Cranbrook, British Columbia, and the lush surroundings enveloping it, tout more history, heritage and relatively untouched natural beauty than almost any destination in the Inland Northwest. Time spent here is an escape through the annals of time rife with legacy, beauty and tradition.
St. Eugene Mission Resort
Pull into the regal courtyard of St. Eugene’s Mission Resort off Cranbrook’s Mission Road and instantly you feel as though you have been gently ushered into a world where the past makes peace with the present. The building’s limestone facade stands as a commanding presence before you, welcoming, yet markedly more deliberate than most similar destinations.
The main entrance conveys a sense that through the years much more than tourists seeking a restful getaway and a round of golf have sought respite. One gets the feeling that the phrase ‘If walls could talk’ takes on new meaning here.
Once inside, the bare brick and wooden beams – original to the 1910 structure – seamlessly integrate with a warm, updated color palette, and pay respect to the building’s vintage, while allowing guests to feel they are sitting in the lap of modern luxury. It is, however, the resort’s history and the manner this destination came to be that make its existence that much more poignant.
One of the sorest points in Canadian-Native relations over the years has been the legacy of the country’s Residential School System. Schools were built to separate native children from their families for the entirety of their school career, in hopes of eradicating Canadian indigenous culture and language from their hearts and minds.
The Canadian government funded and constructed the building that is now the St. Eugene Mission Resort in 1910. The venture was the west’s first Industrial and Residential School and the surrounding community has contemplated the endeavor with a range of emotions ever since. In 1970, the school was closed and the building was eventually abandoned.
Ultimately, the government handed the keys of the dilapidated building over to the Ktunaxa people, a community of five First Nations bands, to do with as they pleased. After many ideas were proposed, the St. Eugene Resort Golf Course was opened in 2000, followed by the hotel and conjoined casino three years later, all which have combined to become one of the most prestigious, hidden vacation gems in the West.
With the subtle integration of the Ktunaxa language into hotel signage and the Ktunaxa Kinbasket Interpretive Center located on the resort’s lower level, the surrounding native culture is incorporated into guests’ stays, but is not the focus. The true focus of this resort are the luxury amenities, lush 18-hole golf course, fine dining room and lounge, and first-rate guest-services.
St. Eugene Mission Resort brings the best of both worlds together in a harmonious convergence. A tour of the facility, given by a former student of the Residential School,
Gordie Sebastian, is a perfect example of this divergence. Sebastian played a major role in the evolution of the resort and now treats guests to a 45-minute tour through the hallways of the beautifully updated facility where he once spent time as a child. He tells of how things once were and highlights details of the building’s restoration.
The splendor continues outside the walls of the resort in grand scale on the 18-hole Wes Furber-designed golf course. The links wind from one awe-inspiring view to another while challenging the most seasoned pro to the highest of handicaps with four sets of tees ranging from 5,398 to 7,007 yards. While the entire course is top-notch, holes 8, 12, 13, 14 and 18 are especially noteworthy, with the latter feeling almost as though St. Andrew’s was transplanted to the Canadian Rockies. In fact, the year it opened, St. Eugene’s was voted to the Top 3 new Canadian courses by Golf Digest Magazine.
After a day on the course, a gourmet meal in the resort’s fine dining room might be just the ticket! Relaxing in the lounge