FEATURE

Beaver Creek couple gives new life to community's Westmark Inn

A hotel that's been a landmark in Beaver Creek for more than 50 years has found a new life. The Westmark Inn, formerly owned by Holland America, is now in the hands of Beat and Jyl Ledergerber.

'I didn't want it to close. That would have almost broke my heart' says community's longest resident

Beat Ledergerber, 83, has held many jobs in Beaver Creek. Now he and his wife Jyl are the community's newest hoteliers. (Claudiane Samson/CBC)

A hotel that's been a landmark in Beaver Creek for more than 50 years has found a new life.

The Westmark Inn, formerly owned by Holland America, is now in the hands of Beat and Jyl Ledergerber and has a new name: Beaver Creek RV Park & Motel.

The couple bought the hotel two years ago when the cruise ship company cancelled its route through this section of the Alaska Highway. 

There was some worries that Holland America's absence would hurt the community, but it appears as though it's been just the opposite.

"Last year we done all right and we were not advertised," says Beat. 

And this year tourism has been excellent in the community, says Jyl. "This year has definitely been busier than I've seen it in many years." 
Jyl and her husband Beat originally just wanted to buy the RV park formerly owned by Holland America, but the company wouldn't divide its property. Now the couple own the RV park as well as a 174-room hotel and a building formerly used for dinner theatre. (Claudiane Samson/CBC)

Seeing it close 'would have almost broke my heart'

The former Westmark Inn is a large property, including many old building that opened in 1956. Built to accommodate large groups of travellers arriving by bus, its 174 rooms greatly outnumber the 103 residents of Beaver Creek, Canada's westernmost community. 

Jyl Ledergerber says they just wanted to buy the RV Park owned by Holland America, but the company wouldn't divide its property. Jyl and Beat ended up buying the whole thing, including a restaurant and dinner theatre venue. 

For Beat, the decision to purchase the old hotel was partly sentimental: In the 1960s, he cut the wood used to build its extensions. Over five decades, he worked on the buildings and did maintenance on the property. 

"I didn't want it to close," he says. "That would have almost broke my heart.
Sid van der Meer, who works at the Beaver Creek Visitor Information Centre, says tourism in Canada's westernmost community has been 'great' this summer. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

'Community didn't see much of those tourists' 

Sid van der Meer, who works at the tourist information centre across the street from the hotel, is happy to look out and see it active again. 

"It's not good to have a town with a bunch of boarded up buildings — that don't look good."

But more than that, van der Meer, who greats every visitor with a handshake, is glad it's owned locally.  

The money didn't stay in the community before, he says. Even though there were up to seven Holland America buses parked across the street on any given night during the summer, "the community didn't see much of those tourists," says van der Meer.

"People came in [to Beaver Creek] in the evening usually about 6, 7 o'clock and had to go straight into the dinner theater and have their dinner," he explains. "Then early in the morning, 7 o'clock, they're leaving again."

'He is Beaver Creek, really'

Beat and Jyl have opened about 50 of the former Westmark hotel's 174 rooms. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)
Beat Ledergerber doesn't have much or any experience running a hotel, but the 83-year-old's done pretty much every other job in the small community a stone's throw from the Alaska border. 

"Justice of the peace, coroner, fire chief, notary public..." he starts listing his past jobs. But it was work with a sawmill that brought him to the community  in 1961.

"He is Beaver Creek, really," says Jyl. "I mean, he's been here for so many years. He's the longest resident."

Jyl's beginnings in Beaver Creek are also tied to the hotel — she moved to the community in 2001 to work at the Westmark. 

So far, the couple have opened the RV Park and about 50 rooms and they have ideas about bringing a dinner theatre back to life. 

It's a lot of work, but Jyl and Beat aren't deterred.

"I have never ever been bored in Beaver Creek," says Beat. "Sometimes I wish I could be bored for a while."
Beat Ledergerber and his wife Jyl would like to bring dinner theatre back to Beaver Creek one day and attract more independent bus tours.

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