By Amy Fendley It’s the first backcountry lodge on the West Coast. Powder Mountain Lakeside Lodge, located at the Mad River Nordic Centre at 1,370 metres in the Callaghan Valley, boasts 32 km of groomed skate and cross-country ski trails and is now open for business. The year-round backcountry lodge sleeps a maximum of 10 in five bedrooms and has on-site catering. It is situated in a sub alpine meadow, on its own private lake and has remarkably combined the comforts of home with remote mountain wilderness. "An avid outdoors person’s prime interest is terrain. But it’s our indoor facilities, literally, that will attract a large market on a year round basis," said Trish Brown, sales and marketing manager. "Five private rooms, indoor washroom facilities and a shower." There are 19 specialized cross-country operators in Canada, nine in B.C., but none on the West Coast — until now. Powder Mountain Lakeside Lodge offers speciality courses, including introductions to skate skiing, classic cross-country, telemark touring, telemarking in the rough, the fundamentals of alpine touring and avalanche awareness. In addition to a regular summer program of canoeing, hiking and biking there are plans to offer workshops in photography, writing, food and wine and lifestyle in the shoulder seasons. "Summer demands are based on trends in eco-tourism," said Brown. "The whole idea is exciting since Powder Mountain Lakeside Lodge is a leader in eco-tourism for the area. It enhances what Whistler has to offer and is unique to the area." According to Tourism British Columbia, eco-tourism is the fastest-growing segment of the province’s tourism sector. Powder Mountain’s focus is on creating a "guest experience." Brown says they are targeting the regional market, especially for weddings, corporate adventure and strategic team building workshops, executive retreats and company incentives. They will also target the overseas tour market and the American leisure traveller. Powder Mountain has no competition within the Sea to Sky Corridor. Its key advantage over competitors throughout B.C. and Alberta is its location. Whistler is a renowned alpine skiing resort, but offers limited options for those who prefer to cross-country ski. Nordic trails in Whistler are at a relatively low elevation and can be plagued by poor snow conditions and rain. By contrast, the Callaghan Basin, at 1,370 metres above sea level, receives an annual snowfall of 11 metres and offers excellent conditions for Nordic skiing. Last spring there was cross-country skiing well into May, which surprised and excited proponents of the Vancouver-Whistler Olympic bid. An area further down the Callaghan is proposed for the nordic facilities if the Olympic bid is successful. The lodge is accessible by helicopter, snowcat, snowmobile or ski-in. The initial access road is about 15 miles south of Whistler Village. Powder Mountain Lakeside Lodge was facilitated by an increased Crown land lease permitted Mad River owners Brad Sills and Nick Slater. That gave them the right to develop an existing log cabin on the property. The two have been using the area for backcountry recreation for 18 years. They spent last summer expanding their operations.