Everett Potter, cross country skier, instructor and journalist, has named Stokely Creek Lodge as one of his five favourite cross country ski resorts in an article appearing in U.S. business magazine Forbes.
In a January write up, Potter recognized Stokely for its trail system, near to the highway while still being secluded.
“I thought it was amazing,” said Susan Byker, Stokely Creek Lodge co-owner of the recognition received.
“Forbes is a business magazine, and from a business perspective, to be put among the best in the cross country skiing business is very exciting.”
The Forbes article ranked Stokely fifth, Latigo Ranch, Colorado coming first followed by Lone Mountain Ranch, Montana, Vista Verde Guest Ranch, Colorado and Methow Valley, Washington.
The thumbs up for the lodge from Forbes follows an earlier honour.
Stokely Creek Lodge, as reported earlier, was also named one of the top North American cross country ski resorts in the USA Today Readers’ Choice Travel Awards for 2021.
That was a major achievement, Stokely Creek placing high on the list among larger resorts across the continent, including some in Alberta, British Columbia, California, Colorado and New Hampshire.
“I think Stokely has always been up there,” said Byker, speaking to SooToday.
Stokely Creek Lodge, located 34 kilometres north of Sault Ste. Marie, includes a main lodge, restaurant, guest cabins and more than 100 kilometres of cross-country ski and snowshoe trails. It is also open for biking, hiking and cross-country running in the spring, summer and fall months.
The lodge is owned by Susan Byker, husband Gaylen, daughter Tanya Byker Phair and son-in-law Ian Phair.
The Byker family is based near Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“When Chuck Peterson and his family started Stokely (in the 1970s, the Byker family having purchased the resort in 2007), they looked for the best place for terrain and weather. We don’t do races anymore but skiers from all over, like Norway, raced here. I think that right now they (sources such as USA Today, Forbes and other major publications) are recognizing outdoor sports more and putting that forward, and cross country skiing is at the forefront when people are looking for things to do outside (after COVID lockdowns),” Byker said.
“I’ve been going through old articles and it’s just amazing how much has been written about Stokely over the last 40 years and how much has happened here. We have really kept the place going and maintained the trails, probably even groomed better.”
“Chuck kind of liked more back country stuff,” Byker added with a chuckle.
As for the food and hospitality side of it, Byker said “we’ve kept up the great food that was started way back. We’ve had wonderful chefs here.”
In years past, The Globe and Mail recognized Stokely’s quality as a resort in 2010, followed by CNN Travel in 2014.
The New York Times highlighted Stokely in 2019 for its relative proximity (approximately 48 kilometres) to the ice caves - popular with many ecotourists - along the shore of Lake Superior.
While the majority of Stokely’s guests are American, Byker told SooToday a lot more Saultites are starting to become aware of what’s in their own backyard.
“We’re getting a lot of people from the Sault coming out here now for overnight stays. I think these recent things (recognition from national media sources) are helping people realize ‘we don’t have to go too terribly far for a wonderful, unique experience.’”
Other Canadian visitors are starting to come from centres such as Sudbury and Toronto, Byker said.
Stokely opened for the skiing season Dec. 26, observing COVID-19 protocols.
A lockdown shut the resort’s doors for a time before reopening Jan. 31.
Handing out of COVID-19 rapid test kits to travellers entering Canada at the CBSA port of entry in the Sault has been a turn-off for some, Byker said.
“They get a test. They say it's random but I bet 80 per cent of our guests are given a kit to take a test, online, in front of somebody. That doesn’t make for a relaxing vacation so we’re wondering when all that will end.”
“Other than that we’ve been doing very well. We’ve had very few cancellations. We’re very booked,” Byker said.