Part II – Skoki Lodge, Canadian Rockies
Behind the Scenes – Skoki Lodge Kitchen
Banff residents who formed the Ski Club of the Canadian Rockies to manage the Skoki operation built the first log structure, which today houses the kitchen.
Parks Canada bureaucracy nudges this lack of advancement along. Electricity was removed decades ago and the lodge remains a link with another era. Guests don’t come to Skoki for technology; they want that “warm and cozy” log cabin in the woods aura, into a world from the past. Despite the lack of Edison’s invention, the food is several steps above home cooking on a wood stove.
Katie Mitzel, co-manager of the lodge today, has been whipping up imaginative meals with her staff for 13 years and soon will be releasing a book on her experiences, together with recipes (with over a thousand requests and mounting, the pressure is on for publication). (Update – the Skoki Cookbook is now out http://www.skokicookbook.com/ ).
Everything has a twist on the Skoki menus starting with the first meal of the day. After a mountain air sleep, coffee is on at 6 AM for early risers. A two course breakfast of cold and hot offerings is spread. Vast bowls of yogurt, pancakes made from unusual grains, M and M’s swimming in baked granola, hot cereals decorated with dried fruit. How come Mom never made it like this? Maybe it’s the mountain air. At the point of maximum satiation, it is time to lift off from the table and waddle over to pack a lunch for the days outdoor nature adventures.
Afternoon tea is available for hikers who sneak back for a snack and snooze. After a short break from an entire day of nearly continuous eating (except for brief hiking spells, of course) the dinner bell sounds. From the kitchen, the “main meal” emerges in a flurry.
You’re nearly exploding did you say? How can one resist Alaskan halibut with balsamic reduction or beef tenderloin with crab sauce, creamy horseradish, accompanied by Skoki salad (let’s just say Katie makes leftovers into mean creations), curried vegetables, sweet potato pie with goat cheese topping? Wandering past the kitchen earlier in the day one might catch a glimpse of Katie working up her biceps kneading flour into fresh breads made daily, alternating 4 loaves one day and 8 the next– molasses, flax, oatmeal, scones. Bring on the carbs! See more on this story at http://heathersimondsphotography.com/2011/08/20/skoki-lodge-a-time-honoured-tradition/ .
Skoki Lodge – A Time Honoured Tradition
If you build it, they will come.
This must have been the modus operandi of the Canadian Pacific Railway back in 1931 when Skoki Lodge was hewed out of the Rocky Mountain forest in Banff National Park. And so, come they did. Tourists arrived on elegant passenger trains from eastern North America and trekked on horseback or skis into the backwoods of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. A more accurate name would be “adventurers” considering what they wore, how long it took to get to Lake Louise station from their eastern origins and various other inconveniences of those early years. The rest is history, as they say, in 1992 Skoki Lodge was a designated national historic site.
Today, those who make the same effort on foot or skis will agree, every step up the 760 m elevation gain is worth it. Skoki has entertained commoner and royalty (most recently, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or, as they signed the guest book “William” and “Catherine”), painter and politician, mountaineer and CEO, but mostly people like you and me.
Tucked into the forest of Skoki Valley lie hand hewed rustic buildings reeking with comfort and goodness, from oil lamps to the loungers strategically located around the room for a post hiking “40 winks” to the stuffed leathers circling the wood fireplace and the upright piano in the corner screaming “I have stories to tell!”
The log walls show off athletic paraphernalia from a bygone era (wooden skis 2 cm thick with thin leather bindings), snowshoes and monochromatic photographs exuding clarity and historic importance. The action shot of a man flying on skis well above the horizon is eye catching and the caption curiously mentions a movie production. They had movies? Back then? A good guess is the image was taken in the 40’s. Candles and oil lamps throw out an entrancing, comfy glow – how can this precariously, all wooden, time- honoured structure still be here?
Décor aside, one of the best reasons to make the climb up Boulder Pass, across Ptarmigan lakeside and then the slug up and over the (oh, so deceptive) Deception Pass is the hiking (of course)
and the food that lies waiting down in the valley at Skoki Lodge. Food! Yes, food! (Check this site out to make your own http://www.skokicookbook.com/ ).
See http://heathersimondsphotography.com/2011/09/17/behind-the-scenes-skoki-lodge-kitchen/ . As a matter of note , the author just completed her 19th trek into Skoki Valley to enjoy the timeless beauty of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.