Getting to Skoki Lodge is not easy, but the trip is reward in itself

The ski into Skoki Lodge is not for cross-country beginners. The 14-km trail winds its way up and down two steep mountain passes in the backcountry of Banff National Park and takes about five hours for someone who skis at an intermediate level.

The ski up to Deception Pass at 2

The ski up to Deception Pass at 2

The ski into Skoki Lodge is not for cross-country beginners. The 14-km trail winds its way up and down two steep mountain passes in the backcountry of Banff National Park and takes about five hours for someone who skis at an intermediate level. It’s a hard slog in spots, but the views from the top of the passes are spectacular and skiers know that at the end of the trail they can look forward to a gourmet meal and an overnight stay in a registered national historic site.

In February on Family Day weekend, 10 members of the Parkland Cross Country Ski Club set off from the Lake Louise Ski Hill area to spend the long weekend at Skoki Lodge.

“Skoki was a trip of a lifetime for me,” said Marilyn Strilchuk, group leader. “The scenery is amazing and staying in the lodge is really an experience because it’s where some of the pioneering backcountry skiers have been.”

On the ski in, the group was able to bypass the first three km of the trail by arranging a vehicle pickup for them and their gear. Whenever you are skiing in the backcountry, you need a significant amount of safety equipment and the nice thing about travelling in a large group was the fact that they could spread the gear out between all the skiers.

“Our club has a safety policy for backcountry skiing and, among other things, all skiers must wear avalanche beacons, you have to have shovels, a good first-aid kit, repair kit and supplies in case you get lost and don’t make it to your final destination when planned,” said Strilchuk.

“Backcountry skiers are more aware than ever before of the dangers of the sport but if you take proper precautions, the backcountry can be enjoyed safely.”

The group was fortunate to enjoy great weather for the entire weekend. Skiing in was a pleasure with great views and challenging skiing. They had to pull out their skins to climb Boulder Pass and Deception Pass.

“Deception Pass is aptly named,” said Strilchuk. “You think you’re almost at the top and then you realize you’re not even halfway there. It’s a tough ski but when you finally get to the top, the 360-degree view is amazing. It’s one of the most beautiful spots I have ever seen.”

After a long downhill ski past Deception Pass, with some tricky places, they arrived at the lodge at about 4:30 p.m. and were greeted with hot soup, fresh bread and herbal tea. Later that evening, they enjoyed a backcountry gourmet meal by candlelight and relaxed in the lodge.

The lodge is rustic — there is no television or radio and the bathrooms are outdoors — but that is part of the appeal of Skoki.

“I found the history of the lodge fascinating,” said Strilchuk. “I really enjoyed looking at the historic photos and antique wooden skis and beaver skins on display. I also found reading the copy of the lodge register from the 1930s interesting.”

The next day, the group split up and had the choice of skiing around Red Deer Lake or the more challenging Skoki Mountain Trail.

“Skoki Lodge sits in the middle of five mountain valleys and is surrounded by mountains and snow, so there are many wonderful ski trails to explore once you get there,” Strilchuk explained.

“The lodge puts out supplies so you can make your own lunch and then you can get out and enjoy the scenery. We spent about five hours skiing and then just enjoyed relaxing at the lodge.”

The group was fortunate to enjoy a light dusting of fresh snow for their return trip to Lake Louise and the ski out from Skoki went even better than the trip in. They all agreed that Skoki Lodge is a special place that is worth the visit — in summer or winter.

If you go:

• Skoki Lodge can be accessed on skis or snowshoes during the winter season (which often lasts until late April) and by hiking trails in the summer months. Regardless of the season, the trail is roughly 14 km each way and an individual must be fit to make the trek. Skoki is also a registered national historic site. Accommodations are rustic (toilets are outdoors and there are no showers), but the food is a cut above — actually classified as backcountry gourmet.

• Rates for Skoki Lodge start at $109 per person per night, including meals. If you plan to visit over a weekend, you usually need to make a reservation months in advance. For more information, visit or call 1-877-956-8473.

• You can find a list of suggested supplies for skiers on the Skoki Lodge website. The list includes such items as light backcountry metal-edged skis and climbing skins, which are vital for the ski in. If you don’t own the suggested equipment, it can be rented from the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre (

• The Parkland Cross Country Ski Club organizes ski outings throughout the season. Membership in the club is $25 per year for adults and $15 for children and students. To find out more about the club, visit their website at: or phone club president Mike Spencer at 403-887-5859.

• Recommended reading for backcountry skiers: Ski Trails in the Canadian Rockies 3rd Edition, by Chic Scott.

Debbie Olsen is a Lacombe-based freelance writer. If you have a travel story you would like to share or know someone with an interesting travel story who we might interview, please email: or write to: Debbie Olsen, c/o Red Deer Advocate, 2950 Bremner Ave., Red Deer, Alta., T4R 1M9.

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

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
Most unvaccinated Canadians uncomfortable with AstraZeneca vaccine: survey

Just 41 per cent of Canadians who aren’t vaccinated, but intend to… Continue reading

Advocate file photo
Red Deer County approves winery

Winery proposed for rural property northwest of Innisfail

Sharis Carr, a nurse at the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Service Center in Clarksdale, Miss., holds a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine that was administered to seniors, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. A second COVID-19 vaccine is being investigated for possible links to blood clots, though the syndrome appears to be extremely rare. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rogelio V. Solis
Canada receives report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

OTTAWA — A Quebec woman is the first in Canada to develop… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney struck back at unruly protesters who chanted ‘lock her up’ in relation to Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw on Monday. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Alberta Premier calls for ‘unhinged conspiracy theorists’ to stop threatening the chief medical officer

Spreading misinformation, making threats is ‘beyond the pale,’ said Kenney

An internal investigation by AHS revealed 3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly by two clerical employees in the diagnostic imaging department at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Employees access 3K patients’ records in privacy breach at Red Deer hospital

3,224 patients had their electronic health records accessed improperly

A vial of the vaccine by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a company owned by Johnson & Johnson. Federal health officials in the U.S. said early Tuesday they were urging a pause in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of six serious blood clots, and officials in Washington state and around the country quickly complied. (Aristide Economopoulos/NJ Advance Media)
How J&J and AstraZeneca differ from the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna

Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine has hit a stumbling block in… Continue reading

An emergency response worker carries an air monitoring device at the site of a crude oil spill at a Trans Mountain Pipeline pump station in Abbotsford, on Sunday, June 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Failed fitting caused 190,000-litre spill at Trans Mountain site in B.C.: TSB

VANCOUVER — A Transportation Safety Board report says the failure of a… Continue reading

Indigenous leaders, experts urge Ottawa to quickly pass UNDRIP bill before election

OTTAWA — Indigenous leaders and legal experts are pushing federal lawmakers to… Continue reading

Visitors to a roadside memorial pay their respects in Portapique, N.S., on Friday, April 24, 2020. The Canadian Red Cross confirmed today it has collected $6.2 million in donations to help the families in rural Nova Scotia affected by the mass shooting last spring that claimed 22 lives. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Red Cross collects $6.2 million for families affected by Nova Scotia mass shooting

HALIFAX — Canadians and people from around the world donated $6.2 million… Continue reading

Hindu devotees wearing face masks as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus stand in a queue to offer prayers inside a temple dedicated to goddess Kali in Jammu, India, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. New infections have surged in the past month and India has now reported over 13.6 million cases — pushing its toll past Brazil, and making it second only to the United States. In the past 24 hours, over 160,000 new infections have been detected and experts fear that the worst is yet to come. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
Johnson & Johnson delays shot rollout in Europe

BERLIN — Johnson & Johnson says it is delaying the rollout of… Continue reading

Restaurant workers and restaurant delivery workers wait in line to sign up for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccine site, Wednesday, April 7, 2021, in the Sunset Park neighborhood of New York. The mobile vaccination effort includes two buses equipped with four to six vaccinators each, delivering the COVID-19 vaccine directly to communities most in need. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
US recommends ‘pause’ for J&J vaccine over clot reports

WASHINGTON — The U.S. is recommending a “pause” in using the single-dose… Continue reading

FILE-Team Canada’s Meaghan Mikkelson fights for control of the puck with U.S.A.’s Hayley Scamurra during third period of Women’s Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. Gina Kingsbury, Hockey Canada’s director of women’s national teams, hopes a Rivalry Series against the United States can happen this winter.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer
Canadian women’s hockey team to open selection camp in Nova Scotia

Six goaltenders, 15 defenders and 26 forwards will vie for spots on Canada’s 23-player roster

FILE - Rhian Wilkinson, left, and Melissa Tancredi of Canada’s women’s soccer team attend a news conference in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 13, 2017 to announce their retirement from the team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Former Canadian international Rhian Wilkinson now part of England coaching setup

Wilkinson left Canada Soccer in January to join interim England head coach Hege Riise as an assistant

Most Read