Jim Fraps & Jeff & Paula Pensiero

Big-Pow Hoteliers

Dec 1, 2004
Outside Magazine

Annual snowfall of 42 feet, 36,000 acres of untracked bowls, and 18,000 vertical feet of deep turns a day: Welcome to the "church of the fall line" at Baldface Lodge, one of North America's largest—and newest—snowcat skiing operations, whose worshipers have included late snowboarding king Craig Kelley, Pearl Jam guitarist Stone Gossard, and Foo Fighters bass player Nate Mendel. Eight years ago, the founders of this 24-guest powder haven in the heart of British Columbia's Kootenay Mountains, 37-year-old Jim Fraps and his college buddy Jeff Pensiero, 35, were working and boarding in Tahoe—surviving on ramen noodles and a dream: to cash in on B.C.'s backcountry. The two scraped together $50,000, then scouted an area near Nelson that raked in consistently huge snowfalls. By the time they were granted tenure from the B.C. government for the land, in 2000, their $50,000 was history. Then a friend introduced Pensiero to Mendel and Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl, both eager investors. In December 2002 the duo, along with Pensiero's wife, Paula, opened the lodge, a timber-framed structure perched at 6,750 feet on a ridge linking five peaks. A steady diet of cabernet and plank-grilled salmon—along with guides like 1998 Olympic boarder Mark Fawcett—and a happy, happening vibe have charmed guests ever since. "Their enthusiasm is infectious," says Mendel. "It spreads throughout the whole operation."

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