Becky Pilon moved from Jasper National Park to Golden in 2007, she took a winter seasonal position at Heather Mountain Lodge keeping up with life’s adventures and mostly for the love of the mountains. For a number of years she worked in the forestry industry in summer and returned to the lodge each winter, the lodge is exclusive to heli-skiing during those months. Now she works year-round at the lodge as the assistant manager, taking on the General Manager position November 2015 and simultaneously pursuing a career in Health and Wellness as an Acupressurist and Bodyworker.
How does the experience of staying at Heather Mountain Lodge give guests a unique perspective on the history, people or culture of British Columbia?
It is pretty neat in the summer for people to come up here. The climbing history and the skiing history around Glacier Park is tremendous and we take pride in knowing details about the climbing and skiing pioneers from this area. We don’t need to compete with Banff or Lake Louise, Glacier National Park is its own special area with its own unique history. Here in the lodge we have pictures of pioneering climbers and skiers from the early 1900s. What we try to do is market Heather Mountain as a relaxed place for recreational activity, but at the same time we get lots of people who come through who are just en route, because we are located just off highway 1. In that way we are somewhat unique to a regular hotel that you might stop in Golden or Revelstoke, because of our location.
What is one detail of the stay that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important? Please explain why.
We have a 3k hiking loop that is nice for families who stay with us, but we also have a lot of other amenities. The hot tub, the sauna and restaurant are too often overlooked. There is a cozy lounge with games for all ages as well as ping pong, lawn games, evening fire pit. Plenty of time for after dinner socializing if you like.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider where to stay in your part of the Rockies?
We have been trying to promote that we have an excellent restaurant, too often guests come who say that they did not realize we have a dining room. We have a little farm out here with ducks and chickens and a really beautiful vegetable garden. Our chef creates what we call “heritage foods,” all of the foods that he prepares are native to this area, things such as spruce tips, skunk currants, milkweed pods, and things like this. The quality of the food is simply amazing, so it is a shame when guests arrive having just eaten at Subway in Golden because they did not realize that we serve food.
What sets Heather Mountain Lodge apart from other, similar, accommodations in your area?
Between Golden and Revelstoke there are no other options for hot food and comfortable accommodations. We have nice, luxury accommodations compared to the camping or rustic cabins available between Golden and Revelstoke.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation in the Glacier Park area?
Be prepared for hiking in Glacier Park, it is really spectacular, you can see five or six glaciers just on one three or four hour hike. Additionally, people should be aware of the opportunities in and around Golden. There is world class whitewater rafting on the Kicking Horse River, amazing paragliding opportunities and spectacular mountain biking.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Weddings. Over the past two years our wedding business has really taken off. Suddenly Golden has become the wedding capital of this area. The first summer we stared to do weddings we had three, last summer we had eight and this summer we had eleven. We already have three with deposits in for 2016. The wedding business has really snowballed for us, it now represents about 80% of our summer business.
For mid-week business we encourage hikers to stay with us by offering hiking challenges and hiking packages to encourage people to come and check out Glacier National Park. Glacier is something of a forgotten national park, often people focus on the Banff, Jasper, Lake Mead area and they don’t make it out this far. So we are working hard to let people know how fantastic the hiking and trail running is in this area.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
Guests that are joining us all have a reason behind it and we like to know why. Each guest has a unique experience and we pride ourselves in getting to know our guests even if for just one night. A good example of how you can make an impression on someone’s travel experience. We will try to dazzle you with views, food and comforts. I believe we are focusing on bringing in likeminded people to our lodge through the many avenues. The Staff we hire are all into the lifestyle the area has to offer and I think this adds to the experience.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
I think the biggest surprises from our lodge effect cyclists the most. Cyclists from all over the world going across Canada and even from Alaska to South America. Amazing. For them we are a paradise. They can come stay with us and treat themselves to an accommodation if they like or camp and take advantage of all our lodge has to offer. One a cold or raining September day to a hot August afternoon, you can see the pure happiness when they find us. We are no far from the summit of Rogers Pass so you know that have come a long way to get to us from either direction.