The Power of a Magazine Article
Sundance Lodges has been a labour of love for the Green family, one of those real life stories based on 'build it and they will come. Sheryl was a high school teacher and Brian had a busy farm equipment dealership in Claresholm, Alberta in the early 80s when he read a magazine article in a Field and Stream magazine on the ingenious design and history of the Plains Indian tipi. Something made him keep it, and in 1989 they bought their own tipi, Tipi Chief, painted it with the help of their kids in their backyard and set it up on a friend's ranch in the Porcupine Hills west of town with beds, blankets, and an old cast iron stove in the middle. The kids loved it - Sheryl admired the artistic design, Brian the practicality.
Brian was also farming at the time. One day, while on the tractor doing some seeding, he suddenly had this vision of a campground with all these beautiful tipis that families could rent and stay in - that was the beginning of a totally new chapter in our lives. Sundance Lodges was established in 1989.
Their focus would be 'comfortable camping' - giving those families without RVs or the money for expensive hotel rooms the opportunity to go camping for a reasonable price. For hotel travellers without their own camping supplies, they would also have these available for rent.
There was only one location that was equal to the beauty of the tipis - the spectacular government recreation area in the mountains west of Calgary called Kananaskis. Brain and Sheryl found their piece of paradise by the Kananaskis River - mixed forest with a wide open area perfect for the main building. After several years of hard work, they were ready to start developing the site.
In late August, 1991, with chainsaw and survey plan in hand, Brian and his crew of one or two guys spent the winter clearing trees for the roads and campsites, living onsite in a trailer. In a few places he was able to use some clearings and part of an old logging road because we wanted to keep the landscape as natural as possible.
During the building phase, Sheryl and the kids stayed in Claresholm. Sheryl didn't know much about the accommodation business but learned the essentials that winter including setting up the ability to take credit card payments, finding someone to sew covers for the rental bedding, hiring staff, designing and printing reservation cards and ordering giftware. In March, Brian and Sheryl picked up their 25 tipis from Montana. While Brian headed back to the mountains to continue developing the site, Sheryl organized crews of former high school students, as well as family, to help stake and paint all the tipis on the backyard lawn at their home in Claresholm.
On June 15, 1992, with their kids, Ryan (11) and Stacia (9), and two staff, Brian and Sheryl opened Sundance Lodges. Ryan and Stacy worked at Sundance in the summers throughout school and university, making money for school and travel. At first they helped the older staff, then staff themselves. They both enjoyed their summers in the mountains helping out and especially meeting all of the wonderful guests from all parts of the world. One of the highlights was when they hosted 375 soldiers from Winnipeg's Princess Patricia's and the RCMP for 13 days during G8 in 2002.
After Brian’s passing in late 2018, there was no question that Ryan (a geologist), Stacia (a communications and marketing consultant) and Sheryl would continue Brian’s legacy by executing an expansion project that Brian wanted to do. This season, as of July long weekend there will be eight new trapper’s tents and one new large tipi (previously campsites) available for rent.
We hope to see you at Sundance Lodges this summer!
The Green Family