The day we return to the lodge is a busy one: get the generator running, buildings warmed up and shovel. Lots of shovelling!
As night falls early, we head indoors for a meal and a glass of wine to celebrate the start of another season. We head off to bed dressed in a multitude of layers, as the buildings are still barely above the freezing point. Though it is cold, the lodge is comfortable enough to sleep in and I let my shovelling muscles recover.
Guests are always curious about what goes on “behind the scenes” at the lodge. Well here is a sneak peek into opening the lodge in the winter.
First Duty: Food Pick-up
The alarm rings at 5:45 AM and I get bundled up to head off in the dark to rendezvous with our food delivery truck at the bottom of the road. It is like some clandestine deal taking place: pitch black, the distant hum of the highway, steam emanating from all of us in the -25° cold.
There is a lot to think about when it comes to picking up food in those temperatures: keep a blanket on the lettuce while I load everything else and hope that the chef hasn’t ordered bananas since they will go black in no time. If there is too much to fit on the toboggan or the load is too heavy, we leave the frozen goods behind for the second trip.
As the food truck drives off to its next delivery the load on the toboggan gets arranged, covered with some well-worn Hudson Bay blankets and strapped down with bungee cords, ensuring that the load is well secured for the 11 km pull up the road.
Once back at the lodge a crew greets us ready to unload. After short work unloading we are enjoying a hearty breakfast and a mug of hot chocolate, chatting about any news from the outside world – the driver of the truck usually has the latest top news story.
Waking Up the Lodge
After wolfing breakfast down we are strategizing about what to tackle next: Scrubbing and cleaning off the dust that has accumulated in the lodge since we put it all to bed at the end of the summer season, getting our vacuum toilet system up and running, or get the next section of the water system functioning to the staff cabin?
With the drastic changes in temperatures over the past few months, there is a lot to check on. I see by the thermometer I left here in October that at some point it was -35° and as high as +10°! With fluctuations like these, pipes crack and can separate. It is never straightforward getting the utilities going.
Whatever problem we find, the repair almost always involves at least one or many of the following: propane torch, MJ clamps, ABS pipe glue, copper solder… and a detective’s sense of where to dig. Fortunately, it usually doesn’t require digging into the earth as we run all of our utilities in wooden boxes above the ground. However, at minimum, it still requires moving a meter of snow or more.
In the meantime the chef is cooking up a storm getting stocks, sauces and goodies prepped for the first guests in addition to keeping all of us well fed and happy with his creations.
With the multitude of opening activities we still need to keep the generators running, snow machines serviced and groom the trail to the road for both our guests and the folks accessing the area for the day or overnight to the Elizabeth Parker Hut.
How Does O’Hara Look this Season?
With the addition of our snowcat this season, the grooming process has become a real pleasure. In the past we could easily spend 12 hours a week running our ski doo on the road between food runs, grooming and track setting. Now in a matter of 3 hours we can pick up the food run while laying what looks like some of the finest cross country ski trails this side of the divide. So if you are thinking of a day trip or maybe want to experience something a little beyond come on up to O’Hara.
Operating an eighty-eight year old lodge in the backcountry has its challenges and is a never ending exercise of maintaining and improving the lodge, trail and surroundings. The reward in the winter comes when those first guests arrive to a roaring fire, the smell of a fresh cooked meal emanating from the kitchen and a blanket of fresh white snow covering the landscape.
Ready to make the trip to Lake O’Hara Lodge?
Travel the back country with confidence knowing you packed properly.