Let the Skiing begin !
Winter Season is here! Every year I anxiously look forward to my winter at O’Hara; skiing every day, seeing all our returning guests and meeting fresh and excited faces, re-connecting with our wonderful staff and sampling the delectable new treats our Chef produces. I also have to admit that I love getting into our old, new to us, snowcat and grooming the road. It is kind of a big guy toy. Or as some have said my mid-life crisis. For some the mid life crisis is a new job and a sports car or maybe even sky diving; for me it was a snowcat (Thats not the real reason but most people seem to think so. It was to be more efficient with track setting and hauling our food) which I have to say that lots of guys are jealous when I tell them what toy I have. It is a great pleasure to each time try and do a better grooming job than the last and to drive up and look out the mirror at the corduroy and twin tracks in the snow behind the machine is awesome. Anyway, we are up and running, grooming once a week now.
The Lodge turns 90!
As January 1st, 2016 dawned the lodge reached its 90th Birthday, kind of. George Harrison the head Construction foreman at O’Hara, appointed by Basil Gardom the Superintendent of Construction for the CPR, was still pounding nails to get the place completed in time for the Summer 1926 season. As a short aside. The Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia from 1995-2001, was a gentleman named Garde Gardom the son of Basil Gardom. On a whim one day I thought it would be interesting to contact him so I called Government House in Victoria and explained my connection with Mr. Gardom to the receptionist. I left my number and figured that was the end of it. A few days later I got a radio call that there was a phone call for me. As I left the solitude of our sewage plant where I was checking up on things I hoofed it to the office. When I got on the line I was told to hold for his excellency Mr. Gardom. I ended up having the most wonderful 20 minute conversation where he reminisced about O’Hara and we pledged to get together at some point. Although we never did get together, it came close one time as he was out on Government business to Lake Louise, but at the last minute his schedule changed and we never did get to meet. I did get a nice letter subsequently and felt privileged to connect with him and talk about his father and his love for O’Hara. Anyway, as I scan through that first Guest Register from the Summer of 1926 I see the first guest who signed the Register was a P.A. Oliver from San Mateo California on June 28th. Other names that I know figure prominently in that registrar like Major Longstaff, a long time O’Hara visitor who’s brother Tom was the Medical Officer for the British 1922 Everest Expedition and who’s Father, a wealthy industrialist from the UK was a significant contributor to Scott’s 1901 Antarctic Expedition, Swiss Mountain Guides Rudolph Aemmer and Edward Feuz, whose entry reads Tent as their accommodation ( I guess there was no room at the Inn for the labourers!). Another entry reads Basil Gardom & wife July 11, 1926. Lawren Harris, a member of the iconic Group of Seven, checked in on July 17th that year with two children and a nurse. That first Register is filled with people visiting from the US with a handful from both Canada and the UK. At the time the CPR relied heavily on its American visitors to fill there trains and Western Hotels. As they say ” If only the pages could talk, what stories we would hear.”
Dusting off the Cobwebs
It is always a lot of work getting the lodge ready for our first guests, with 4 days between starting up the generator for the first time and guests sleeping in beds we need to get things shaken out, dust vacuumed away and the water and wastewater systems going. The kitchen is also a hive of activity as Jess gets stocks made, cookies baked and orders placed. It is a busy time! However, with staff excited to be here time seems to fly. This years staff were especially keen as at the first break from getting the lodge ready they quickly put their heads down and shovelled off a skating rink. Many years the staff have big expectations but the execution of their rink plans along with lake ice that doesn’t always cooperate sometimes jinx the plans. Although once completed we had the winter gale of all gales and covered the rink with 20 cm of snow. That gale would have been a storm chasers hey day. In fact I have never seen winds and blowing snow that strong for such a long period of time. We braved through it skiing the other day with hindsight allowing all of us to call it quite the Adventure. Maybe we will get the rink resurrected and even try flooding it for our somewhat annual hockey game. I do remember one year having a full moon hockey game; staff against guests all accomplished with a lunar eclipse break built in. It was pretty cool.
As we settle into our winter season and explore the area on skis and snowshoes, it is important to remember to pack correctly for the winter season. I always feel very fortunate to call this place home. Have a an enjoyable and happy Winter and if you are looking for a ski destination come up to O’Hara for the day and if you can time it join us on Saturday and Sunday for our soup and salad which is a nice treat after the ski in the road. Book your stay today.