British Columbia

Lawsuits leave lodge in Glacier National Park derelict

A complex series of lawsuits involving Parks Canada and the Glacier Park Lodge's previous owners means the property in the heart of Canada's second-oldest national park remains empty and derelict.

Decline of landmark in historic Rogers Pass 'breaks your heart,' visitor says

Tourist Alicia Fox stopped in Rogers Pass after noticing the abandoned Glacier Park Lodge on the side of the Trans-Canada Highway. (Chris Corday/CBC)

When Alicia Fox drove through B.C.'s historic Rogers Pass this summer, she was amazed by the stunning mountains that frame the Trans-Canada Highway.  

But it was the ugly sight of a massive old lodge in the heart of Glacier National Park that caused the tourist from Manitoba to stop.

"It was really sad seeing such an iconic place look so derelict in the middle of this beautiful pass," said Fox as she peeked into the half-boarded-up windows of the Glacier Park Lodge's main dining room.

The 50-room Glacier Park Lodge has sat empty and boarded up since 2012. (Chris Corday/CBC)
Spray paint covers the back entrance to the Glacier Park Lodge. (Chris Corday/CBC)

"It breaks your heart, especially when you know so many tourists come through here, and this is what they're seeing, and it doesn't really make the national parks look very good," she said.

The distinctive teal-roofed lodge, with its two restaurants and a service station, has served as a landmark for more than 50 years after the Trans-Canada was completed through Rogers Pass in southeastern British Columbia in 1962. 

The property was a regular stop for tourists who could peer up at the Illecillewaet Glacier while having a meal or sleep at the moderately priced lodge.

Some travellers say the lodge was an important resource, especially in the winter, when avalanches frequently close the Trans-Canada Highway through Rogers Pass. (Glacier Park Lodge/Facebook)

It was also the only place within 150 kilometres where highway travellers could stop for food or fuel or wait out a road closure in one of Canada's most active avalanche zones. 

But four years ago, Parks Canada decided not to renew its lease on the land, and the owners shut it down.

The lodge's dining room, filled with tourists a number of years ago, left, and abandoned today, right. (Glacier Park Lodge/Chris Corday)

Officials have not explained why the lease wasn't renewed.

In online forums, some visitors reported a decline in the quality of service and maintenance at the lodge over the years.

The buildings were put into receivership and boarded up in 2012. But today, many windows appear to be propped open or are broken, roofs are visibly damaged, and the lodge's walls are attracting vandals.

The back door to the service station is wide open and a plywood board appears to have been removed from a huge window outside the lodge's dining room, allowing anyone to have a look inside.

Many parts of the lodge buildings have been vandalized. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Lawsuits leave lodge in limbo

A series of lawsuits involving Parks Canada and the lodge's previous and most recent owners means the property in the heart of Canada's second-oldest national park is stuck in limbo.

The lodge has been a landmark for travellers in Rogers Pass since 1963. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Court documents show that businesses controlled by the previous owners of the hotel and gas station, Yoho and Abbot Ridge Investments, are suing Malcolm and Linda Campbell, the couple who bought the business from them in 2008.

In their statement of claim, the companies alleged the Campbells owed $2.6 million plus interest on a deal the plaintiffs largely financed.

They're also suing Parks Canada, claiming that they sought to negotiate an agreement "whereby Glacier Park Lodge might be put into operation, but Parks Canada has refused to consider any such arrangement."

The lawyer for the plaintiffs told CBC News his clients have no comment on the case.

The boarded-up lodge buildings have become a bit of a tourist attraction of their own. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Parks Canada claims contamination

Parks Canada filed a counterclaim in 2014, suing both the Yoho and Abbot companies and the Campbells for allegedly "contaminating" national park land and water.

The court documents claim that "on numerous occasions," petroleum product storage systems at the lodge or gas station failed.

Parks Canada filed a counterclaim against the former owners of the service station and lodge for allegedly contaminating national park land. (Chris Corday/CBC)

The documents in the complicated case also suggest there have been no developments since December 2015.

In a statement emailed to CBC News, Parks Canada said it's still unable to comment on the case or the state of the property.

"The Glacier Park Lodge is still before the Supreme Court of British Columbia. It would be inappropriate for Parks Canada to comment while the matter is still before the courts," said the statement.

"Future options for the property will be determined after the legal process is completed."

The property's gas pumps were removed after the service station was shut down in 2012. Now, no fuel or food is available in the 150 kilometres between the towns of Golden and Revelstoke, B.C. (Chris Corday/CBC)

'Huge demand' 

Backcountry skiers say the Glacier Park Lodge was never intended to be an upscale resort, but it was valued as an affordable place to stay within the national park.

It's a captive audience for that hotel.— Sharon Bader, b ackcountry enthusiast

Sharon Bader stayed at the lodge during many winters as she and friends accessed what she said is some of the best and most accessible powder in Canada, through a trail right behind the building.

The now-empty convenience store and service station at Rogers Pass was an important resource for the region, many travellers say. (Chris Corday/CBC)

"You could go out and have a run, go back and get a poutine, go out and do another run," laughed Bader.

"Whenever we stayed in the lodge, there were tons of people. There was huge demand."

Bader and others in B.C.'s outdoors community say Rogers Pass has exploded in popularity for backcountry skiing, with remote parking lots increasingly filled with cars during the winter.

Backcountry skiers say the lodge wasn't luxurious, but it was located only steps from a trail to their powder paradise. (Sharon Bader)

Parks Canada says there were 16,679 skier visits to Glacier National Park last winter — a growth of about 47 per cent since 2010.

"It's a captive audience for that hotel," said Bader. 

"How could there not be enough people up there to support something like that?"

Hope for the historic pass

For some in the area, the hope is that a decision will come soon, especially considering the importance of Rogers Pass to Canadian history and mountaineering.

Skiers say the Rogers Pass area near the lodge is booming for ski touring, even without a lodge in the park. (Sharon Bader)

In 1885, the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed through the pass, finally connecting Canada from coast to coast.

The project included some of the tallest bridges in the world at the time, and 12 metres of snow every winter made construction a challenging and dangerous feat of engineering.

The Canadian Pacific Railway built through Rogers Pass in 1885 is celebrated at a Parks Canada discovery centre beside the Glacier Park Lodge. (Revelstoke Museum and Archives)

Revelstoke, B.C., resident Douglas Sproul has spent more than 20 years exploring the Selkirk Mountains and wrote an extensive guide to backcountry skiing in the Rogers Pass area.

No one's looking for the Ritz-Carlton up at Rogers Pass.— Douglas Sproul, Rogers Pass guidebook author

Sproul recently canvassed his friends who use the pass to see what they hope could eventually end up at the site of the Glacier Park Lodge.

The Trans-Canada through the Rogers Pass can be a treacherous stretch of mountain highway any time of the year. (Chris Corday/CBC)

Many are skeptical it will ever be restored, both because of its current condition and because they think it might be too large and old to be heated without breaking the bank. 

"The overall consensus is a smaller place, modern … no one's looking for the Ritz-Carlton up at Rogers Pass."

Sproul wants to see at least something restored or built in the pass to help travellers on what he calls a "horrible drive" in winter. 

And if nothing else, he hopes the boarded-up lodge will be put out of its misery. 

"Tear the place down, man, just make it disappear," said Sproul. 

"If the government has to take the hit on that, whoever has to do it, just do it, just get rid of it."

The lodge stands on about one hectare of national park land. (Chris Corday/CBC)

About the Author

Chris Corday

Producer

Chris Corday has been a journalist, producer and videographer for the past decade. He's worked across Canada and around the world, and loves great visual storytelling.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.