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July 13, 2008

Feeling like a million bucks

High-tech cabin minimizes impact
Rich Landers
Outdoors editor
July 13, 2008

Solar-heated showers and electric lights and stoves powered by a 12-kilowatt hydro plant are some of the ritzy year-round features of backcountry accommodations in Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park.

Whether you're a backcountry skier arriving by helicopter or a hiker marching in several hours from the nearest trailhead, the Kokanee Glacier Cabin offers a million-dollar view of Kaslo Lake.

Canada has a tradition of building huts in pristine backcountry areas to shelter visitors and minimize their impact.

However, the Kokanee Glacier Cabin set new standards when it was completed in 2002 as a monumental combination of traditional materials and high-tech enhancements at an elevation of nearly 6,000 feet and five miles from the nearest road.

Because of the electric power, the cabin can keep up to 20 overnight guests awash in hot water and comfortable with baseboard heat. That means no wood must be cut and burned and use of propane is minimized.

The cabin has a full wastewater treatment plant in the basement, which cabin-keeper Brian Cullen was servicing when I hiked into the cabin last week. The Alpine Club of Canada which maintains the cabin along with B.C. Parks, says the effluent is treated to a purity 10 times cleaner than municipal standards and then discharged downstream from Kaslo Lake.

Visitors bring their own sleeping bags and food, which they can prepare in a large, fully equipped kitchen. Nightly rates are $25 for adults, $50 for families up to five and $12.50 for kids under 16.

Nearly $1 million in funds, materials and services was raised to build the wood-beam cabin. About 10 percent of the cost was for helicopter flights to haul in materials.

Reducing impact on the pristine park was considered worth the high cost, ACC officials said.

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