A lifetime at the lodge

From a childhood spent in a mountain lodge to guide and now operator, Kate Devine reflects on lodge life.

Kate Devine. Photo: Abby Cooper

This story first appeared in print in the April/May issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.

“Revelstoke is central to who I am,” states Kate Devine, a third-generation Revelstokian. With respect for the past and eyes for the future, she’s simultaneously carrying on a family legacy and carving her own path. Her family set big shoes to fill, but Kate’s tall, so her foot fits a Cinderella ski boot just right. Plus she has one rock-solid partner by her side that’s up for the adventure. Kate wants what is best for the town she loves, the people she cares about and the mountains that hold her soul. Kate’s character is often defined with the following phrases: ski guide, Selkirk Lodge, long blond ponytail, avalanche forecaster and having a deep respect for all that is sacred mountain culture. While that’s how you might know her presently, her story didn’t start, nor does it stop here.

Growing up in Revelstoke

A tour group sets out for a day in the backcountry.
Photo by Abby Cooper

Three-month-old Kate Devine boarded her first helicopter wrapped in her mother’s arms in 1987 bound for Selkirk Lodge. Her parents had spent the last year constructing the alluring backcountry accommodations, and a new babe wouldn’t change the mountain rich lifestyle Grania and Steve Devine were quite literally building.

At the time of Kate’s birth, Steve Devine was working as a Full Assistant Guide with only two exams to go before he would become a full-fledged mountain guide. Steve’s plans for guiding, the lodge and his family came to an abrupt ending when he was killed in an avalanche.

Kate was only four months old when her father passed away, but the impression he left would stay with her for life. “I imagine my father’s intentions for building Selkirk Lodge were pretty simple. He wanted to work alongside his wife and spend as much time as possible enjoying life in the mountains and raising a family. What his story has imprinted on me is the importance of pursuing happiness. Life is short — each day and each experience is something to be cherished.”

Kate’s mother Grania has always been strong and adaptable as most women in the mountains must be. After losing her husband Steve, she quickly grew her own roots in Revelstoke by purchasing a small home and continuing on with the plans for the lodge with the help of her sister and friends. Little did she know her brave face and remarkable efforts would dub her ‘Queen of the Selkirks’ in the years to come.

It’s important to note that while Kate’s birth father Steve Devine started Selkirk Lodge, the man she calls dad today has been an instrumental part of its executed success. Mike Cummings is a builder, woodworker and carpentry artist, but most importantly Kate’s adopted father. “He has been a pillar in my life since he met my mom when I was still a toddler. He’s an amazing father to me and partner to my mom. He is an essential piece of the Selkirk Lodge puzzle. My mom may be the face of Selkirk Lodge, but my dad has been right beside her for over 30 years. He has devoted tens of thousands of hours into improvements to the business and the building.”

While some might view the upbringing of being raised by backcountry lodge owners as difficult or somewhat broken, the bond between Kate and her parents was so strong that she never thought differently and only wanted the same for herself someday. The non-traditional but wholesome Revelstoke childhood showed her what it meant to be strong and self motivated. Unsurprisingly, her parents’ choices brought skiing to the epicenter of Kate’s life. She quickly understood that skiing made people happy and making people happy was rewarding. “I realized that I wanted to be a guide while skiing at Selkirk Lodge over a spring break in high school. I pretty much started working towards being a guide and spending my life in the mountains as soon as I finished high school.”

Forging her path

Selkirk Lodge early in the winter season. Photo: Abby Cooper

“I love the mountains, and Selkirk Lodge so much, I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. I was and still am drawn to the simplicity of mountain life, and being off the grid. I want to honour the hard work of my parents, and carry it forward with my partner Joel.”

It was always Kate’s dream to one day “carry the torch” of running Selkirk Lodge and working towards her ACMG ski-guiding certificate was the natural progression. After high school she took various mountaineering and avalanche courses and worked alongside her mother at the lodge as a cook and caretaker. She then did a two-year diploma at Thompson Rivers University in the Adventure Studies program. While working as a ski patroller and on building her ski touring resume, she was able to complete her Apprentice Ski Guide exam at age 24. Impressively, two years later she had completed her full ski guide exam, making her one of the youngest females to complete the program.

In 2012 a friend and colleague of Kate’s, Anne Keller, started the SheJumps Alpine Finishing School under direction of Claire Smallwood, the SheJumps Executive Director. The Alpine Finishing School is an all-women’s ski mountaineering course run at Selkirk Lodge and the program host, SheJumps is a non-profit whose mission is to increase the participation of women and girls in outdoor activities. This course opened Kate’s eyes and authentically drove her to pursue more opportunities of this nature. Her ambition was fuelled by the realization that she could play a role in knocking down barriers for other women in a male-dominated industry.

“This is so important to me because I hear endless stories from women who are intimidated to get into backcountry skiing and other outdoor pursuits. I was so lucky to grow up backcountry skiing with my parents. It never occurred to me that anyone might think that I don’t belong out there, or that I should be intimidated. When I began to realize how unique that was, I wanted to try to pass that on to women.”

After working under Anne Keller for two years, Kate took the lead on the Alpine Finishing School, which is now in its eighth season at Selkirk Lodge. Kate has been able aid well over a hundred women in their development of backcountry skills and confidence. Through the course she has also been able to give back to apprentice ski guides through her mentorship as Anne once did for Kate.

Leading a legacy

Kate takes a break from guiding duties.
Photo by Abby Cooper

Her versed and solidified foundation in the Revelstoke ski world is the perfect platform for Kate to begin laying down her own legacy in her backyard. After a recent expansion at the lodge, Kate was able to offer her first women’s yoga and ski retreat this past January and it was well received. She wants to continue to pursue female specific courses and add more of them to the calendar at Selkirk Lodge as she sees a need in the industry to mentor and break down barriers for females wanting to participate in the outdoors.
“I am motivated to get more women into the mountains and teach them the skills to be proficient and comfortable making decisions out there. This has been a big focus of mine throughout my guiding career and something I will continue to expand upon. I see a real need for this type of mentorship in a typically male dominated environment. I hope that I can be a force for good and encourage more women to get after it in the mountains.”
As she takes on more responsibility in leading the lodge as a business she intends to eventually expand into summer operations. She hopes to one day offer things like mountaineering, hiking, and mountain biking — Kate’s second love after skiing.

Leading her life with purpose, Kate recognizes over and over again that her journey is a shared one. She is a product of her parents’ example of hard work and ability to prioritize fun. Their encouragement and support has been an instrumental part of Kate’s confidence in her career path. “I am also very grateful to have a wonderful partner who is excited to be part of my life and a group of amazing friends, most of whom I have known virtually my entire life. I am very fortunate to be able to live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and to be able to be part of a really incredible family business. I hope I express that gratitude often enough!”

Abby Cooper is a B.C.-based photographer. She was born and raised in the Canadian Rockies, and grew up with a camera around her neck and a snowboard on her feet. Abby’s love for both photography and snowboarding has not changed over the years; she is always in search for a great picture and deep snow.