Calgarians are privileged to be able to head into the mountains for a day trip, but there’s undeniably something magical about waking up in the shadow of the Rockies. The hospitality scene in the regional mountain areas is constantly changing and new efforts are always made to provide spaces for relaxation that reflect the spirit of the natural environment. The past two years have seen plenty of action – here’s a look at what’s new and noteworthy out there.
Basecamp expands its alpine empire
When entrepreneur (and street Top 40 Under 40 Class of 2019 alum) Sky McLean opened their first fleet of hotels under the Basecamp Resorts banner, they felt like a revelation. McLean’s original properties in Canmore – the apartment-focused Lamphouse Hotel, Basecamp Lodge and Basecamp Resorts Canmore – were designed with modern Airbnb-inspired trends and budget-conscious pricing in mind (by Bow Valley standards) . After a pandemic pause, Basecamp has seen dramatic expansion, with a mix of new construction and the acquisition and renovation of older hotels requiring some TLC in the corridor stretching from Canmore to Revelstoke.
In 2020, McLean opened Basecamp Suites Canmore, a collection of 11 apartment-style units in downtown Canmore, ranging in size from a studio to three bedrooms; as well as a Basecamp Resorts property in Revelstoke. She has since expanded by acquiring a 17-bedroom lodge in Golden, BC, dubbed Basecamp Lodge Golden, and building 40 additional townhouses on the property. McLean also purchased the former Days Inn by Wyndham Canmore, renovating it and renaming it Northwinds Hotel.
Perhaps most notable is McLean’s purchase earlier this year of Baker Creek Mountain Resort in Lake Louise. She was wise in leaving the newly renovated 16-room, 19-cabin lodge almost exclusively as is, simply renaming it Baker Creek by Basecamp. The bulk of the work will come with rebuilding the resort’s restaurant, which burned down in 2021. Beyond that, McLean is opening its first hotel in downtown Banff this fall, a set of 21 Basecamp suites at Cascade Plaza on the Banff Ave.
“It’s a multi-faceted strategy, but it’s helped us gain ground,” says McLean. “We want to have as many options as possible within our brand – traditional hotel rooms and suite-style rooms – so we can offer flexibility to our customers.”
Jasper is a major trek from Calgary and Edmonton, but this distance gives the national park and town a laid-back, family-friendly atmosphere. Jasper’s relative remoteness has also meant that accommodations tend to be more stagnant than those in flashier Banff and Canmore. But things have been moving in Jasper lately, as evidenced by the development of the Forest Park Hotel, the first new hotel built in Jasper since 1983.
Forest Park is the work of growing global tourism brand Pursuit, whose Banff Jasper Collection portfolio of properties and experiences includes Banff’s Mount Royal Hotel, Banff Gondola, Columbia Icefield Adventure and Skywalk, as well as boat cruises on Lakes Minnewanka and Maligne. Pursuit has made significant investments in Jasper in recent years, acquiring properties like Pyramid Lake Resort and the Crimson Hotel, as well as Pocahontas Cabins, which were updated and renamed Miette Mountain Cabins earlier this year. The Forest Park Hotel is located on the outskirts of the town of Jasper, in addition to the former Sawridge Inn and Conference Center. Expect modern rooms with expanded kitchenettes and patios, and a modern-looking palette with design accents that pay homage to the surrounding forest.
A few smaller hotels in Jasper have also been refreshed: Bear Hill Lodge has renovated its deluxe rooms and added two new upscale Homestead cabins, complete with gas fireplaces and kitchenettes, that can sleep up to six adults. The Mount Robson Inn has also undergone a major renovation, revamping 29 of its double rooms.
And finally, Jasper’s crown jewel of hotels, the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge celebrates its 100th anniversary this year with a $1.4 million renovation on the shores of Lac Beauvert, installing accessible waterfront trails and patios on some of the lodges. junior suites of the property. The resort is also bringing back its popular flagship events this year, including Christmas in November, which has been on hiatus throughout the pandemic.
The position changes hands
Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts (CRMR), the company behind Buffalo Mountain Lodge in Banff, Deer Lodge near Lake Louise and Emerald Lake Lodge in Yoho National Park, recently acquired another iconic mountain property, The Post Hotel and Spa at Lake Louise Village. After being run for decades by brothers George and André Schwarz, another pair of brothers, Larkin and Ryan O’Connor of CRMR, have taken over running the hotel. As savvy hoteliers, the new management has made no notable changes to the already idyllic Post, working behind the scenes to ensure the business keeps the hotel’s 80-year heritage intact.
The CRMR team has also been busy with other projects: last year they completely redesigned the lobby of Buffalo Mountain Lodge and redesigned the restaurant in the main building as The Prow, a brighter and more relaxed mountain cuisine. Big changes are also coming for Deer Lodge, which is closing this fall for a multi-year redevelopment that will include a new building housing all-new guest rooms, new dining concepts, and the addition of a conference room and spa. full-service, while preserving the heritage aspects of the beloved property.
Catering news at the mountain hotel
Rocky Mountain hotels often include a restaurant element, if only because guests don’t want to leave the comfort of their lodge-like accommodations once they’ve settled in for the night. Pursuit opened two new restaurants last summer, including one at the Mount Royal Hotel in the heart of Banff. Replacing a Tony Roma’s, the concept for the new Brazen Dining Room is inspired by the colorful characters of Banff’s formative years. The company’s other new restaurant is Terra, a contemporary farm-to-table restaurant at Crimson in downtown Jasper.
There’s also been a culinary shake-up at the Fairmont Banff Springs. Following the departure of the hotel’s executive chef, Robert Ash, earlier this year, new chef, Atticus Garant, now oversees the grand hotel’s kitchens. Garant has worked with Fairmont hotels for the past 12 and a half years – between this and other restaurant gigs, he has worked in a total of 17 countries around the world. Garant oversees the Springs’ extensive culinary program, which includes restaurants like 1888 Chop House and The Vermillion Room, as well as afternoon tea, private dining experiences, and room service.
More news about mountain hotels
The Fairmont Banff Springs is halfway through a $35 million renovation that began in January. Look for redesigns of the Royal Deluxe Suite atop the castle’s iconic turret, as well as Fairmont Gold Rooms and other one- and two-bedroom suites and terrace suites.
Banff has also seen a few new hotel openings in the past two years: The boutique Dorothy Motel, named after mountain trailblazer Dorothy Carleton, opened in March 2021. The Peaks Hotel and Suites also opened its doors to Banff in early 2021, just one block from Banff Ave. And, although not new, the Banff Aspen Lodge is now “like new”, having recently completed renovations to its guest rooms and main lobby.
Fernie is also experiencing a mini-boom in hotel renovations. The Fernie Fox Hotel recently received a 4 Green Key rating with Green Key Global, thanks to the installation of one of the largest solar panel structures on a commercial building in British Columbia. The historic Royal Hotel in the mountain town is also undergoing a huge renovation, which should be finished by the end of the year, and the rooms at Park Place Lodge have also undergone extensive renovations.