ALL HANS SAID WAS, “GIVE ME A LODGE,” says now-retired architect Philippe Delesalle of the day that Canadian mountain accommodation changed forever.
Delesalle was a young lion when he first met Gmoser in 1952 as employees of the Sunshine Village ski area in Banff. They became fast friends, the mountains their bond; Delesalle was on the teams which Gmoser led on his famous expeditions to Mt. Logan and, later, the Icefields Traverse from Lake Louise to Jasper.
By 1968, though, Delesalle was a practicing architect about to define the iconic CMH lodge style, his signature work. Gmoser, he recalls, trusted him absolutely. “He didn’t say ‘Give me an Austrian lodge, or a Swiss lodge.’ He knew that I would come up with a purely Canadian design, one that was appropriate for this incredible setting.”
Delesalle did just that, using local timber and stone and a set of unwavering principles geared precisely to the demands of the Heli-Skiing program: they were to be south-facing, with a dining room on the top floor, panoramic windows and a central entrance at snow level. But it’s the seemingly counter-intuitive flat roof profile that is Delesalle’s cleverest decision.
“When we worked at Sunshine we were so fed up shovelling snow off the shed rooves,” he says. His solution was to build an ultra-strong double roof with broad eaves, and a slight front-to-back slope so that any creeping snowpack would fall harmlessly to the rear of the lodge. Delesalle’s first iteration was the Bugaboo Lodge which, four renovations later, still follows his original precepts.
Newcomers are still amazed when they encounter such comfort and solidity so deep in a forbidding wilderness. And as far as imitation goes, consider Delesalle flattered. These days you will see many of his design hallmarks copied in backcountry lodges across the mountain west, many of which would probably still be fussing over A-frame rooves had the CMH style not set the endemic standard. Delesalle is understandably proud. “I’m a happy man,” he says. “I’m 82 now and I never made money in architecture. It was always a work of love.” Amen to that.