Although the lodge is put to bed until we open in January for our backcountry ski and snowshoe season there is little opportunity for idle time.
The fall is the time of year when we start putting together all the reservations for next summer, book up the remainder of the winter season, planning and working with Parks Canada on various projects and/or initiatives and of course get stoked about the ski season.
Snowfalls in the mountains have been a bit slim these past few weeks, however it really is only mid December! Historically it isn’t until the middle of January that we start to see the boulders get covered and the dips filled in making the backcountry skiing safer and more enjoyable. In the meantime there still is plenty of skiing to be had.
The Nordic Centre in Canmore makes snow and with their impeccable grooming the trails are always in great shape. If you want to experience the “real thing” head further west to Lake Louise and Yoho where abundant early snowfalls have the x-country trails set up. O’Hara’s location just west of Lake Louise and the Continental Divide results in even greater snowfalls.
It’s ski season!
Last week we took delivery of our new track setting equipment. This new equipment will greatly improve the road grooming for the 11 km access into O’Hara and help us logistically with all of our food runs. Effectively it will greatly reduce the number of trips we need to make on the access road as well as provide a far superior grooming experience for folks accessing the area on either x-country skis or even snowshoes.
The machine arrived on a blustery day last week when the “Yoho blow” was at full force from the west. The machine arrived without its tracks on to facilitate moving it on the highway. The first order of reconstruction was obviously to put the tracks back on. Those metal and rubber things weigh a few hundred kilograms and require about four individuals to merely shift them a few inches. With cold fingers and runny noses we got the tracks on, hooked up the grooming equipment and called it a night with the moon rising and the wind still blowing.
In more reasonable conditions and brighter skies I fired it up the next morning and started the inaugural first grooming pass. What would normally take me and one other person 4-6 hours at the start of the season was accomplished in about 45 minutes on my own. A fresh corduroy path from the parking lot to the lodge finished all while sitting warm and snug in the cab.
After a second pass two sets of classic tracks were in place, a welcome sight for the folks plowing up the road that morning in calf deep snow. We are looking forward to continuing to improve on the grooming throughout the season. You should expect to see us try and groom once per month before we open at the end of January and then weekly, at minimum, until the end of March. Subscribe to our Ramblings (using the form on the upper right) where we will keep you up to date on when we have groomed the trail.
A New Welcome Area
Although we are well into winter now I wanted to share with you something that we are quite excited about.
We finished up our summer season with a skiff of new snow around the lodge and the larch trees golden hue still hanging on by a needle. It is always a bitter sweet time of year. Sad to put the lodge to bed and say good bye to the solitude and magic of O’Hara for a couple of months and somewhat sweet as you look forward to a short break to re-charge the batteries for the next season. This fall we completed a project that has been in our thoughts for ages and in the planning for over a year; a refreshing of the welcome area at the bus stop at the bottom of the road.
This has been a collaborative project initially taken on by Lake O’Hara Lodge, Lake O’Hara Trails Club and the Alpine Club of Canada. Under the guidance of the three groups a plan was put forward to Parks Canada. Their excitement and support lead to them coming on as a partner for the project. Without both the financial support of the three initial partners and the logistical support of Parks Canada the project would have never likely gotten off the ground.
Our construction window at O’Hara is very narrow. With the combination of busy bus schedules and unpredictable late season weather, we gave ourselves a construction window of 1 week. Ambitious, maybe, however with lots of pre planning, coordination and a crew of willing folks almost anything is possible.
Between coordinating construction around season schedules, bus times and gathering large boulders from construction sites on the Trans Canada highway it was a fast and furious pace. We are very fortunate to have available to such great craftsmen and workers. The company International Timberframes and its Swiss perfectionist owner designed and built the structure. Our much loved hoe operator from our spring flood repair, dug the foundations and strategically placed the rock work, Ryan Gallagher of Golden loaded and hauled all of the rocks from a construction pit on the Trans Canada highway and Tim Murphy of Murphy T construction made sure the 7 foot foundation was square and the concrete truck arrived on time. Lastly the Alpine Club of Canada huts crew arrived to throw on the metal roofing before the snow began to fall.
With the new interpretative signage being planned, in conjunction with Parks Canada, the shelter will be completed in time for the first scheduled bus run this spring. In the meantime we will be putting up some temporary winter signage. Stay tuned.
Travel the back country with confidence knowing you packed properly.