By Steve Hubrecht
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The Earl Grey Lodge at Panorama Mountain Resort has been named the best small hotel in Canada by Trip Advisor.

The award is part of Trip Advisor’s Best of the Best Award, which the company compiles based on customer reviews, and places the Earl Grey square in the top one per cent of accommodation worldwide.

Submitted photos

“It’s a pretty big deal,” co-owner Phil Marshall told the Pioneer. “To be in the top one per cent in the world is quite an honour.”

Phil and his wife Clare have run the Earl Grey for the past 20 years, ever since relocating from the United Kingdom and for the past three years, they’ve been in the top 25 in Trip Advisor’s small hotels’ category.

When Phil saw the email from Trip Advisor this year, he assumed it was a notification about being in the top 25 again. Great news, he thought, but as he had several other pressing issues, he didn’t read the email in detail right away. When he did, he learned the Earl Grey Lodge was not just in the top 25, but in fact at the very top of all small hotels in Canada.

For the Marshalls, the award is a validation of all the hard work the couple has put into the lodge for the past two decades. Since the beginning, they ran in the style of a pension — a type of accommodation quite popular in Europe (although rare in North America) in which people go to live on a somewhat permanent basis.

“So it’s kind of like a bed and breakfast, but it’s more than that. We live in the place too, so it’s our home as well. A lot of customers come back again and again. It’s kind of like going to stay with your friends, really. The only difference is that when you leave, you get a bill,” said Phil, with a chuckle.

The way that Marshalls run the Early Grey Lodge, as well as the European architectural style the lodge was built in combine to make it a unique accommodation offering in the Columbia Valley.

“It’s great for company retreats, ski teams staying near the hill, and for special events like signature birthdays,” said Phil. “It’s very personal, there’s an extra touch, and there’s a lot of aspects to it that you just wouldn’t see anywhere else.”

The Marshalls are all the more proud of the award because the ranking stems from customer reviews on the Trip Advisor site, and the honour is proof positive that those who stay at the Earl Grey Lodge really love it.

The Best of the Best Award for the Marshalls comes in a year in which the tourism industry in the Columbia Valley has been beset with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but the Earl Grey Lodge has weathered that storm just fine. “Even with COVID, last summer was our best on record,” said Phil.