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Friday, November 04, 2005

Summer 2005 - Upgrades and Maintenance

The Chatter Creek Ski Lodges
"Summer time, and the living's easy". Not at Chatter Creek! It's the time for long days and longer job lists. Dale and Dan are working on road maintenance (drainage, etc), and are planning some additional roads to open up even more terrain. The sawmill has been busy milling finishing lumber for the lodges and upgrades to the lodges are in progress (see below). The big project will be a peaked roof over the lodge entrance, to protect guests from snow shedding off the main roof. A second outdoor furnace and an expanded woodshed are also planned. Scroll down for more information about summer activities at Chatter Creek.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A New Lodge Entrance at Chatter Creek

A new covered entranceway at Vertebrae and Solitude Lodges. The new entranceway is very much in the style of the log construction in the two mountain lodges. In the rush last year to build Solitude Lodge during one short summer season, there was not time to provide protection from showshed off the main roof. Scroll down to see more photos from this project.

For a "light" construction year at Chatter Creek, it seems that a lot has been accomplished.

The posts and beams take shape in preparation for laying the rafters and the steek membrane. Posts and beams take shape. After the ridge beam is laid, the rafters will be placed and overlaid with strapping before the steel sheeting is installed. The crane will make fast work of getting all of these materials in place.

Below, Dale walks the entranceway beams on a brisk and sunny autumn morning at Chatter Creek. In the background, the snow is building up on the Table and in RUZM Gully. For a look at these parts of the Chatter Creek cat skiing terrain, take a look at our Cat Skiing Terrain Weblog and our Ski Run Index.

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Danny uses the mobile crane to place support posts The mobile crane was back at work this summer lifting posts and roof members into place for the new entranceway and for the new woodshed. After wintering under a blanket of snow, this venerable ancient has sprung back to life each summer, but not without careful handling and coaxing from Danny.

Follow this link for a view of the struggle to get the crane to the lodge site back in 2002. It was a major undertaking.

The excavator digs and the crane lifts. There is no sand or gravel available, and cement is too far away to transport, so concrete is out of the question and piers are placed directly into pits. The soil at the lodge site seems to drain well so these large green posts are expected to last for many years.

The building in the background is a storeroom and has sometimes served as a staff bunkhouse.

Log peeling for the new entrance at Vertebrae Lodge The chips fly when Christoph and Dale "put their backs" into peeling green spruce logs for the new entranceway. If you think you would like to have a backcountry skiing business, put yourself in this picture.

When Vertebrae Lodge was built, over 100 large logs were peeled by hand. It was an enormous project. A similar number of logs were peeled for Solitude Lodge. This link provides some photos of the logging that was done for for Vertebrae Lodge

The expanded woodsheet, complete with the second outdoor wood-burning furnace is full of firewood and heating the lodges.

Christoph Lotter applies roofing steel to the new woodshed. Chef and carpenter Christoph Lotter applies sheet steel to the roof of the new woodshed. As the autumn advances there is great urgency to complete the "summer" projects. The lodge site is starting to get snow, there is only a few weeks to go before the cat skiing season starts and it's bloody cold!

Filling an Expanded Woodshed

Firewood delivery at Chatter Creek Cat Skiing The second outdoor furnace and an expanded woodshed takes lots of firewood. Here's the new dump truck delivering another load. The used truck is a new acquisition obtained to assist some summer road work.

The new wood furnace replaces the propane booster used last winter to help heat Solitude Lodge in its first year of operation. The hydraulic log splitter is an indispensible tool at Chatte Creek As the new lodge dries out, it will take a little less energy to heat. This and the added furnace capacity will have the hot tubs "steaming" this winter!

The hydraulic splitter is a necessary tool when laying in as much wood as the two lodges require. Danny keeps it going, as he does all the other equipment at Chatter Creek. Firewood is always an Autumn task. Hence, the traces of ice and snow. It's getting cold at Chatter Creek! Here's another look at the log splitter with ex-bartender, Tim and part time chef Christoph taking a break. Christoph plans to do some guiding this winter at Chatter Creek. He's hard at work upgrading his training. Tim is headed back home to Australia.

In the photo below, Dan and Tim share a laugh while working on the roof of the new woodshed. It looks like the new shed sits just behind the original. It is a separate structure with a roof that overhangs the roof of the first shed, just as the roof of Solitude Lodge overhanges Vertebrae Lodge. Constructing the roof for the new woodshed The two lodges can be seen in the background.

The ourdoor furnaces remove all fire from the lodges, except for the kitchen ranges. They also remove the need for any chimneys to pierce the roof membrane. Ice or snow damage or leakage on the main roof would be a major problem. The woodshed roof is low, easily accessed and some leakage is never a problem.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Road Work and New Equipment at Chatter Creek

The Chatter Creek Road has always been a hinderence to development at Chatter Creek. With its mud, poor drainage and many bogs, the last 17 km of road, from Bush Arm to the lodge, is impassable to all but a few vehicles for most of the spring, early summer and the fall. The Chatter Creek partners have long hoped to improve the road to make it easier to deliver supplies to the lodge. It's unlikely that guests will ever travel to the lodge by road. However, among other things, it is hoped that one day soon, fuel trucks will be able to visit the lodge and the fuel dump might be moved closer to the base of operations, removing the need to skid fuel up the road all winter by snowcat. To this end, a dump truck and a road grader were purchased this summer and some gravel and rock fill was hauled up the road from Kinbasket Lake. It was a small start on a big job but every bit will help.    The grader has also been used to better level some of the ground surrounding the lodges.

Excavator lifts snowcat track at Chatter Creek Cat Skiing The excavator lifts a snowcat tread during a track maintenance exercise at Chatter Creek. The tracks have to be serviced every year to replace damaged belts and cracked grouser bars. It's an expensive and time-consuming exercise, but necessary for reliable winter operation. Under some winter conditions, grouser bars can break on a daily basis. Sometimes they are replaced at the time, and sometimes they are repaired by welding, which rarely lasts.

In the summer, the tracks are removed from the snowcats, serviced and stored while the snowcat tractors are shipped to Camoplast Industries (ex-Bombardier) in Calgary for annual service. For more information about the Chatter Creek snowcats and their Metal Form passenger cabs, look at our Bombardier Snowcats at Chatter Creek Weblog. Chatter Creek now operates five snowcats, three for transporting guests and two for building and maintaining cat roads and for backup.

Rolling snowcat treads for summer storage at Chatter Creek Above, Dale torques bolts and replaces damaged grouser bars. Having the excavator to lift the treads is a great help. What has taken 10 days in the past has been done this year by Dale and Christophe in just two very long days. After each tread is repaired, it is rolled up, with the help of the excavator, and left to await the return of the tractors from Calgary and the first shows of the autumn, when they will be re-installed and put to use hauling final supplies to the lodge for winter.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Spruce Lodge at Chatter Creek
Spruce Lodge, the original lodge at Chatter Creek Cat Skiing is home for the summer construction crews. The 2005 crew is pretty small, so they have lots of room.

The building at the right is the "bath house", built in 2001 to introduce inside plumbing to Chatter Creek and as a training ground for the Chatter Creek staff to learn about log construction.

The propane (tanks in the foreground) is used in both lodges for kitchen ranges and to provide hot water for staff in the "Spruce Goose". Last year, propane was also used to give a boost to the heating system, which had been extended to heat Solitude Lodge. The heating system uses a outdoor furnace and wood fuel to provide hot-water heat to both Vertebrae and Solitude Lodges. The partners expect to add a second outdoor furnace this summer and to do away with the propane "assist".

Lodge Improvements

New steps and railings on Solitude Lodge decks
As with Vertebrae Lodge (see below) the frantic pace last year to complete Solitude Lodge in one short summer left much finishing work to complete. Christoph Lotter, one of Chatter Creek's winter chefs, has been hard at work on lodge improvements. One of the accomplishments this summer has been full flights to stairs and improved railings from the decks at the rear of the lodge. Not much got done last year on the staff quarters in Solitude Lodge and that will be corrected this summer.

In the background, we can see MCO at the left of the trees, RUZM to the right of the trees and upper Table over the lodge roof. The gap that is Elbow Drive is between(see below)

Rear of Solitude Ski Lodge at Chatter Creek Here's a closer look at the new railings and outside stairs at the rear of Solitude Lodge. All in the interest of safety. Note the new road grader in the background.

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MCO & RUZM and lower Table under summer skies
This photo from Lodge Ridge shows MCO at the far left, RUZM (Right up ze Middle) in the center and lower Table (light green clearing) on the right. RUZM is the cleft that runs from left to right through the small hill. Behind RUZM and beyond the Lower Table, the slope above Elbow Drive is visible. Click this link for winter views of these areas.

The Clamshell on Chatter Creek's West Side
Another view from high on the "Home Run" cut block on Lodge Ridge. This shows the Clamshell and it's small icefield. The Clamshel lies in the Kitchen Range of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. The South Side and the West Side of the Chatter Creek tenure, including the new Lakeside Addition, encompases much of the Kitchen Range.

Cat Road Development

Dale McKnight and geotechnical engineer Peter Bowle-Evans on an outing to map out new snowcat access roads. Although most sub-alpine roads are just clearings through the forest, care has to be taken to minimize erosion and water damage. Peter has worked with Chatter Creek for many years, assisting with mapping, roads and other issues. Click any image for an enlargement. Peter is also a leader of the local Golden Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association

Dale in the woods at Chatter Creek
Somewhere up the SX2 or SX3 drainage, Dale explores possible cat road locations. These drainages create stream crossings on the Chatter Creek road and hence their names. When Dale and partner, Dan start these roads, they will likely double-team on the excavator to get as much out of each 24-hour day as possible.

This "Google Earth" 3D satellite image gives a westerly view over the Chatter Creek Cat Skiing terrain. The SX2 and SX3 drainages are shown above the Chatter Creek valley. Their alpine regions are newly opened for cat skiing, but their lower areas do not yet have access and pickup roads. There is a great deal of prime tree skiing terrain here that has not yet been opened.

Summer 2004 - Solitude Lodge Construction

Solitude Lodge Construction in 2004
In the summer of 2004, Dale and Dan and a small crew were back in the woods to prepare for the constuction of another large log building. Solitude Lodge would be a bedroom annex to Vertebrae Lodge, providing about 9500 sq. ft. more living space for 12 more clients and staff. Logging was done in the early spring, while there was still lots of snow for skidding the logs with the snowcats. The mill was fired up and worked steadily for over two months, creating a large supply of dimensioned lumber. With a large new excavator to help the crane, the log construction went quickly, and the building was completed for occupancy by January, 2005. In one short summer, Chatter Creek graduated to a 36-client operation.

Summer 2003 - Vertebrae Lodge Upgrades

Summer Upgrades to Chatter Creek's Mountain Lodge
After building Vertebrae Lodge in just 6 months in 2002, and making it habitable, there was much finishing work to be done in the summenr of 2003. The Chatter Creek sawmill was fired up, logging was done and a large amount of finishing lumber was milled. The roof overhangs were extened, front and back, and a large entry deck was built. Interior wood paneling and drywall was completed. Stair railings were upgraded and fittings in bedrooms improved. The list went on and on but, by year end, Vertebrae Lodge was looking much more finished.

Further in 2003, more road-work was done to open up more and more of the cat skiing tenure.

Summer 2002 - Vertebrae Lodge Construction

Mountain Lodge Construction at Chatter Creek In the summer of 2002, Vertebrae Lodge was constructed in less than six months. This mountain lodge provides over 9200 sq ft. of living space for Chatter Creek's cat skiing guests. See the Mountain Lodge Construction Weblog for construction details and many more photos. The lodge was designed and constructed by the Chatter Creek owners and their staff, mostly friends and acqaintances from nearby Golden BC. There was almost no prior log-building experience among them, although the owners are seasoned loggers.

Summer 2001 - Bath House Construction

The bath house, next to Spruce Lodge, introduced indoor plumbing and multiple showers to Chatter Creek. It was also the training ground for learning about log construction. From this small structure, the partners and their crew stepped up to three story Vertebrae Lodge with it's 3600 sq ft. footprint and over 9000 sq ft. of floor area. At the time, the bath house was a great advance and a welcome change from the outdoor biffy.