Finding yourself at the Lost Trail Lodge Visitors discover luxury accommodations and a backcountry playground
Though its name derives from the many skiers, hikers and other outdoor recreationists who have lost their way in the backcountry and turned up at the doorstep of the Lost Trail Lodge, backcountry enthusiasts are quickly discovering that there may be no better place in the area to lose oneself for a while.
“It’s awesome in here,” said lodge owner and warden David Robertson. “It’s like you’re in the middle of the Yukon, and you’re four miles from Truckee.”
Getting to the lodge from Truckee involves a four-mile ski, snowshoe or snowcat ride into Cold Stream Canyon from Donner Memorial State Park. And while visitors to the lodge usually get there under their own power, many opt for the luxury of having their overnight gear brought in on the 1985 Tucker snowcat that Robertson operates.
Once at the lodge, guests are welcomed by a roaring fire in the common room, a gourmet kitchen and ample opportunities to kick back, relax and socialize with the other guests (if there are any), or head outdoors to explore some of the thousands of acres of backcountry terrain in Cold Stream Canyon and off Anderson Ridge.
If privacy is desired, each of the four semi-detached cabins at the lodge is equipped with a private bath (three with jacuzzi tubs) and shower, a propane stove, living and sleeping areas and rustic furnishings that Robertson has collected over the years.
With room for 16 guests at full capacity, many groups choose to rent out the entire lodge for a weekend getaway or an extended stay.
And while the serenity and beauty of the lodge and its surroundings are enough for some, most visitors come for the unlimited opportunities for backcountry skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing in the vicinity.
“There’s definitely good terrain out there,” said Dustin Schaad, a guide with Truckee-based Alpine Skills International, which leads backcountry ski tours in the area. “There are all kinds of elevations and aspects that you can ski, so no matter what the conditions are there’s going to be some really good skiing up there… It’s world class, there’s no doubt about it.”
With 2,600 feet of vertical between the top of Anderson Ridge and the lodge, backcountry skiers and riders with navigational expertise and strong lung capacity can make as many laps as they want in a day without ever crossing their tracks.
“You can access all different types of terrain from there: South-facing stuff, north-facing stuff, there are some pretty steep chutes in there and some more mellow tree skiing,” said Leslie Ross, the owner/director of Babes in the Backcountry – a women’s-only backcountry ski school that also runs trips to the lodge.
The allure of the backcountry terrain in the area is the biggest draw for the lodge, according to Robertson, but guests need to have the skills to make their adventures safe. Winter recreationists who aren’t on a guided trip must be self sufficient and have a good understanding of avalanche terrain and how to stay safe in the backcountry. A shovel, avalanche probe and beacon and other survival gear should be in every backpack, and every party should carry a compass and topographical map of the area and know how to use them.
Backcountry dream fulfilled
A long-time Tahoe resident, Robertson had dreamed of building a backcountry lodge in Cold Stream Canyon for years before finally getting his chance in 1999. Before returning to Tahoe, Robertson managed a small lodge on Flathead Lake in Montana, but often thought about buying property in Cold Stream Canyon, which he first saw 20 years before on a snowshoeing trip.
Initially planned as a two-year project, construction of the lodge eventually took five years as delays due to the remoteness of the site and the difficulty of getting materials to it took their toll.
Completely off the grid, the lodge relies on solar power with a diesel backup for electricity and a 3,000 gallon propane tank for heat during the winters. Two wells on the property provide what Robertson calls “the best tasting untreated drinking water around.”
Dogs are welcome at the lodge, and Opie, Robertson’s Great Pyrenees, can usually be found frolicking in the snow or welcoming guests to the living room.
Other wildlife includes coyotes, geese, bears (which hibernate in winter), squirrels, birds and a family of beavers who have built their pond on the property.
By all accounts the Lost Trail Lodge is a perfect place to drop out of society for a while – cell phone coverage is spotty at best and Internet access is nonexistent – and sometimes big storms make doing so a necessity.
“The isolation in here during a big storm is just awesome,” Robertson said. “It’s like there’s some element of uncertainty wondering what’s going to happen next and how long is it going to last. But we could hold out for a couple of months, and the most important thing is just to stay put and don’t fight it because you won’t win.”