The newly-completed Mica Heliskiing lodge perches on a ridge above the Mica Dam, overlooking the Kinbasket reservoir – a jewel in a crowning achievement done mostly by Revelstokians.
The old lodge was bulldozed on April 5, and just eight months later on Dec. 5, Vic Van Isle delivered a new, 12-bedroom, and nearly 14,000 square-foot luxury lodge.
Mica Heliskiing marketing manager Darryn Shewchuk had high praise for the contractor and small army of subcontractors who built and polished the lodge.
“It’s just absolutely amazing that they could pull off such a high-end luxury building in eight months. There are luxury homes half that size that have taken two years to build.” he said. “It’s unbelievable. It’s truly an eighth-wonder of the world.”
The building is certainly not a ski shack. It boasts a massive living area, a media room, a full kitchen, bar and many high tech amenities. There are hot tubs, private views of the reservoir from every room, a full gym, a gourmet kitchen and massage studios.
“The building is ridiculously overbuilt. The walls are all six-inch thick with double matting and double drywall for sound-proofing,” Shewchuk said. “The floors are saw-cut, 12-inch wide timber and all the stone … is all from Mt. Robson.”
Giant fir beams, wooden planked flooring, natural cedar finishings, log walls, custom concrete counters, immaculate rock work, sheer glass and engineered lighting design synthesize rustic the cabin feel with modern sheik.
Local artist Tina Lindegaard was handed a $50,000 budget to scout and commission works from local and Kootenay artists, which are featured throughout.
It’s the work of CEI Architecture, who add the lodge to an impressive array of public and private buildings in B.C. including the Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in Surrey, the Northwest Community College in Smithers and Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at Okanagan College. The B.C. company has received many accolades for green and sustainable construction.
“They really got what we were looking to accomplish in keeping the cozy feel of the existing lodge, but really making something that’s modern, state-of-the-art and combining those two elements,” Shewchuk said. “They pulled it off amazingly.”
Behind the natural wood and glass, there’s a high-tech substructure. The media room offers big-screen TVs next to the fireplace. Many rooms wirelessly sync the built-in sound system with your smartphone. The ski room features lockers with built-in drying fans. The room has an overall negative pressure so, “You don’t get that wet boot smell going thorough the whole lodge,” Shewchuk joked.
The finishings match the modern/rustic mix. The wire-brushed solid fir doors cost in the thousands. Restored metal lamps accentuated the rooms. The luxe linens and light-cancelling drapes welcome you to a dark sleep, and open to a panoramic view in the morning.
Shewchuk wouldn’t disclose the price tag. Mica Heliskiing is a partnership between minority owners Dan and Susan McDonald and newer majority owner Patrick Callaghan. The McDonald’s are heliskiing veterans who operated Island Lake Lodge near Fernie before moving to Revelstoke and starting Mica. Callaghan is a California-based computer industry veteran and hardcore ski enthusiast who backed the project.
“It’s one specific owner who put the money out of his pocket to build something he wanted to build,” explained Shewchuk. “That being said, he wouldn’t have done it if the company wasn’t profitable. We’re sold out nine or ten months in advance.”
In the pantheon of heliskiing operations, Mica distinguishes itself on two key points. Some heli operations maximize heli time by shuttling between several parties through the day. Mica is focused on a higher-end product and tailor their packages to accommodate small groups. “It’s a high-end boutique niche that we’re in.” Shewchuk said. “They want small-group, individualized packages. You’re going to pay a lot of money, but you’re going to get exactly what you want.”
Their packages vary, you can mix with others in their A-Star helicopters, or head out with your private group in a big Bell 407 – depending on how many (tens of) thousands you want to spend. There’s also a cat on hand just in case, though Mica claims an average of 1.5 down days on average per season.
Their second main selling point is the terrain in their tenure, which ranges over eight valleys and 72,000 hectares of alpine, fall-line runs, bowls and glaciers. The snow caps it off – it’s the same cold stream from the north hitting the wet air from the Pacific, but it’s colder 150 kilometres north of Revelstoke.
“We always joke that now we have a lodge that’s as good as the skiing,” Shewchuk said. “We’ve always said that our geographic area is quite a unique microclimate. We have some of the best quality snow you’ll find anywhere because it’s a little bit cooler and lower temperature – drier snow than you’ll find in Revelstoke. When it’s raining in Revelstoke, it’s snowing at Mica.”
Shewchuk said Mica boasts a rebooking rate over 80 per cent, which was due to the location and the lodge, but, “the biggest, most important thing is the staff,” he said of the 16-20 people who run the operation. They include about six guides, three pilots with Arrow Helicopters, housekeepers, a chef, massage therapists, engineers and operations managers.
“It’s not a high-growth industry,” he said. “[but] we never had a problem selling.”
Find Mica Heliskiing at micaheli.com.