Brian Cross or “The Bald Bomber,” as he is known, has gained a vast knowledge of the outdoors from his time both as a prospector of minerals and as a ski bum searching for “the powder motherload.” “Bomber” (for short) has been tromping around these and many other mountain ranges for over 40 years. He started in the backcountry ski touring industry as a winter custodian for the British Columbia Parks board, at Kokanee Glacier Park in the early 1980s. After noticing that there were more guests than the Slocan Chief Lodge facilities in the park could accommodate, he figured there might be an opportunity to start a lodge offering accommodations to skiers in the backcountry. He hasn’t looked back since. After 30 years of providing ski touring opportunities to many hundreds of guests, he has gained a wealth of knowledge and a reputation as one of the best service providers in the industry.
“Bomber’s” roots are firmly planted in a 70’s ski-bum mentality, he is easy going with a great smile, laugh and sense of humor. An unassuming, fun-loving guy. As a host folks find him extremely welcoming, hard-working and helpful, always willing to share his knowledge of the terrain and local lore. As a business owner, he holds integrity as paramount, his word is as good as gold. He has garnered respect from all corners of the ski industry. Best of all, “Bomber” has that uncanny instinct for finding that perfect line. He loves filling that awesome beard of his with Kootenay Powder.
How do the experiences you offer at Valhalla Mountain Lodge give guests a unique perspective on history, geography or (recreational) culture of your region?
We share stories of when we started backcountry skiing in the 1970s … kind of a history of how backcountry skiing was in the area before this region became such a Mecca for skiers. Things were much different then. We also share stories of the gear we used and how much the gear has changed, as well of how little knowledge of backcountry travel and avalanche awareness there was. In the 70s, education on snow/avi science was really just taking off in North America, we were in our infancy in this field. Now there are so many resources available to us. Most backcountry travelers in the 70’s learned the hard way.
How has the backcountry experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
Here at Valhalla Mountain Lodge our experiences have remained much the same as when we started, our facilities have not changed much, basic, simple, rustic, and cozy. The routes folks travel are still the same, and the ski terrain has not changed. Most folks still come to experience “the freedom of the hills,” as self-guided groups. The big changes over the years are in the groups themselves. These groups have much more training under their belts, snow and avi safety courses are easily accessible, and offered in most popular winter recreational Provinces and States. There is great access to modern technology, such as safety devices, clothes, and ski gear. Ski technology such as lighter weight gear, fatter skis, etc. allow skiers to travel further and enjoy ski touring more, with less energy expended. As outdoor recreation has grown hugely in popularity over the last thirty years most groups we see have a great deal of personal experience and awareness in the backcountry.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
The amount of “off-season” work which goes into providing all the details needed to provide a safe, comfortable winter experience. All the guests tend to see is the end product.
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider a ski trip to Valhalla Mountain Lodge?
The importance of knowing you are in a remote location, and on fending for yourself and your group. First aid, safe snow travel, the importance of carrying (and being able to use) communication and safety devices. Playing within the parameters of your environment.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
These days we are seeing more women getting out into the backcountry, having expendable money, time, and skills to take up backcountry ski touring/adventure holidays. Until recent times it seems to have been a high percentage of males that have been coming out into the backcountry. Now we are seeing more and more women with the backcountry skills that allow them to feel comfortable in the backcountry.
What sets Valhalla Mountain Lodge apart from other, similar, lodges?
It’s simple, rustic, charm, and accessible, varied terrain. VML truly has terrain for all levels of skier.
Embracing the environment you are in. Being flexible in mindset and able to adjust to your environment. Letting your environment dictate the flow of your trip. Not trying to conquer the environment.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Pretty simple: loving what you do, hard work, timing, and great terrain. One can have all the skills and talent there is, but “timing is everything”. Valhalla Mountain lodge was one of the first lodges to enter into this industry in B.C., so we had the opportunity to pick some of the best terrain. We are passionate about what we do, and not scared of a bit of hard work.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Having an unassuming, welcoming spirit.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
Skiing on a high avalanche hazard day, experiencing (from a distance) avalanches, getting the folks through this day, competently, safely, and in a relaxed manner. They were awestruck to experience the power and beauty of avalanches.
Valhalla Mountain Lodge is located 15kms South of Burton, and 60km’s North West of Nelson, British Columbia, Canada.