For the first time since 2014, Canada has approved a new cat skiing operation. Powder Renegade Lodge accesses an entirely new mountain range.
Even in a country as expansive as Canada, there’s only so much terrain left that can provide quality cat skiing. In fact, out of the last 16 years, only one additional operation has been approved. As of this year, Powder Renegade Lodge now has the approval to access over 15,000 acres deep in the southern Monashees, in a sub-range called the Midway Range.
We spoke with the founders who are creating Canada’s newest cat skiing paradise.
Chasing the Calling
Once a calling hits, you know this is what you were born to do. Kerry Penney’s calling came with the opportunity to work at the legendary Mustang Powder Lodge, based near Revelstoke, British Columbia.
Along with epic skiing, world-class dining and a gorgeous lodge deep in the middle of nowhere were included. Kerry didn’t want to be an employee, though. He wanted to be the person responsible for providing the experience.
Seeing him come home with a smile and a glint in his eye inspired Kerry’s partner, and soon-to-be wife, Cassandra. Together, they had fallen in love with living the mountain lifestyle. Running and managing a cat skiing lodge was the dream.
Finding a Location
Despite the adage, “Follow your passion; do what you love,” it isn’t easy. The need for stability and creating a home trumps chasing your dreams. This is what happened to Kerry and Cassandra Penney. With no job opportunities in Revelstoke, they moved to Edmonton, Alberta, and began a successful construction business.
With time and finances in order, along with a move back to Revelstoke for a winter 2 years later (in 2017), the cat skiing lodge idea returned with a fury.
Throughout 2018, they began researching what was possible. What would it take to create a new operation? They learned how to get exclusive commercial access to public land (or tenure), and glossed over miles and miles of maps. Somewhere, they hoped there was a piece of land left they could submit an application for.
Penticton, British Columbia
During their in-depth analysis, they came upon a cat skiing tenure — Highland Powder Skiing. Sitting dormant for over a decade, it still had 20 years left on the lease. This was perfect.
The Penneys quickly reached out to the owners and were given the opportunity to purchase the tenure outright. Now, they were one step closer to the dream.
Buying the company was a leap, but it seemed like everything was falling into place. Their construction business, which the Penneys moved whenever they did, was booming. They were financially sound again and could begin investing in their new piece of property.
At this time, they found out that to compete in this industry, you must have a remote lodge on the property. But their lease was only for daytime use. Working with consultants and friends, they submitted an addendum.
Postponed on Account of Caribou
The reply wasn’t at all what they expected. The property they had been given access to overlapped a Southern Mountain Caribou protected area.
The caribou herd was at a critically endangered level. The Canadian government gave them two options: suspend indefinitely or cancel and move on. They couldn’t hold onto it and were forced to cancel.
The Penneys lost everything. Without the finances to buy an existing operation, they would need to tread a new path.
Starting Over, in Search of Pow
Back to the drawing board, they again spent every free moment going through maps of British Columbia to find a piece of land. In February 2020, Kerry found a zone in the Southern Monashees that had an existing heli-skiing tenure on it, which turned out to be suspended.
Scouting the land, they determined it would work. This time with their newfound mentor, the owner of Mustang Powder Lodge, they learned from their mistakes and did all the work themselves, including the submission.
Approved! Canada’s Newest Cat Skiing Operation
As of summer 2022, the lodge has been approved to move forward. Powder Renegade Lodge will be the second-highest lodge site in Canada at a whopping 6,400 feet.
The founders’ goal is to start small with one cat. As such, 12 lucky guests will have access to 15,760 acres of oh-so-sweet powder-licious terrain.
Where to Find Powder Renegade Lodge
For anyone that knows interior British Columbia, there’s a magical place with the nickname “Powder Highway.” And rightly so. Just to the southwest of this region is a ski resort named “Big White” that lives up to its name. Every winter, it’s pummeled with “big” snowfalls of fluffy powder.
Powder Renegade Lodge is located just east of there in the first set of peaks from the coast, in the Monashees. Just like Big White, its unique topography receives a ton of snow.
Powder Renegade Lodge, Opening Season
Even with a massive hurdle cleared, there is still much more work to be done. Running a cat skiing operation isn’t cheap. It costs $200,000 just to fill the fuel cache, for example.
Also, you can’t work on a snowcat on the snow, as it needs a garage. And with only 4 to 5 months to build infrastructure due to long winters, this creates a short window. Next, there is the need for hiring staff.
At this time, Powder Renegade Lodge’s founders are in the process of raising capital and looking for investors. The current target opening date is for the 2024-25 winter season.
After all the setbacks and triumphs, we’re 100% positive Powder Renegade Lodge will make this dream a reality.