The winner of Live Out There’s Assiniboine Lodge Contest, Lisa Rombough, shares her experiences visiting the lodge on the adventure of a lifetime.
Mount Assiniboine. Also known as the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies – plus me – a snowboarder with absolutely no backcountry ski experience. This was bound to be an experience.
When I first saw the contest on the Live Out There website, I Googled Mount Assiniboine, interested in finding more about an experience that so many people were vying for. I had vaguely heard of the lodge before, but from what I read, it was way out of my league. So remote that it was said to only be accessible by foot or helicopter, it seemed like an experience that was simply too exclusive – something only for intensive backcountry enthusiasts or the very privileged.
I debated entering, but my research lead me to photos of the lodge which were jaw-dropping. I knew that I couldn’t remember wanting something as much as I wanted to experience this trip. And besides, I never win anything anyways. Until now. By some freak chance I was chosen as the winner of Live Out There’s Assiniboine Lodge contest, and I was going. I immediately started doing research to prepare – I started with the Live Out There blogs, reading about layering, types of skis, packing, and then geared up. This trip gave me an excuse to purchase those gorgeous Sorel boots I’ve been eyeing up for weeks… and boy did they come in handy.
I brought my sister along for the trip, and we were lucky enough to get helicoptered in to the lodge. We were like giddy little kids, never imagining we would be flying in a helicopter. Right off the bat, the trip promised to be more than we could have possibly expected. Before we had even set off on the journey to the lodge, we met two couples in the parking lot who had lots of travelling as well as backcountry ski experience. They were wonderful, encouraging us, giving us tips and telling us all about what we were about to experience.
The views from the helicopter were spectacular – I frequent the mountains often, but nothing compares to a bird’s eye view, flying right next to a cliff, and then looking down, realizing how tiny the trees really are. We came around a peak, and the sun shone down brightly over the mountains and valleys, welcoming us as we approached the lodge. The Assiniboine hosts, Claude and Annick, and more staff were ready and waiting when we landed to take care of our bags, welcome us to the lodge and show proceeded to us around.
Once we settled in and met the other new guests, we proceeded through Avalanche training. Claude enthusiastically put us to work in drills, finding and digging beacons out of the deep snow. And then it was time to head out! Somehow my sister and I kept up to the group. When our guide asked if we wanted to go back the easy or hard way I responded “the easiest way the hard way” which everyone thought was hysterical and it became somewhat of a quote over our stay at the lodge. It snowed 16cm overnight on our second night – covering up all our tracks and paths. We were like kids on a playground, going up and down runs multiple times, each time taking a different route. It was a brilliant winter wonderland.
The trip ended up being even more incredible than we had imagined coming into it. The lodge itself was built in 1928 but kept in amazing condition, and the recent addition of a shower house and sauna was very much appreciated.
The lodge housed a dining room with 3 large tables that the guests sat around and a cozy living room loaded with games, books, and photos to look at in front of a toasty fireplace. There is no cell phone reception or internet at the lodge, which only added to it’s magic as guests and staff bonded over stories and laughed at the happenings of the day.
Being up there, in the magnificence of the mountains, surrounded by such wonderful people was like being in a different world. The atmosphere at Assiniboine made our three days feel beautifully endless – days were lived more simply than they were at home. The wholesome beauty of the lodge and the isolation of being in the mountains allowed us to put aside all the stress and duties of daily life, making for an incredibly relaxing retreat. It reminded me to be mindful of my surrounds and take time to get to know and appreciate the people around me, something I think we can all afford to remember in the rush of today’s lifestyle.
It’s important to note that the staff at Assiniboine were outstanding – so approachable, welcoming, and passionate about what they do and the experiences they provide. They came to Assiniboine not only from across the country, but all over the world– and getting to know them enriched our experience even further.
The guests were equally as wonderful – old and young, all together sharing stories and lots of laughs. The people that attend the lodge forever become part of the Assiniboine family – it was fascinating to hear the connections between people that were previously strangers. One of the most precious moments was on the last morning, when one of the guests who was 86 years old, stood up at breakfast and read an eloquently written poem he wrote about his time at the lodge, the slopes he had conquered and the people he had met. Everyone exploded in applause – it was bittersweet – no one wanted to believe they had to leave that afternoon
I know we will return to Assiniboine one day, for as one of the guests told me, “Assiniboine has irresistible magnetism” and I couldn’t agree more. I hope to return in the summer on my next trip, and conquer the same slopes on foot among the blankets of mountain flowers.