’s also a spa that’s inspired by the Rocky Mountain landscape. It features six treatment rooms, a retail boutique, a serene relaxation room and outdoor sauna that can transform the spirit.

All this begs a question. Why don’t more locals visit the lodge? The thriving business employs 80 people in summer, 90 in winter, and 20 year round, making it one of Fernie’s top employers. Island Lake Lodge won the B.C. Employees First Award in 2018.

Other than avalanche areas and ski areas, the company has made its land open to the public. They take land stewardship seriously, with 92 per cent of the property being set aside as a nature reserve. Situated next to Mount Fernie Provincial Park, there are over 100 km of trails. Island Lake Lodge also contributes hundreds of hours of volunteer time in the community. They support the Emily Brydon Foundation, Angel Flights, and many other charities.

“We love partnering with local businesses,” says Mike McPhee, Director of Sales and Marketing at Island Lake Lodge. “That’s a pretty big part of our philosophy. It’s not just shopping locally, but to also partner with local makers of soap and essential oils, Fernie Brewing, and flower companies. We’ve developed products with a lot of local companies. We have our own branded beer, Papa Bear Pilsner.”

McPhee embodies the spirit of Island Lake lodge. The father of two is a professional grade photographer, snowboarder, and fly fisherman.

“We’ve become a mecca for hiking in the region,” he explains. “We’ve become quite well known for the food, the hiking, our lodging, and mountain biking. It’s like a park in a sense, a lot of people come to see the national park quality views.”

McPhee adds, “We get a lot of international visitors that come down the Crowsnest Highway, and we get a fair number of Americans as well.”

Island Lake Lodge CEO, Doug Feely, says “The other thing about summer that’d we’d like to speak to is the wedding business. It’s an amazing place to get married. It’s a great venue. The food is great, and the support system is excellent.”

The lodge receives approximately 45 feet of annual snowfall. So much snow that guests are transported from the lower parking lot, to the lodge, in one of Island Lake’s shiny red snowcats.

“We’ve been cat skiing for 30 years, and we’ve become famous for it,” McPhee explains. “All through the 90s we were the media mecca for the entire ski industry. Island Lake was in magazines and movies just as much as some of the larger ski resorts in the world, a significant contributor to Fernie’s early recognition in the industry, and as a destination in its own right.”

Island Lake Lodge encapsulates everything that makes the Elk Valley great. It remains one of the world’s great wilderness destinations. Check it out. Stay for a week, month, overnight, or for the day. You’ll leave recharged – ready to tackle life outside paradise.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Island Lake has national park quality views. Submitted/Mike McPhee

Island Lake has national park quality views. Submitted/Mike McPhee

Just Posted

Branden Macnaughton, Lane Ogden, Kourtney Holberton, and Kally Campbell skate along Sparwood’s new skating trail. (Soranne Floarea/ The Free Press)
Lace up those skates: District of Sparwood opens public skating trail

The 400 metre long loop is located next to the Recreation and Leisure Centre

Mike Delich kneels at the start of the Olympic Downhill in 2006. (Photo Contributed)
Fernie local Mike Delich receives CSA’s Dee Read Memorial Award

The award recognizes Delich’s contributions to snowsports as a FIS Technical Delegate

The Cranbrook Climate Hub will be hosting a webinar this coming Friday (January 29) that focuses on sustainable jobs. (Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay)
Cranbrook Climate Hub to host webinar on sustainable jobs

Bruce Wilson, former General Manager for Shell, will speak on ‘looking beyond Keysone XL’

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin makes preparations at Toronto’s mass vaccination clinic, Jan. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
3 deaths, 234 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

One death connected to outbreak at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital, where 20 patients and 28 staff have tested positive

Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran in his Creston home. Hanging on the wall behind him is a logo of Kachin’s Manaw festival. Photo: Aaron Hemens
From Myanmar to Creston: The story of a refugee

In October 2007, Zaudanawng “Jay-Dan” Maran and his friends encountered a woman being sexually assaulted by two Myanmar soldiers.

Crews with Discovery Channel film as an Aggressive Towing driver moves a Grumman S2F Tracker aircraft around a 90-degree turn from its compound and onto the road on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021. It was the “most difficult” part of the move for the airplane, one organizer said. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: Vintage military plane gets towed from Chilliwack to Greater Victoria

Grumman CP-121 Tracker’s eventual home the British Columbia Aviation Museum on Vancouver Island

The shirts sell for $45, with 30 per cent of proceeds from each sale going to Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver. (Madame Premier/Sarah Elder-Chamanara)
Canadian company launches ‘hysterical’ T-Shirt to combat health officials’ use of word

A partnership with Tamara Taggart will see women broadcast the word on a T-shirt or tote bag

Energy consultant Michèle Deluca and city building inspector Sam Ellison are researching how to account for embodied carbon when calculating a new building’s carbon footprint. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Nelson researches climate impact of embodied carbon in new buildings

Embodied carbon is the footprint of the manufacture and transport of building materials

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

ICBC has seen savings on crash and injury claims in the COVID-19 pandemic, with traffic on B.C. roads reduced. (Penticton Western News)
ICBC opens online calculator for rate savings starting in May

Bypassing courts expected to save 20% on average

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
16% boom predicted for B.C. real estate sales in 2021: experts

Along with sales, the average price of homes is also predicted to rise, by nearly 8 percent

FILE – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau delivers his opening remarks at a news conference outside Rideau cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, January 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine CEO ‘very, very clear’ that Canada’s contracts will be honoured: Trudeau

Trudeau says he spoke to Moderna CEO on the morning of Jan. 26

Brad Windsor has been an advocate for years to get sidewalks installed along Milburn Drive in Colwood, but to no avail. He wants city council to commit to making Milburn a priority lane for sidewalk construction in the future. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
VIDEO: Dramatic crash caught on B.C. home security camera

Angry residents say video highlights need for sidewalks in B.C. residential neighbourhood

An independent review is underway at the Royal BC Museum after employees called out systemic, individual racism at the institution. (Twitter/RBCM)
Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment

Formal investigation, survey and training launched at museum

Most Read