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Shadow Lake a Piece of Heaven

Sonia Kuczaj – reporter
When Bud Brewster bought Shadow Lake Lodge for a down payment of $50 in the early 1950s it was a small, lone cabin in the middle of nowhere.

Situated in the backcountry next to one of Banff National Park’s most spectacular lakes at Ball Mountain, Brewster knew there was something special about the area.

Over the years, Brewster and his father Claude eventually sold their other properties, including the Lake Agnes Tea House and the Lake O’Hara Lodge.

But Brewster refused to sell Shadow Lake Lodge.

“Dad saw the value of Shadow and always had,” said Alison Brewster, who now operates the lodge with her husband Bryan Niehaus.

On Thursday (Oct. 2), the couple won the Banff Heritage Tourism Best Environmental Practice award, beating out the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Brewster said she had not even bothered writing a speech, believing that Fairmont would win the award.

Robyn Dinnadge, executive director of the Banff Heritage Tourism Corporation, said Shadow Lake Lodge was the chosen winner for its progressive efforts.

“It is not just about meeting the minimum or legislative environmental standards, but demonstrating leadership and environmental excellence in providing a quality wilderness experience for visitors,” she said.

No longer a single cabin, Shadow Lake Lodge these days consists of 12 cabins, which can accommodate a total of 48 guests.

Prior to Bud Brewster buying it, the original Shadow Lake rest house had been constructed in 1929 by Canadian Pacific Railway,then sold to Brewster Transport in 1937, which later sold it to Bud Brewster.

From the 1950s until the 1990s, the cabin did not operate on a commercial basis. However, it was used periodically for large outfitting operations and a small tour guiding operation had been based out of the facility.

Alison said her father tried to get permission to expand the lodge in the 1980s under the Four Mountain Parks Planning Program. On July 13, 1991 phase one of the development was approved and development started the next day.

“Deep down my father always wanted it to happen, but I don’t know if he actually believed that it ever really would,” she said.

With the development came the need to follow Parks Canada regulations to minimize the impact on the environment.

In the backcountry there is no power, so coming up with efficient ways to run the lodge required some innovative thinking.

To reduce green house emissions, Niehaus said the lodge stopped using kerosene lamps last year and has switched to solar power. Niehaus said that also reduces the risk of a potential fire.

Other initiatives include the installation of an engineered settling system through which grey water is oxygenated and passed through to remove all grease and food particles, before being dispersed into the tile field.

In addition, water consumption is metered for better management and all soaps and detergents used on the premises are phosphate free.

“ We have been doing everything we were told to do, but in a manner which exceeds what they (Parks Canada) expect,” Niehaus said.

While strategic thinking has helped Shadow Lake Lodge move forward, Niehaus said that not every backcountry lodge is as fortunate.

“We have sun exposure, (and) a creek that doesn’t dry up. Whoever picked the spot there for the original cabin knew what they were doing,” Niehaus said.

To keep Shadow Lake Lodge moving in the right direction Niehaus said he would like to install a composting unit in the future, but is searching for a unit that can withstand the cold.

“They freeze, that is the biggest hurdle,” he said.

For now, the lodge will continue flying human waste out and depositing it in the Banff waste treatment plant twice a year.

Opportunities for the application of micro-hydro are also being investigated to provide a more consistent power source, and to reduce the requirement for large battery banks.

Brewster said preserving and sharing the heritage of Shadow Lake Lodge is important to her family and it is a piece of family history that she will not put up for sale.

“My father sold Lake O’Hara, but he kept Shadow because to this day, my father still believes that Shadow is one of the nicest areas in the national parks,” she said.
“And it truly is a piece of heaven.”

Banff Heritage Tourism Awards Winners

Most Innovative Commitment to National Park and World Heritage Site Awareness – Parks Canada’s Mountain World Heritage Interpretive Theatre

Best Heritage Related Product or Service – Simpson’s Num-Ti-Jah Lodge. Banff Tours received an honourable mention.

Best Environmental Practices – Brewster’s Shadow Lake Lodge

Strongest Commitment to Staff Heritage Orientation – Mountain Parks Heritage Interpretation Association

Best “Wonder of Water” Themed Initiative – Banff Mountain Summit 2003: Mountains as Water Towers

Award for Heritage Excellence – White Mountain Adventures


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