Enjoying Kluane National Park without having to do the gruelling multiple-day hikes: that’s the pitch behind a lodge the Kluane First Nation wants to build next year.
“It’s a world heritage site the world doesn’t get to experience,” KFN Chief Math’ieya Alatini told the News on Thursday.
People hiking through the national park are usually willing to hike for three days, climbing several mountain ranges, she said.
Turns out, that’s a very small percentage of all the tourists.
The resort would be next to Bighorn Lake, in between the Donjek and Kluane glaciers, a dozen kilometres west of Burwash Landing.
Visitors will have the option to fly in directly from Whitehorse or to fly to Burwash Landing first.
The project is part of Parks Canada’s Northern Iconic Experience program that aims to attract more visitors to Canada’s national parks.
“There is a lot of interest in a slightly gentler experience,” said Michael Prochazka, a visitor experience product development officer at Parks Canada.
“You don’t have to put in a high level of effort or time to have an incredible wilderness experience,” he added about the idea of the project.
As part of the partnership, Parks Canada provides the First Nation with technical expertise, helping to plan the project, reducing the environmental impact and sharing best practices.
The exact budget for the resort isn’t known yet, Kluane Community Development Corporation general manager Colin Asselstine said.
A feasibility study is being conducted and if everything goes well, the plan is to start construction next year.
The resort will include a main lodge with dining, recreation facilities and a lounge area, and external sleeping cabins.
It will be able to host anywhere between 12 and 20 people, Asselstine said.
Mockup designs haven’t been presented to KFN citizens yet, Alatini said, but the lodge and cabins will incorporate both elements of Southern Tutchone brush houses and modern design that focuses on the glaciers, including window lookouts.
But on top of making Kluane accessible to more people, the First Nation wants to teach visitors about the First Nation’s history and traditions, Alatini said.
That could be learning some Southern Tutchone words, the medicinal properties of plants or bits and pieces about the history of the people who’ve lived there for thousands of years.
Calling it a “natural fit” with KFN citizens, she said storytellers and local artists will have a chance to showcase their work.
Kluane is a “virtually untouched” place, Alatini emphasized, and from the design to the operation of the lodge everything will be done to minimize the environmental impact.
“Everything is built to fit with the environment but also as environmentally friendly as possible,” said Asselstine.
He estimates the price of a night at the lodge to be in the $300-500 range, which will target a higher-end category of tourists.
But that remains a good price, he said, given how remote the resort is – it would take several days to hike there – and the fact it will include the flight, food and recreation.
“It’s as open to as many people as possible.”
For now, the corporation is looking at using fixed-wing aircraft, Asselstine said.
That would be cheaper than flying in with a helicopter and would only require a gravel path, not a landing strip.
The project is expected to create about seven direct jobs on top of construction jobs.
That’s significant for a community like Burwash Landing, Asselstine said, given there are only about 60 people living there.
It will also create indirect jobs because of the need to fly everything in.
Alatini said she met with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations to look at economies of scale.
CTFN is planning a similar resort at Bennett Lake where people would fly in with a float plane and take the White Pass train back to Carcross.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at