Baldface rolls out expansion plans
Turning a challenge into an opportunity, Baldface Lodge is planning a $2.5 million expansion to its catski operation near Nelson.
President Jeff Pensiero expects work to begin this month on a two-storey, 9,000 square foot (836 sq. m) dorm-style building with 26 rooms, as well as an addition to the main lodge with a hot tub, four massage rooms, and 1,000 square foot (92 sq. m) conference and yoga space.
“I dream big,” Pensiero says. “I want to get the whole thing done in one summer, although the priority’s on the lodging portion. Worst case scenario, we’ll have it drawn, permitted, the foundations in on both, and at the very least, the lodge done and hot tub in on the spa side.”
Baldface has hired local architect Steven Kaup, general contractor Maglio Installations, and engineers Andrew Swan and Don Willems on the project, which is also expected to help draw summer visitors once complete.
“We have great mountain biking trails and an amazing hiking spot,” Pensiero says. “We’ll offer a broader spectrum, and I think make a run at a decent summer business.”
It follows the collapse in May of an Atco trailer wing under heavy snow which served the operation for nine seasons. Pensiero says they normally would have been off the mountain by then, but they were helping a ski film company shooting in the area.
“We were up there and heard cracking and popping,” he says. “We had the engineer, insurance guy, and general contractor up and took some mitigative steps to save it.”
A crew of ten shovelled around the clock, but to no avail. On Mother’s Day, “the whole thing went wham,” Pensiero says.
“There’s five meters of snow, so it’s like building a pyramid shovelling off that roof. We did the best we could, but when it went, it looked like Japanese tsunami wreckage.”
He says no one can be blamed except Mother Nature: the steel overhang was designed to withstand 300 lbs. per square foot, with an additional safety factor built in. But the snow was heavier still.
The new building will be designed to a 500 lb. standard, anticipating further La Niña winters.
“We’re over-engineering this building,” Pensiero says. “It’s basically a ten-storey building, with two storeys built. There’s no other way.”
He expected final word from the insurance company this week, along with finished drawings, which will be reviewed over the weekend and then sent to the engineer and draftsman.
“We’re hopefully going to be digging footings in the next two weeks, with all the debris removed, and then pouring concrete as soon as we get the foundation permit,” he says.
Construction should start by the end of the month or beginning of August, and they hope to be inside by mid-October, weather permitting. They’re still waiting for snow to be off the ground so they can finish demolishing the trailers and haul the wreckage out.
Pensiero says he always envisioned this sort of expansion — but not so soon.
“This is not the summer I would have gone into a huge construction project,” he says, noting he and wife Paula just had twins. “We were probably thinking about it in the next four to five years.”
However, he’s not complaining now that circumstances have sped up those plans.
“My plate is full, but what an awesome opportunity to complete my vision,” he says. “I’m a cockeyed optimist. I didn’t choose this, but I’m going to make the best of it.”