Impact Giving | More than Breakfast and a Bunk

Baker Lodge, Meany Lodge, and Stevens Lodge help people enjoy the outdoors in community, while also supporting our mission across all three strategic priorities. These enchanting buildings, with their boisterous communal living, are only possible through the dedication of Mountaineers members who give back as volunteers and donors.
The Mountaineers The Mountaineers
October 01, 2023
Impact Giving | More than Breakfast and a Bunk
Baker Lodge, Meany Lodge, and Stevens Lodge are hubs of community-based fun and support Mountaineers mission priorities.

Every weekend this winter, tens of thousands of people will flock to the Cascades to play in the snow. The mountains come alive with the bustle of snow plows, ski lifts, and resort infrastructure catering to locals and tourists alike. And if you look closely, adjacent to the hubbub at three popular recreation areas, you’ll find vibrant and warm pockets of Mountaineers community.

Three Mountaineers lodges—Baker Lodge, Meany Lodge, and Stevens Lodge—were all originally built to maximize dorm space for outdoor enthusiasts in relatively small footprints. The experience in our lodges immediately feels familiar to those who have visited mountain ski lodges in places such as the Alps or British Columbia - cozy, casual, and friendly. To this day, they feel like an especially concentrated dose of Mountaineers spirit, where creative resourcefulness and generous hospitality help people connect with each other and with the natural world.

In our strategic plan, Adventure with Purpose, we mapped out our top mission priorities. These priorities inspire actions and investments to best serve our vision, support our community, and protect the places we love. Mountaineers Lodges aren’t just a bunk and a hot meal, they support some of our best ambitions for our outdoor community.

Lead Innovation in Outdoor Education

Each year, demand for outdoor training grows, yet access to teaching and training space can limit our capacity. When they were first constructed, Mountaineers lodges were almost exclusively winter ski destinations. Increasingly, our lodges help expand educational opportunities and community connections throughout the year.

Each of the lodges play a role in bringing enthusiasts and learners to the edge of the outdoors. Skiing, snowshoeing, hiking, mountain biking, and even foraging are all accessible right from the front door. “You can be immersed in the environment. People doing the courses can be living and breathing outdoors rather than being city-based,” shares Michael Wynne-Jones, Co-chair of Baker Lodge. “We want to be a venue where people can come and have a nice time, and we also want to explicitly further the goals of the organization with outdoor teaching.” Michael believes that the long-term future of The Mountaineers depends on having a presence in the field through lodges and other properties.

Baker Lodge sits on the shoulder of the snowiest place on earth, creating an ideal opportunity for access to snow sports and snow instruction. The volunteer community rallied around the idea to convert a formerly open-air part of the ground level to a teaching space, which saw its first chilly AIARE (avalanche) course in 2023. By year-end, it will have a projection screen, tables and chairs, and heat, creating a suitable learning environment for Mountaineers courses mere steps away from practice terrain. 

BakerLodgeNYE22-23_SkyeStoury.jpgNew Years Eve revelers enjoy the almost-finished teaching space during the last hours of 2022. Photo by Skye Stoury.

The teaching space at Baker is inspiring similar ideas at other lodges. Enhancing teaching and gathering spaces is a particular opportunity at Meany, since the lodge sits on 54 acres owned by The Mountaineers. Improvements at all three of the lodges will make them more valuable for year-round programming of all sorts.

Engage a Vibrant Community of Outdoor Enthusiasts

Building a multigenerational community starts with ensuring youth are introduced to the outdoors at a young age and have opportunities for a progression of outdoor experiences. Lodges help to expand our youth programs so that they can foster lifelong connections with the outdoors.

Each of the lodges has its own intergenerational community. Some of the parents herding children around the lodges today were the younglings themselves 20 or 30 years ago. Michael shares from his experiences at Baker, “you’re living with other people for a few days. You get to see how people operate in normal life. You’re spending time during meals and at the fireplace. You see kids talking with older folks—that’s good for both ends of the age range.” 

As Mountaineers youth programs have increased in popularity, lodges provide expanded opportunities for young people to find belonging in the outdoor community. In 2023, we introduced new overnight lodge camps for youth ages 10-14, providing more weeks at more lodges. As Jim Lenker, Chair of Stevens Lodge puts it, this is a healthy “getaway from your parents and live in a communal environment with your peers” experience. The kids spend their days hiking and playing outside and then cook, clean, and do dishes together. And those at Stevens Lodge this year intersected with the first waves of northbound PCT thru-hikers in August. “For a lot of those young people, it was neat to see the hikers that came from all around the world and hiked from Mexico,” Jim shared. “It’s not just the outdoor community, it’s a global outdoor community.”

Emily Favell Stevens Lodge.jpgParticipants in a Mountaineers youth camp prepare dinner for themselves and PCT thru-hikers. Photo by Emily Favell.

Every improvement for the sake of comfort also lowers barriers to inclusion and belonging. Recent renovations to the Stevens Lodge bathrooms are a great example. The first iteration of indoor toilets were cramped and didn’t offer a lot of privacy. Volunteers and donors reimagined the space into a clean and well-lit space with private single-occupancy, gender-neutral stalls and closed-door showers. It is now a place where more people can feel comfortable and safe.

20230913_153026.jpgThe new clean, private, well-lit bathrooms at Stevens Lodge can help people feel safe and comfortable. Photo by Mckenzie Campbell Davies.

Advocate on Behalf of the Natural World

The climate crisis is an urgent threat to the future of The Mountaineers and our community, and we are committed to doing our part to lower our carbon footprint. This means aggressively reducing carbon emissions for ourselves and educating our greater community on additional ways to minimize their impact. The Lodges are a ripe environment for both.

Meany Lodge, in particular, has been leading the charge in embracing more sustainable utilities and infrastructure. Replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs and installing electric heat pumps have reduced our carbon footprint while improving safety and comfort. New heat pumps installed at both Stevens and Meany have not only made the lodges more efficient in winter, they also keep the lodges cool and comfortable when it’s warm outside. Volunteers and donors are also partnering to support electric transportation to Meany Lodge, including an upcoming purchase of electric snowmobiles. 

The Mountaineers donor-funded Net Zero Fund helps support initiatives at lodges and other facilities and reduce our carbon footprint.

Winter Break Camp at Meany. Photo by Patti Polinsky..jpgThe “Munchkin Express” taking kids to ski lessons at Meany Lodge in 2018. New electric snowmobiles will be quieter and (without exhaust) cleaner for passengers and the natural world. Photo by Patti Polinsky.

Not only are we reducing our own impact, but we are leading by example in the outdoor community. Our enjoyment of the natural world does not have to be at its expense. “I am an energy nerd and a building science nerd,” shares Matt Simerson, VP of Outdoor Centers. “I wanted to set an example for the community around me that we don’t have to burn fossil fuels to do the things we want to do.” Matt shares that leading by example is especially important to him because “We have about a thousand unique patrons coming through the lodges throughout the season. We can point to ways we’re reducing our impact as an organization.” As an example, he adds “I had the first electric car at Meany Lodge five years ago. Last weekend we had five of them.” 

And overnight options mean all-around fewer cars on the road. Especially during snow season, most people aren’t out camping at trailheads; they’re making day trips. Having a warm place to stay overnight decreases drive time for those looking to get the most out of their ski passes or attend full-weekend courses. The next nearest lodging options to the Mt. Baker ski area are almost a 50-mile round trip!

Accelerating Impact Alongside Volunteers

These enchanting buildings, with their boisterous communal living, are only possible through the dedication of Mountaineers members who give back as volunteers and donors. The amount of time, care, and personal resources put into the lodges is staggering.

Everyone wants to make sure the lodges continue to be accessible for individuals and families. Overnight fees help cover basic operations, such as food, supplies and energy bills, as well as routine repair and maintenance. Larger-scale, mission-driven improvements such as the Baker teaching room and upgrades like heat pumps are made possible by volunteers and strategic funding. Lodge reserves set aside in times of plenty, funding designated by the Board from the sale of the Snoqualmie property*, and restricted donations from individuals are all used to keep the lodges going strong.

Vols at Meany Lodge 2.jpgVolunteers run every aspect of The Mountaineers lodges, from menu planning to building out new spaces. Donations to the lodges are stretched to their maximum impact with a lot of creativity and elbow grease. Photo by Jim Fahey.

We are building a future where everyone has access to outdoor education, feels belonging in the outdoor community, and plays a role in protecting the natural world and the outdoor experience. We’re proud of the role that lodges play and are excited to accelerate our investment in these beloved places.

*The historic Mountaineers lodges near Snoqualmie pass deserve an honorable mention, setting the tone for what lodge communities could look like. After days in the snow, members would return to evening dances and boisterous merriment around the fireplace. The almost 60-year-old lodge building burned in 2006, and in 2016 The Mountaineers sold the 77-acre property. Poetically, proceeds from the sale help support maintenance and improvements at the other three lodges.

Get involved

The communal charm of hostel-style dorms, chore charts, and sharing space with an intergenerational group may not appeal to everyone. But for many people, especially in the depths of winter, this kind of community is priceless. 

“There are people who visit these ski areas for years and never stayed on the mountain,” Michael shared. “If you’re a new member of The Mountaineers, or if you’re looking to try new things: this is a new thing that everyone should try.” 

But beware, because everyone we talked to for this piece said something along these lines: once you dip your toes in, you’re going to get hooked.

  • Visit a lodge. Whether chasing the perfect powder day or getting a head start on your day hike during the summer, you’ll find company and camaraderie with other guests. Reservations are recommended at Baker Lodge, Meany Lodge, and Stevens Lodge for the hostel-style experience and October is a great time to start thinking about a winter visit.
  • Volunteer. Volunteers serve as hosts and cooks, teach skiing and snowboarding, participate in stewardship events to maintain the buildings and grounds, oversee regular maintenance and improvement projects, and plan for the future as part of leadership committees. 
  • Donate. Your tax-deductible donation to The Mountaineers supports our strategic priorities through programs, publishing, and places like lodges. 

The Mountaineers® is a 501(c)(3) organization supported through earned revenue and elevated through charitable contributions. Our staff work to support our seven branches (Bellingham, Everett, Foothills, Kitsap, Olympia, Seattle, and Tacoma), three lodges (Baker, Meany, and Stevens), and our Kitsap Forest Theater. Tax ID: 27-3009280. 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115.