There’s a special new spot in the Slocan Valley. Backcountry huts are typically hot spots for tourists seeking authentic adventures, so for locals, it can be a challenge booking time even in a hut nearby.
Rossland resident Stewart Spooner saw a need for smaller backcountry facilities in his area, so he created the West Kootenay Backcountry Hut Society in 2016. The new society and its small Board of Directors spent the next couple of years planning and this past summer, 30 volunteers contributed 70 days of labour and completed the Milton Creek Hut.
“There are groups operating similar huts near New Denver and Nakusp, and a group in Nelson is in the process of developing one,” said Spooner. “We need more of these community-focused huts on public land.”
Projects like this not only promote physical and mental well-being, they bring together members of the community for a common goal.
The biggest challenge for the society in getting this project started was finding a location that wasn’t in a protected area, had the right zoning and good skiing to boot. As backcountry recreation tenure is provincially regulated and most suitable tenure is committed to private sector commercial interests, small groups with limited resources have much competition. The group worked collaboratively to scout out possible spots and then Spooner had to work diligently to acquire the tenure there. The spot at Milton Creek checked all the legal boxes and even has a great view for visitors to wake up to. Spooner and the society are glad they took the time to find the perfect place.
In summer 2018, the hut was constructed with support from the Trust: a small building with benches, bunks that sleep four and a wood stove. Spooner explained, “We wanted to keep it simple and affordable for everybody. We charge $20 per person per night. Right now, we’re paying back our cost of materials. Once that’s paid, we’ll start saving to build another. Then maybe another after that. We are sharing our example with others and hoping this concept is something that will catch on.”
We are sharing our example with others and hoping this concept is something that will catch on.
In terms of booking the hut, the society is giving priority to the volunteers who made the project possible. To keep the hut a special spot for locals, its location is known only to the ski-touring community in the West Kootenay and area, and bookings are available only to members of the society at this time.
In December 2018, the hut opened for business and has already seen a few bookings. The society expects it will get busier this month as the snow gets deeper and the days get a bit longer.
For Spooner, the highlights of the process were seeing the community bonds grow, sharing the work with other people and the good feeling they all got from making something for their community.
“Seeing the actual cabin up in the mountains is pretty satisfying.”
Learn more about the Trust’s Community Development Program.