Sustainable Alpine Huts Enhance Backcountry Experience On Vancouver Island

Tuesday 08th, January 2019 / 07:00
By Jessie Foster

Tucked away deep in the depths of the snowy forest between Tofino and Port Alberni is an alpine hut unparalleled anywhere on Vancouver Island. Nothing but sweet serenity surrounds this brand new state of the art backcountry cabin called the 5040 Peak Hut. This is the first innovative and sustainable structure in the area that is operated by solar panels along with a wood pellet burning stove. This backed by all the other amenities an adventurer should need, makes for a much easier trip out into the woods in the wintertime. With a major lack of options for backcountry skiers, boarders, sledders, snowshoers and others looking for some off-the-map adventure, many have opted to stay where there’s already a steady base of backcountry cabins established on the mainland. The hut committee is elated to now have a feasible alternative to taking a ferry to the mainland for backcountry riding.

Chris Jensen pitched this idea four years ago to the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC), which led to a team of people going out to discover the perfect peak to place the new cabin. “The Island has really steep terrain in the mountains so we wanted an area where the approach didn’t cross any avalanche terrain, and the site itself wasn’t going to get blasted away,” said Jensen. Without huts such as these realized, outdoors-people would have to carry around packs filled with pans, pots, toilet paper and other unnecessary belongings that weigh down their shoulders, bags and ultimately eating away energy which could be used instead for exploring.

“First Nations, lots of them were on board right away because they thought it would provide a good safe haven to be able to have youth group trips and reconnect them with the alpine areas,” says Jensen. There was some concern at first that people would be cutting down the trees surrounding the dorm, but with the eco friendly stove, this will not be a dilemma for the area.


This hut is innovative in many ways, including the wood pellet stove, the engineering, and the new solid separating outhouse according to Jensen. Nearly 400 people came from around the province, as well as internationally, to lend a hand wherever they could to help construct the building. There was “quite a huge army” that went out for the past couple years, mainly on weekends, to help out with the new building. Their efforts have been recompensed with a beautiful and sustainable hut for many generations to come.

“The 5040 Hut, in some inexplicable way has twisted itself around my heart and strives to hold me in that place on that wonderful, pretty little mountain. I look forward to the next season and hope for tons of snow,” says Chris Ruttan, the Peak 5040 Hut construction leader.

With the hut being completed in late October, it has now begun taking reservations and will be accepting its first guests mid-January. Lawrence White is the ACC national executive director and spoke in front of the 60 eager adventurers who showed up to the grand opening event.
“It was executed with purpose and vision, with thoughtfulness and speed, with inclusiveness and transparency. The hut at Peak 5040 will be celebrated for decades to come by people of the Island, and by those of us longing for the Island. It is your gift to the mountain community and for that I hope you are eternally proud,” says White.

While there are a few small backcountry huts speckled around the Northern quarters of the Island, many are unkempt, bedraggled and involve plenty of digging to get into your abode. With the advent of a new modern hut, adventuring is more accessible to a broader audience looking for an alternative in the wintertime to the sometimes-pricey ski resorts.

Keith Haberl is the marketing manager for the Alpine Club of Canada, which has coordinated 34 huts across the west now and continues to drive new alternatives for backcountry skiers and boarders. He delights at the prospects of their first hut on the Island and the sheer multitude of snowfall they get in that region annually. “They are the first mountains off the Pacific, as soon as Canada rises up it’s the first mountains that the winds would hit and they get massive snow dumps. So that’s pretty interesting. In the summertime you’d be up there and it’d be 35 degrees or something, lying in alpine lakes, then in the wintertime it could be extremely windy and massive dumps of snow. They’ve got fantastic skiing,” says Haberl.
So if you’re planning to get out and explore this beautiful forested country, try this brand new Peak 5040 Alpine Hut on for size. Make a weekend out of the short trip from Vancouver and don’t forget to enjoy the ride, which will be filled with ocean, mountains, forest, culture and a sustainable new shelter. What more could a mountain lover ask for?

“We share the gratitude of what we have here. From now on, no more ferry to the mainland for huts. With the deepest of appreciation, thank you to the core team and every person that has played a role in making this place come true,” says Jensen.