From left: Frontier Lodge general manager Corey Myers and president Saniz Catholique. Angela Gzowski/NWT Tourism
Frontier Lodge is 2023’s NWT Tourism operator of the year after being nominated for the help it offered to Łútsël K’é and tourists when wildfires forced evacuations.
The lodge is owned by the Łútsël K’é Dene First Nation and markets itself as the gateway to the Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve and protected area.
Jackpine Paddle owner Dan Wong, nominating the lodge for one of NWT Tourism’s three annual awards, said general manager Corey Myers had made a big difference when a wildfire forced the evacuation of Yellowknife, disrupting the flow of supplies to Łútsël K’é and complicating the journey home for stranded tourists.
“During the wildfire evacuation of Yellowknife, Corey played a key role in getting food to the Łútsël K’é community when supply lines were cut,” Wong wrote in a nomination letter.
Asserting that communities outside the NWT’s capital had been left “to fend for themselves,” Wong said the lodge had teamed up with the Łútsël K’é Co-op to fly in food and had “sent over all of Frontier’s remaining food to the community prior to departing.”
“We had two trips out in the East Arm when the evacuation order was issued,” added Wong, whose company operates paddling adventures, referring to a picturesque expanse of Great Slave Lake that surrounds the lodge and Łútsël K’é.
“While arranging the evacuation of his own staff and clients, Corey went above and beyond to provide logistical support and assistance to us,” Wong wrote.
“When you find yourself in a pickle while in remote, northern wilderness, there are often only a handful of folks with the experience and ability to assist. In times like these, you rely on reliable partners to be able to take care of your clients and your staff. Corey is a one-of-a-kind resource in the East Arm who will do whatever it takes to assist others.”
Speaking a day after receiving the award at a Wednesday NWT Tourism event in Yellowknife, Myers said the recognition left him “excited and so proud of the whole team.”
“I believe strongly in a strong team,” he told Cabin Radio. “That means our hardworking board of directors, all the support we get from the community of Łútsël K’é ownership, all of our partners like the GNWT, ITI, literally all our suppliers, everyone we work with, it’s all a team. We need all of that effort and help and it just means so much.”
Referring to the summer wildfire crisis, he said: “It was stressful but at the same time, everyone pulled together and it was incredible to see.
“We had some leftover food that we obviously weren’t going to need because we had cancelled our season, so we donated that to the Co-op … we were donating food for community feasts and meals. It was something we had to do. We didn’t think twice, we just did it.”
Myers said 2023 felt like a “perseverance story,” with a quarter of the season lost, after 2022 marked the most successful summer he’d seen as lodge general manager.
Now, the lodge is working on scholarship opportunities for First Nation members and the hiring of a cultural officer.
“We have such a backlog of guests who want to come that our season next year is basically full up already. We’re able to look forward and build those items that maybe got paused or were hard to do during the pandemic,” Myers said.
“We can look back after a year and three quarters of success and build from there.”
Inuvik’s Jackie Challis recognized
The recipient of NWT Tourism’s 2023 lifetime achievement award is Jackie Challis, who until recently was Inuvik’s tourism and economic development director.
In a nomination document, Challis was recognized for working “tirelessly to support economic development and tourism in the Western Arctic region and across the territory” over a 16-year span.
She is credited with helping to establish a new welcome centre in Inuvik’s Jim Koe Park, working on the town’s new welcome sign, and forming a central part of the team behind the town’s Arctic Market and annual Arctic Development Expo.
“Jackie’s caring, compassionate and warm personality, as well as her love of the North, have made her a wonderful professional to work with,” her nomination declared.
Though she couldn’t attend Wednesday’s ceremony, Challis wrote online that she was “extremely humbled, honoured and incredibly surprised” to discover she had received the award.
“I am truly grateful for my time serving Inuvik, the surrounding communities and the Western Arctic region,” she wrote.
“It was an honour to advocate on behalf of our residents and visitors, but more significantly it was an honour to work alongside so many talented, passionate and dedicated partners, colleagues, staff members, volunteers, community organizations and leaders.
“I am but one person in a sea of many change agents, and I feel so very fortunate to be part of that kind of movement.”
NWT Tourism’s service excellence award was presented to Cabin Radio for its coverage of the summer’s wildfires and evacuations.