Raven’s Nest Resort and Campground, the Columbia Valley’s newest addition to resort camping, has finished building eight cabins, adding to the resort’s 26 campsites and lone tipi site.
Raven’s Nest was opened mid-summer 2019 by Faro Raven Burgoyne, a member of the Akisqnuk First Nation, and his girlfriend Emily Slobodzian, both in their late twenties. Since he was in high school, Burgoyne had dreams of one day opening his own campground. That dream became a reality after Burgoyne realized the demand from visiting Albertans (the resort’s target market) was significant enough to take the risk and make an investment.
The resort, which is entirely off-grid thanks to 16 solar panels and batteries, received financing help from Community Futures East Kootenay, as well as marketing and business development support from organizations like Kootenay Rockies Tourism and Kootenay Aboriginal Business Development Agency.
Their first full season took place during the heart of the pandemic. Difficult timing to say the least for a new tourism business. Despite the challenge, Burgoyne and Slobodzian persevered and won the Tourism Business of the Year award from the All Nations Trust Company.
Construction on the cabins began in June 2020. Slobodzian attended to admin work throughout the winter months, while Burgoyne earned additional money working ski patrol at Fairmont’s ski hill.
“We resumed building out the cabins midway through April,” Slobodzian said. “And from then until July 16, it was game on.” The electrical and plumbing were contracted out. Their building materials supplier taught them the correct way to put together the log cabins. Aside from that, they were on their own. Each cabin features a kitchenette, outdoor BBQ, bathroom, shower and various combinations of beds and living room amenities.
Now that the cabins are complete (each named after a type of tree — Spruce, Aspen, Birch etc.), Burgoyne and Slobodzian can now focus on marketing their business and adding more amenities, such as outhouses and a disc golf course. In fact, the disc golf course, which is being built by a team of experts from around the East Kootenays, is almost done. Fourteen out of a total of 18 holes have been installed. “We also are thinking of adding a space for weddings on the bluff overlooking the wetlands,” said Burgoyne. The views from which are nothing short of spectacular.
To market their fledgling business, the pair is demonstrating creative, effective ways to reach discerning tourists. “We did a social media contest for a stay at the teepee site,” Burgoyne said. Instagram and Facebook users were invited to comment and share a post about the teepee site for a chance to win a two-night stay. As a result, “8,000 people viewed the post and of those,1,050 engaged in the contest,” Slobodzian said.
With nearby Lakeshore Resort and Campground closed for the summer due to lingering effects of the pandemic, Raven’s Nest has been consistently booked up.
Yet, despite the pair’s progress, this summer has not been without its challenges. “Everyone who calls wants to know how much smoke there is here,” Burgoyne said. “All we can tell them is that it changes all the time.”
James Rose, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Columbia Valley Pioneer