Baldface Lodge expands operations into Valhallas

Baldface purchased the Valhalla Powdercat ski operation before the pandemic

Baldface Lodge founder and CEO Jeff Pensiero. Photo: Darren Davidson

Baldface Lodge founder and CEO Jeff Pensiero. Photo: Darren Davidson

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

Residents of Passmore won’t see any changes to a local backcountry ski operation in their community – at least for the time being.

The owner of Baldface Lodge says except for a name change, they plan nothing different from the Valhalla Powdercat ski operation that’s operated in the Slocan Valley community for years.

“Basically we’re keeping everyone there, running the same operation,” says Jeff Pensiero, whose Nelson-based operation purchased the business from Valhalla Powdercats about two years ago. “We’re just going to keep running it, try to make some improvements, and continue the good work that the people who have been there forever have been doing.”

The newly acquired operation has two cat-tractors with about 20-22 employees. They’ve added a couple of extra employees with the purchase, says Pensiero.

Baldface purchased Valhalla Powdercats just before the pandemic, so this is the first season they’ll actually operate in the high country between the Arrow Lakes and Slocan Valley, in the Koch Creek-Grizzly Creek area.

Like most of the ski industry, Baldface shut down at the beginning of the COVID crisis in March 2020. That meant it has never actually taken guests to its new tenure.

“It didn’t feel right at the time,” says Pensiero of operating during the pandemic. “I think we could have, in retrospect, but we didn’t.”

The company is ready now, though, and advertising day trips on its website.

“Baldface Lodge is very proud to announce they have acquired a new tenure in the very next valley from the existing Baldface territory,” says the company home page. “Guests can expect a lot of ground-breaking adventure, exhilarating turns, and challenging terrain, all with the same good vibes and professional service that Baldface has offered for 20 years.”

Day trips begin with an early morning coffee and check-in at the welcome area. From there, guests will be driven up to Passmore by bus to the company staging area. That’s where they transition into the snowcat for a full day of deep mountain riding.

They’ll then return to their accommodations in Nelson or the valley for the night.

Land bought for future plans

While local residents won’t see much change this year from the operation they’re used to, Pensiero says that doesn’t mean things won’t change at some point.

He says they’ve purchased an acreage in Passmore, and may build a new welcome station/base camp on the site. But he says that’s just a vague plan for now — a lot depends on the ski season to come and how the pandemic plays out.

“I’m thinking about it, but I have to get into it a little further down the road. It would even be speculation on my part,” he says. “But I’m not saying I’m not going to do that.

“We have to see what the economy does, what COVID does, and how people feel about it.”

He also notes that, with a large number of Airbnbs available in the area, there’s no urgency to develop their own accommodation.

“I really like the area, and I would like to develop what’s there, growing a lot of the food that we use up at the Baldface Lodge. But I have to get in there and see what it’s all about,” he says. “But it’s going to be like this for at least the next two years.”

Pensiero says he’s more than willing to talk to any locals who want to learn more about Baldface’s plans in the Passmore area.