SkiBig3: How Did We Get Here?

Lizzie Rummel’s Legacy at Skoki Lodge

One of the things that you might notice while reading SkiBig3: How Did We Get Here? series is that at each step of the way someone made a unique impact on a place. For Mount Norquay, it was Cliff White whose determination to develop skiing in the Canadian Rockies shone through to build that first cabin and establish the first ski club. Cliff then shifted his gaze towards Lake Louise and the Skoki Valley where he would, once again, launch a dream; this time of a backcountry ski lodge.

In 1931, Skoki Lodge opened and was initially run as a club operation. The first season saw 48 signatures in the register, almost all of them Banff residents. At this point the lodge did not appear to have a manager. Over the years, and for many different reasons Skoki would be managed by a number of different people, including our founders Peter & Catharine Whyte. However, this post will celebrate a woman whose hospitality, knowledge of the mountains and charm left a lasting impact on visitors to Lake Louise and Skoki Lodge: Lizzie Rummel.

V554/PA-952, "1944, Skoki", Elizabeth Rummel fonds
V554/PD-1421, Elizabeth Rummel fonds
Lizzie Rummel (Born Elisabet von Rummel in Munich in 1897) first came to Canada with her mother, step-father and two sisters in April 1911. Her mother Elsa had purchased Gate Ranch, twenty miles southwest of Priddis, Alberta. The family adapted well to ranching life despite having come from aristocratic roots in Germany (Elisabet and her two sisters were baronesses, titles inherited from their father Baron Gustav von Rummel). The three sisters Elisabet, Johanne, and Eugenie adjusted especially well to life in Canada. All three girls fell in love with horses and Elisabet learned to cook from Mrs. Gillespie who ran the boarding house in Priddis. 

All of these skills, developed from a hardworking life of running a ranch, would serve Elisabet well when in 1937/38, after her sisters had married and her mother gone to travel the world, she decided to follow her dreams of running her own guest ranch in the mountains.

I just wanted to do something on my own. Perhaps run a guest ranch. I knew how to cook and how to operate a place where there are no stores.” (Lizzie Rummel, from Baroness of the Canadian Rockies by Ruth Oltmann, p.27)

Elisabet came to Banff and quickly made friends with many locals including Margarite Rutherford who first told her about Mount Assiniboine, Erling Strom, and his cabins in the mountains. Elisabet tracked down Erling Strom and ended up working for him at Mount Assiniboine Lodge from the summer of 1938 to the summer of 1941, cooking, cleaning and guiding. During this time Elisabet developed her skiing skills at Mount Norquay and around Mount Assiniboine, as well as learning to rock climb with the Alpine Club of Canada. From here she worked for a summer at Temple View Bungalow Camp, two kilometers east of the Village of Lake Louise, and finally in 1943 began managing Skoki Lodge at the age of forty-six.

V554/PA-929, "Skoki Lodge", Elizabeth Rummel fonds

V554/PA-927, "Looking through the cabin window", Elizabeth Rummel fonds
Elisabet’s first ski into Skoki speaks to her positive attitude and determination to pursue her dreams. Her first ski was in the winter of 1943 and she described it thus:

And I followed that fellow and I fell and I got up, and I fell and I got up. I couldn’t ski for sour apples. And I got to Skoki and you (Jim Boyce) came out the door with this hot rum. You bent down and undid my skis. I’ll never forget that. That’s real hospitality.” (Lizzie Rummel, from Baroness of the Canadian Rockies by Ruth Oltmann, p.38)

And she never did. It was here at Skoki Lodge where Elisabet became “Lizzie” and where her charm and hospitality shone through to her guests and friends. 

V554/PA-875, The Mountaineers at Skoki and personnel,
"First from left Lizzie, 3rd from left Ray Legace, kneeling 2nd from left Maudy Glaister",
Elizabeth Rummel fonds

V554/PA-905, "Jean Vallance, 1943",
Elizabeth Rummel fonds
V554/PA-893, Ken Jones and Elizabeth Rummel
leaving Mount Temple Chalet enroute to Skoki,
Elizabeth Rummel fonds

One thing which impressed me was that she was at home with any type of person: the party who drank in the morning and the people who were teetotalers. She just fitted in with anybody. […] She always greeted people with a cup of tea or something hot to drink when they arrived. Tea was always served in the afternoon when they came in. I know whenever anybody arrived they were always greeted. Anyone who came was welcome.” (Jean Vallance Gill, from Baroness of the Canadian Rockies by Ruth Oltmann, p.46-47)

V554/PA-931, "Dr. & Mrs. Benfield", Elizabeth Rummel fonds
V554/PA-933, Elizabeth Rummel fonds

Guests would leave comments in the guestbook attesting to her kindness and dedication:

Food like this takes not only art, but genius!

Elizabeth going out to ski with us in the morn.

Many thanks to a perfect hostess

Throughout her years in the backcountry Lizzie acquired her ski guide licence for the 30 km radius around Skoki Lodge, as well as a National Parks' licence. Lizzie's 'territory' around Skoki included Douglas Glacier (now Bonnet Glacier), Merlin Ridge, Skoki Mountain, Fossil Mountain and Deception Pass.

In 1950, Lizzie bought her own mountain lodge at Mount Assiniboine called Sunburst Lake Camp. She retired in 1970 but continued working, managing hostels and lodges around Banff and Mount Assiniboine. She made a trip to the Canadian Arctic in 1973 at the age of seventy-six. In April of 1980 Lizzie received the Order of Canada: 

She has enriched her country by sharing her deep love of the Rocky Mountains with all who meet her.” 

V554/PA-940, "Skoki 1945", Elizabeth Rummel fonds

If you want to learn more about Lizzie Rummel and her life check out the following books and resources:

Lizzie Rummel: Baroness of the Canadian Rockies (1983) by Ruth Oltmann

Alberta Originals: Stories of Albertans Who Made a Difference (2001) by Brian Brennan

Whyte Museum Archives & Library Online Database fonds record


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