Norm Dove was born in England and came to Canada in 1965. The British engineer and 2015 inductee into the Paper Industry International Hall of Fame was on a quest for innovation and excellence. This soon resulted in his first patent in 1970, for the design of a better steam shower system for a Fourdrinier, enabling a significant increase in machine speed. Many more patents followed – a total of 33 – and after a very successful career in the paper industry, Norm Dove sold his company in 1992 and started exploring the countryside of British Columbia to find an escape from the increasingly busy Vancouver.
When he and his wife Nan first came to Echo Valley, they knew they had found the right place. As Norm says: “We knew we had found something very special when we first visited this area. We were awed by the serenity and beauty of the land and by an overwhelming sense of spirituality and reverence. It’s simply beyond words.”
Construction of the Dove Lodge and outbuildings began, and when the estate was completed in 1994 it did not take long for calls to welcome guests at Echo Valley Ranch, and share this little slice of heaven with others – which happened in 1995. Echo Valley Ranch & Spa was never meant to be a hotel, but naturally evolved to the unique oasis it is today, shared with guests from all over the world, who believe in sustainability and protecting the environment, and living together in peace and harmony, just like Norm and Nan Dove do.
How do the experiences you offer at Echo Valley Ranch & Spa give guests a unique perspective on the history, people, or culture of your region?
The first Gold Rush trail passed right through the area around Echo Valley Ranch. We have access to show our guests where the first crossing of the Fraser River was, and the Camel Range Mountains are in view of the ranch. Camels were used to transport supplies during those days, an experiment that failed due to the harsh winters – and the fact that they terrified mules and horses!
Our guests can go gold panning in the same places as the pioneer prospectors, close to the nearby Gang Ranch (which is the biggest ranch in North America). The Gang Ranch supplied beef to the prospectors during the Gold Rush – as did the BC Cattle company, also in close proximity to EVR.
There is also extraordinary evidence of Chinese gold prospectors who followed the main Gold Rush, and remnants of their cabins. Their dwellings, pit type houses on the banks of the Fraser River, and water flumes leading to stone-built reservoirs, are still visible.
Our region is also rich in history that is much older than the Gold Rush. First Nations people have lived in the area for thousands of years, and the High Bar Band, located on the river, is frequently visited by our guests. They are permitted to try their hand at dip net fishing, and observe how salmon is dried for winter food. A very popular stop for our guests, where they can get an insight into the many stories and the culture of our neighbors.
How have the experiences that you offer evolved since their inception?
We always strive to deliver an authentic experience to our guests, and our efforts to remain sustainable and “green” have been rewarded with a Gold certification from Green Tourism Canada. We make sure our offer is compliant with our quest for sustainability and adjusted accordingly.
With the construction of our Lookout Lodge, which is a work of art in itself, we also added a distinct element of First Nations art, with a First Nations artist in residence, who creates new pieces every year.
What is one detail of an experience you provide that may go unnoticed by guests, but which you feel is important?
We would certainly bring any detail that goes unnoticed to the attention of our guests, as we feel that details are a very important part of the Echo Valley experience. Room 12 of our Lookout Lodge has a very special and mystical feature/detail, that we make accessible to all our guests through a downloadable (and printed) brochure, so it is not only accessible to those staying in Room 12. You can download the guests’ guide to art work, which explains the story of Room 12, here: www.evranch.com/native_art_at_echo_valley
What do you wish every guest knew as they consider participating in the experiences you offer?
We consider each guest’s preferences when making a recommendation for the activities we offer, but we want each guest to know that whatever they experience in Echo Valley, they will experience as part of our family. Echo Valley is not just a place we work at, but our home. The entire staff lives here and guests become part of the extended ranch family during their stay.
It’s been said that Echo Valley is a place where “East meets West,” please talk a little about how you bring that concept to life.
My wife is from Thailand, as is most of the ranch family. Many of our full-time staff have been with us for many years and hail from Thailand as well. In 2004, I commissioned the architect of the Thai Royal Family, Dr. Pinyo Suwankiri, to build the Baan Thai, our signature building, as an homage to my wife’s heritage. It is built with Western Red Cedar, as well as spruce, pine, and fir, and it incorporates teak trimmings on the inside, in traditional Thai style, and unifies East and West with its elegance and hospitality. Our Spa therapists are trained in Thailand and we offer both Western as well as Thai spa treatments. During our season, which runs from April to October, we celebrate Thai Night once a week, with traditional food prepared by the Thai crew, and traditional Thai dance.
What is one travel trend that really excites you?
The recognition of something that we have believed in all along: people are realizing that they need to get away from their everyday life, to relax, to connect with nature, and connect with themselves again ~ without the distractions of the digital world. While we offer WiFi to those who need to stay connected, there is no cell service at the ranch and no TVs in the rooms.
What sets Echo Valley Ranch & Spa apart from other getaway spots?
Where do I begin? Our ranch is set in in a very unique location, at the convergence of four distinct geographic regions – the grasslands, lime stone mountains with boreal forests up to the alpine line, canyons within desert like conditions, and the Cariboo plateau with its many lakes and marshes. This does not only result in a diverse fauna and flora, but also creates the opportunity for a selection of diverse activities, such as horseback riding, hiking, gold panning, fishing, photography and mountain biking. Our unique geographic location creates a sense of place, a magical feeling, and an atmosphere that is perfect for connecting and reconnecting with nature, loved ones and self.
There is an unpretentious family-style atmosphere at the ranch and our guest really appreciate the purity of the environment, with naturally sparkling water, pure air, and star-lit nights without any light pollution. To experience all that, surrounded by wilderness with the comforts of a high end home, is truly special. Of course I should also mention that we grow most of our food on the premises and raise our own livestock – and our cuisine is farm-fresh delicious.
What is one insiders tip to getting the most out of an experiential travel vacation?
A vacation in Echo Valley is never one-size-fits-all. We offer our standard rates that cover everything from accommodation to meals and self-guided activities, plus we offer a wide range of spa treatments and activities that guests can tailor based on their preference. I think it’s important to leave enough time to just relax, lean against a fence, and breathe – to let all the fantastic experiences sink in and allow them to rejuvenate you.
What is one strategy that has helped your business to grow?
Having a very clear understanding of the experience we offer and who would appreciate it, then targeting our market based on that. Working with media and social media influencers is also a great way to bring that experience to the intended audience.
What is one personal habit that has helped you to be successful?
Staying true to my values and making decisions based on those, not on the maximization of profit.
Please share one instance where a guest had a moving or emotional reaction to the experience you provided to them.
A common thread is, that our guests have a “spiritual” experience – connecting with something that they found to be meaningful. Feeling something they have never felt before – an intangible value that cannot be touched, but certainly be felt. A sense of being at home and that everything is the way it should be – we get frequent comments of that nature in our guest book.