This January, the Highline team and our wild gang of writers, photographers, and creatives set out on an adventure to Sundance Lodge for our annual creative retreat. Well-known for it’s horseback trips in the summer, it’s a bit of a local’s secret that this beauty transforms into a super cozy, laid-back lodge perfect for an accessible winter getaway as well.
The lodge is an easy 11km ski or snowshoe (it’s groomed, so you could even walk it if there’s not too much fresh snow) from the Healy Creek parking lot just west of Banff. You can also approach from the Cave and Basin parking lot, which adds about 5km to your trip but makes the tour walkable from your back door if you’re a Banff local.
The proximity and accessibility made this an ideal spot for everyone in our group of 16 to be able to attend. As huts go, it doesn’t get much closer to home than this, and yet thanks to that toasty lodge lifestyle and lack of inter-web connection it was easy to completely unplug from “real life” and dig in to our creative work for Highline over the next couple of days.
Welcoming us as we arrived in small groups was Stephen Roach, the head chef and manager of the lodge. His east-coast sense of humour and prowess in a small but stacked kitchen helped take a load off and allowed us to be able to focus on our creative work and not have to worry about a thing in the food and lodging department.
The food throughout the weekend was fantastic and ranged from bison steaks to chocolate cake and homemade cinnamon buns. Despite being delicious, the meals were light in comparison to some other lodges’ fare and we were thankful that we didn’t feel like we’d put on the usual “hut trip fiver” over the weekend.
After a fantastic sleep in some of the most comfortable backcountry beds we’ve ever tested, most of Saturday was spent together as a group, mulling over ideas, drinking wine, cozying up by the fire, and sharing knowledge and ideas about challenges common to freelancers and creatives working here in the Rockies.
The creative afternoon was followed by a celebratory birthday dinner for two members of our team, Camara and Charlotte. Stephen baked a chocolate cake for us and allowed us to decorate the lodge to make it super special for the girls. It was one of those perfect backcountry evenings that you can bet will be burned into your memory for seasons to come.
Enough snow came down overnight to dust the trails and provide fresh tracks for our ski home the next day.
After taking a few team shots to remember the trip by, we headed out home. No one could believe it was time to go already. The lodge already felt like home.
Since there is some minimal elevation gain on the ski in to the lodge, the ski out is a whole lot faster and more fun. Rippin’ over mini-moguls on cross country skis is a challenge that we would happily face again.
Thanks to the lodge staff and to all of the contributors for bringing their A-game to this weekend. We loves ya, mountain people.