Dreaming Big

Three decades ago, a group of best friends were living and working in tree-planting camps. Dreaming of building a lodge in the rugged wilderness of the Valhalla mountains. A simple retreat in the middle of nowhere to escape from the hustle of everyday life.

Russell, and his crew, would spend their winter weeks in search of a place that could bring their dream to fruition. The spark that ignited the concept of what has become Ice Creek Lodge. They started building the lodge in the remote peaks of the Valhalla Ranges in June of 2001.

Inspiration is Building

The group would spend weeks at a time at the site. Clearing the land, milling on-site, drinking beers, and forging life-long friendships. Each time, Russell and the team had to trek through the 6000 feet of vertical gain over a span of a 20 km unmarked trail to the lodge.  A torturous bushwack. A lot of love, laughter, hard work, community, and connection went into the years of building what is now one of the most exclusive retreats in the Kootenays. 

A now cozy timber lodge with 4 private bedrooms, a full-size kitchen, sauna, a three-stall outhouse. The main lodge has now seen numerous renovations, and upgrades since it first officially opened its doors to powder hounds in February of 2003. 

A new separate staff accommodation that comfortably sleeps four members with their own kitchen. This started out as a 300 square foot lodge. A lean-to stuck together with treetops, cut off and glued with spray foam into the walls for the staff accommodations.

In Kevin’s Memory

Ice Creek Lodge is built by mountain people for mountain people. The dream of two best friends who loved nothing more than being in the wilderness. Kevin tragically lost his life in the 1998 Kokanee Glacier Avalanche leaving Russell to complete their collective dream. The life-long bond and shared love of the mountains continues to drive Russell, who now operates Ice Creek Lodge with his wife Courtney, in Kevin’s memory and for all those seeking the repose that can only be found in the mountains.

Russ and Droop    Russell and Greg (aka Droop), Kevin’s brother

We believe that deep love for the wilderness is fostered through early childhood experiences. We want adults to know and respect these wild places. And we have to show them their value from an early age. When we help them build a lifelong relationship with the wild, it becomes worthy of protection. Our summer youth program fosters deep respect. Ensuring that this pristine wilderness will continue to thrive long after we are gone.

This is our way of giving back. Taking the time from our busy days to water the seeds that will grow the future generations. 

Our summer youth program gives young people the opportunity to spend their summer vacation at Ice Creek Lodge where they will experience the mountains in a profound and meaningful way. Youths as young as 16 can join us for up to two, week-long shifts at the cabin where they will learn about mountain awareness and build a relationship to place and time with seasoned mountain people. We teach them safety skills, terrain elements, and leadership qualities while showing them how to build a strong work ethic. We provide a safe space for communication and friendship as they bond with other mountain lovers. It’s also a summer work experience where they get to use their hands and really get dirty. They will build both muscles and endurance through trail construction and maintenance, learning firewood splitting, and hauling gear up to the lodge.

We teach responsibility for our one universal mother, this planet that holds the ground beneath our feet.

This past year, we’ve all felt the effects of the pandemic in different ways in many aspects of our lives. The lockdown meant we had to temporarily close our business operation.  This gave us time to pause. Reflecting on our priorities, finding innovative ways to keep moving forward. 

The lodge has been a long labor of love that we’re inordinately proud of. Russ has dedicated the last 20 years to building, improving, and maintaining it. As an unlooked-for benefit of the pandemic, we were able to secure a small business funding. This allowed us to make some needed upgrades to the building. 

A few months later, we’re excited to announce that we now have 4 private bedrooms, each with its own ventilation. The main floor also boasts a more efficient and open layout for the comfort of you and your crew. For more photos, check out our lodge page

upstairs bedroom

As you’ve probably realized while reading this, we’ve taken the time to revamp our website thanks to the Launch Online B.C. program. Please feel free to browse through all the new content. Keep checking back for updates and to get your seasonal dose of fresh pow pictures. Our social media and content have also blossomed with the addition of two new team members: Aisha Garcia and Patricia Smuga. Aisha has taken over the role of a social media manager and done a fantastic job of highlighting the adventures happening at Ice Creek. Patricia is our content writer and cunning wordsmith who helps us bring our stories to life.

We’re so grateful for all the transformations this time has allowed us to create.

Learning is an integral part of our business model and shapes the way we lead and interact with the community. Some of the first and most important lessons came at the start of our presence in the Burton area. 

Road Blocks

We initially encountered conflict with local residents regarding our helicopter staging area and its proximity to town. The small community had valid concerns about the way our operations would impact their daily lives and activities. It was late in the fall when the issue was brought to attention. There was little time to prepare and change locations.

Finding Solutions

While driving around looking for an alternate site, Russell happened to run into a local woodlot manager. He offered to help him out with a temporary helicopter staging location. We were trying to find a way to alleviate concerns about the helicopters and the noise they create. The following weekend, Russell met with the fellow on-site to discuss further options and the steps required for the permit.

Good Intentions

On arrival, two other gentlemen were also there, both senior foresters with Kootenay and Arrow forest districts. Shortly after introductions and formalities were out of the way, they posed a very blunt question: “Do you have any old growth up there in Ice Creek, Russell?” Russell answered nervously and truthfully, that, yes indeed, the whole valley bottom was actually old growth.

Lines On A Map

A month or so passed, and we got a call from a local resident, concerned that they had seen a line on a map and that our area of operation was slated for logging. We started looking deeper into the information provided and we realized that what had happened was actually the opposite. Ice Creek, in its entirety, had been designated an old-growth management unit. 

Lessons Learned

We are still grateful for these fundamental lessons that we learned early on: listen effectively to your community, work to understand concerns from all sides, listen to and respect your elders, and most importantly – be honest. Although not ironclad, the ecology and wildlife in Ice Creek stands a chance of being there long after we are all gone.


old growth blog

Protecting Our Old Growth

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