Chris Axelson, owner
Chris moved to Butte from Bozeman, MT where he owned a local endurance sport store called Threshold Sports. Originally from Maine, Chris coached cross country skiing and XC running with many of his teams winning state titles. He was a director of the New England Nordic Ski Association and head coach of its junior team. Chris graduated from Middlebury College. He was a member of the US Ski Team from 1979-1980.
Mandy Axelson, owner
Mandy also moved to Butte from Bozeman. She graduated from Montana State in the spring of 2007 with a degree in Exercise Science. She skied for MSU all 4 years and competed in NCAA's for 3 of those years. Mandy grew up in Maine and started skiing in high school. While in Bozeman, she worked for the City Recreation Department leading youth programs during the summer. Mandy has completed the USSA's Level I and Level II coaches training.
We have three children, Lars (b. 5/10), Owen (b. 12/11) and Katherine (b. 3/14)
About Homestake Lodge
A history of our lodge
Chris and I bought the property in August of 2007 and began rough work on the ski trails. We lived in a camping tent until the middle of October when we got our Yurt put together and assembled. We thought we were living the good life when we moved into the yurt. We planned to run the ski operations out of the yurt during our first winter, and try to get as many trails established as possible. We worked sun up to sun down cutting trails, mowing, stumping, etc. Christmas Eve we moved into our cabin, and got the yurt set up for the ski season and our customers. We were officially open for business.
January of 2008 we started construction on the lodge which was completed by November of that year. This allowed us to the run the ski business out of the lodge for the 2009/2010 season, and we picked up the yurt on a trailer and moved it out to the meadow to get ready for a ski-in/ski-out overnight destination for guests. The yurt has been our most popular overnight accommodation so far. Guests enjoy skiing out and pulling their gear in a sled, firing up the wood stove to keep them warm, and the coziness of a yurt with 2 sets of bunk beds, a futon, and a small kitchenette.
The last few years we have worked diligently to add more ski trails and improve the ones we already have in place. Chris and I have cut about 70% of the trails ourselves, and the remaining 30% were established roads or trails already in place when we bought the property. When we bought the property, no buildings existed. We added a lodge, barn, cabin, house, and yurt. Our future plans in expanding include waiting to see which overnight accommodations are most popular and either build 1 or 2 more cabins or yurts.
We have a snowmaking system which has been a great success. It is a small system, but it allows us to pump water from our pond below the lodge and get an early snow pack on our learn-to-ski area. This sets it up for the season in great shape.
Life at Homestake Lodge is wonderful and peaceful and full of constant work that we enjoy. We have to force ourselves to take time off once in awhile because there is a never ending list of projects to be done. We love every bit of it-even the shoveling of cow patty's off the trail once the cattle leave for the season!
Our lodge is completely off-the-grid. We rely completely on our solar PV panels for electricity and solar hot water panels and wood stoves for our heat. See more on that below.
One of our major goals in the design and operation of Homestake Lodge was to minimize our carbon footprint.
For us, "going green" and living "off grid" was a new concept. We had to do a lot of our own research as well as talking with people that know this industry.
Electricity and Heat
Homestake Lodge now has a grid-tied solar power system (summer 2014). What you read below is more like history.
The electricity here at the lodge comes from the power system in the barn. The photovoltaic (PV) panels are on the roof of the barn and supply electricity to the barn, cabin, and lodge. There are 36 panels on the roof and almost the same amount of batteries to store the electricity. If we don't get enough sun or use up all our stores in the batteries, the generator comes on. The generator has a 30kwh capacity, which is much more than we need right now.
In the lodge, we heat with many different things. We have eight large solar hot water panels on the south side of the lodge. This is our primary heat source for our radiant floor heating as well as domestic hot water. The basement has radiant floor heating in the slab of concrete. It makes the bathrooms and showers and wax room area much more cozy and warm. The great room has a wood stove which puts out enough heat for that area. Each bunk room has fin tubes whose heat comes from the solar hot water tank. All of this is backed up by a wood gasification boiler which sits down in the wax room. In December and January, we had it running almost 24/7, when there isn't enough sun to heat the solar panels. In November, February, and March, we run it primarily at night or not at all if the sun produces enough heat during the day to keep all the thermostats and hot water tank up to temperature. The rest of the months we do not the run the boiler at all.
All of that has kept the lodge warm when it has been -30 degrees. So, we have been very happy with that. Tweeking will be a constant part of that process over the years I'm sure. The only propane the lodge uses is in the stove/oven in the kitchen, and the dryer.
Another issue for us living off-grid was the design and planning of our building. We oriented every building to 15 degrees East of South (Solar South for MT). We put in a lot of windows on the south wall to let the heat in during the winter months when the sun is at a southern angle. During the summer, the sun tracks overhead, and keeps the lodge cool because we have few windows on the west and east ends of the building. We also put in a lot of insulation. Our basement was constructed with 2 pieces of foam with concrete in the middle. They are called Insulating Concrete Forms (ICF's). We also used Corbond insulation in the more necessary areas (ceilings, walls, rim joists), and fiberglass in the others.
Electrical System (PV panels, batteries, generator): Independent Power Systems of Bozeman, MT
Solar Hot Water: Todd Hoitsma of Liquid Solar Solutions out of Bozeman, MT
Plumber, Installed Tarm Wood Boiler and mastermind behind hooking everything up and making the whole system work: Mike Roskelley of Yellowstone Plumbing and Heating out of Butte, MT
The ways Homestake Lodge promotes sustainability:
6000 Watt Photovoltaic system on roof of barn for all electrical needs
Use of energy-efficient lighting, like LED's and CFL's and Energy-Star appliances. The lighting efficiency is especially important on our lighted ski course.
Solar Hot Water system which is also be used for radiant heating in the basement floor of lodge
Primary heat for the lodge, cabin and yurt is a wood stove
Biodegradable chain lubricant for chainsaws