Nestled on the slopes of the Anarchist Mountains in the South Okanagan, Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort sits basking in the desert’s glowing light. It is here where the five senses ignite.
Soft on the eyes, purple sage gently sways in the warm winds, its fragrant aroma filling the air as you travel along the mountainside. The rattlesnake slithers from rock to rock, warning others of its presence. The touch of dry shrub-grassland connects you with the land and the legends it holds. And as you wander back to reality from the hills, looking down on rolling vineyards below, a craving for a glass of wine is likely to hit. Of course, a need to taste fine grapes isn’t unusual, considering you are in the heart of wine country.
This is Osoyoos, Canada’s treasure in the sun, home to a seemingly endless summer. A mere five kilometres from the United States border, tucked into the southernmost corner of British Columbia, guests of the land stand foot on the north extension of the Columbia Basin, a scorched region linked to the deserts of the South of Mexico. These are lands of the Osoyoos Indian Band, and so it is only natural that one finds her physical and cultural awareness heightened upon a stay here.
Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort happily welcomes those who worship the sun to experience a different type of desert culture: a decidedly Canadian one. Unlike other resorts across the country, Spirit Ridge is a year-round destination. The abode-style hotel contains 226 guest rooms, fully equipped with a gourmet kitchen, dining table, sofa, and inviting fireplace. Those wanting to indulge in the fresh vegetables and fruits of the area are welcomed to create their own dining experience in the comforts of their suites; but if wanting to function solely in vacation mode, guests can take in sights high above the sparkling waters of Osoyoos Lake as they dine at Mica Restaurant.
With world-class amenities at your fingertips, Spirit Ridge is not only committed to creating memorable experiences like teeing up on the golf course or soaking in the relaxation of the spa—it’s also devoted to the preservation of Osoyoos ecology, history, and Indigenous culture.
Within steps of the luxury resort is the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, a 67-acre, state-of-the-art educational ground where visitors are invited to learn about the Indigenous people of the Okanagan. Constructed into the hillside, the interpretive centre is a gorgeous architectural sight. “We teach the lands, legends, and the people,” Charlotte Stringam, general manager of the centre, says as she leads a walking tour of the fragile desert lands and endangered ecosystems. “We feel like we’re the protectors of this land, and we try to protect this area. It’s very important to us.” Snake crossing signs can be found on the trail, lined with angular-shaped Antelope brush, that leads down to the village. Here, guests are greeted by replicas of traditional pit houses and sweat lodges, sacred places to pray and cleanse. Back inside the cultural centre, the Chaptik Theatre introduces its visitors to the Coyote Spirit and the talent and culture of the local people. “The laws of nature must be learned, told, and retold,” Stringam says. “Stories that remind of us of who we are must be told.”
After a day of exploring the culture surrounding Spirit Ridge, indulge in the fine wine at Nk’Mip Cellars. Named the 2016 InterVin Canadian Winery of the Year, Nk’Mip has a proud legacy as the first Aboriginal-owned winery in North America. The direct translation of Nk’Mip from the Okanagan language is Bottomland, referring to its location at the southern end of the Okanagan Valley and the end of the Osoyoos reservation. Senior winemaker Randy Picton has been with the winery since its inception in 2002 and created the award-winning Qwam Qwmt series of reserve wines. “As the vines got older, all of the grapes we got were better, and we were able to make more complex wines,” Cassandra Capone, visitor experience manager at Nk’Mip, explains as she pours a Qwam Qwmt riesling that exudes fresh floral aromas. “We needed to find a way of saying, ‘This is another level, this isn’t your everyday drink, this is something special.’” To show respect for the wines and the community, the winery went to the elders of the Osoyoos Indian Band and asked for a word they could use to describe these premium wines. “Achieving Excellence” is what they choose.
“Chief Clarence Louie really saw a vision of business and prosperity for the band,” Capone says. The development of the winery created a number of job and business opportunities for the community, and this is where the third character of Nk’Mip’s story comes in. Chief Clarence took Justin Hall, a young Osoyoos band member, under his wing and introduced him to the winery. After learning the ropes and developing his palate, Hall was sent to New Zealand to study viticulture. He returned to Osoyoos and became the caretaker of all white wines, and in early 2017, was named winemaker alongside Picton, becoming the first Aboriginal winemaker in the world.
During your stay at Spirit Ridge, find pleasure in the history and culture that surrounds you. Open yourself up to what is here and take in the stories being told.