Knowledge holder Lilyrose Meyers considers the eight new sky-viewing domes at Métis Crossing to be the ultimate terrestrial learning experience.
Métis crossing is a cultural interpretation destination open all year round on 200 hectares of land, made up of five river lot titles dating back to the 19th century. It is 120 kilometers northeast of Edmonton, a few minutes’ drive south of the town of Smoky Lake.
Each insulated hard-shell dome is equipped with a bathroom, a kitchenette, and a king-size bed.
But there are no televisions. Instead, Meyers points out the transparent roofs that allow visitors to comfortably view the spectacle in the sky.
SEE | Check out the new sky-watching domes near Smoky Lake:
“Part of the roof is clear… so you can see the stars at night,” Meyers says. “You’re nice and warm. It’s completely air-conditioned; even the floor is heated.”
Meyers offers interpretive talks about the night sky. She tells visitors that for generations, the Métis have used the stars to time hunts, harvest plants and berries, and track changes in climate.
“We’re seasonal people,” he says. “That’s why we look at the sky. We don’t study the stars like astronomers do.”
Meyers says the rural location with little light pollution makes for an ideal experience.
Peter Severn, facilities director at Métis Crossing, says half of the domes face north, to capture the northern lights. The others look south to see a variety of constellations.
There is a trail system from the cultural gathering center and lodge to the domes, “so we have the option of walking, we have the option of skiing in the winter or the golf cart option,” Severn says.
The domes took approximately a year to build and included open pit excavation for mechanical, electrical and communication lines in a major construction project.
“The dome areas, the interior garden, the drinking water treatment plant and the entire infrastructure cost about $6.2 million,” Severn says.
Executive Director Juanita Marios says the project is Métis Crossing’s latest step in becoming an iconic four-season destination in the Alberta landscape.
The new water treatment plant will be operational this fall.
“We collect all that wastewater, we redistribute it across the land, and it becomes fertilizer for our hay fields, which we then harvest to feed our buffalo, which we then harvest to feed our people,” Marios says.
Dome stays range from $400 per night for two-person suites to about $500 for the family suite that sleeps six.
Marios says a stay is “an investment in Métis Crossing, the Métis people, and in yourself as you become a more knowledgeable Canadian.”
The goal is to build 10 more domes on the site.
They are just the latest additions to a site owned by the Métis Nation of Alberta, which opened a $10 million, 40-room lodge last year and an $8.9 million cultural gathering center in 2021.
“Right now we have 25,000 visitors coming to Métis Crossing annually and we hope to have up to 80,000 people a year, in the next 10 years,” Marios says.