How a challenging mountain lot inspired a luxury Canadian ski chalet

We love a challenge. As champions of site-specific home design, we are excited when clients bring us unusual lots and properties, unique scope requirements, and a big vision. Nowhere is this better exemplified than with our 2006 ski chalet project, The Crescendo.

In the early 2000s, Apchin Design + Build was approached with one of our greatest opportunities to date. Our client had purchased a property on the slopes of Big White Ski Resort with an incredible location, nestled between the Woodcutter and Happy Valley ski runs. But the lot itself is pie-shaped and on a steep slope, with the narrowest point of the property at the higher elevation fanning outwards as we descend down the slope. A conventional design is all but impossible. 

“I didn’t look at magazines for ideas. The design was literally born out of the lot,” Denis explains. “How do you make those elevation changes work? How do you maximize the triangular lot? What’s going to make this unique and different? You couldn’t possibly copy anyone or take inspiration from an existing design.”

The solution came in the form of a contemporary home design, embedded into the mountain and turning the contours of the slope into a feature rather than a flaw. Five floors fan out from a circular staircase in a split-level fashion that embraces the elevation change.

Once the slope challenge was solved, Denis turned his attention to refining the design to accommodate a cantilevered roof. The result is a dramatic roofline that mirrors the wedge shape of the property. Not only is the roofline architecturally stunning, but it is a feat of structural engineering with large overhangs that help keep snow off of the decks below while handling the immense weight of the winter snowfall. 

The floorplan of the home is designed to comfortably accommodate dozens of guests and the myriad of outdoor clothing and ski gear needed for life on the mountain. 

A large main entry opens onto the circular stairway in the centre of the house. The stairs rise up around a simple and delicate light fixture that Denis chose for its resemblance to falling snowflakes. 

To the side of the entrance, a lounge space doubles as a bunk room for extra guests as needed. The adjacent double garage has since been converted to a games room with table tennis, poker table and video games.

A media room is located a half-floor up on the second level, boasting a 110” projector screen and surround sound system. For maximum ease of entertaining, Denis designed the wet bar to include a fridge, freezer, and dishwasher. Our millworker created three custom-made Murphy beds that line the walls and are carefully placed so that they don’t impede traffic flow when pulled down.

On the third level, a large dining room is surrounded by large windows on three sides. Fourteen guests can dine comfortably while taking in mountain views to the east, south and west.

An adjacent commercial-grade kitchen is designed to accommodate the needs of a professional chef, including top-line appliances. The kitchen also opens into the great room, maximizing natural light while providing a view for the chef.

The great room is situated in a wider corner at the bottom of the property and is the most spacious room in the house. The fir-clad ceiling tilts upward like the slope of a ski jump, creating a dramatic angle that extends beyond the 27-foot windows. And when the sun sets on another day at Big White, the light and warmth from a 25-foot honed quartzite slate fireplace keep the room cozy and comfortable.

It’s Denis’s favourite room in the house.

“It’s a big room, but when you’re here at night and hanging out, it’s really cozy. On a sunny day, you see the mountain range, and you can watch the skiers come down this main run. It’s so peaceful.”

The fourth level of the luxury ski chalet includes two guest rooms, each with a private ensuite and a loft with two twin beds.

To maintain the sharp angles of the roofline that mirror the property and support the weight of the structure, Denis devised a ski-in/ski-out breezeway that opens into a second entry. On the other side of the breezeway are a dedicated ski locker and a workbench for easy maintenance and storage. Denis also designed the ski entrance with benches, shelves, and hooks that make hanging and drying gear a cinch. Custom boot-blower racks dry boots after a day on the slopes. Glass block walls disguise the double laundry and a bathroom that’s easily accessible for those still in ski gear. 

One of the home’s most extravagant luxuries is the 12’x16’ indoor-outdoor hot tub. Like a luxury hotel or resort, the hot tub is half-inside and half-outside with a window above the surface that divides the pool in two. With nine jets inside, six outside, and an exterior surround that’s heated to snow-melt temperatures, it’s the perfect place to soothe aching muscles at the end of a day spent on the slopes. When not in use as a spa, guests can swim laps by activating the SwimGym to create an underwater current.

The fifth level of the home offers a cozy and private primary retreat where the tilt of the roofline is especially dramatic. The adjoining ensuite includes a double vanity and a two-person steam shower. A large jetted bath is nestled below a glass wall that brings natural light into the room, overlooking the great room and beautiful mountain views.

It’s been many years since we completed this project, but to this day, it is one of our favourites. The challenges of designing and building this luxury ski chalet brought us to some of our most creative solutions, and that’s what we love most about our work.

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