Lake O’Hara is one of those places in the Canadian Rockies that is so special that it is worth the extra bit of effort to get out to. In spring of 2016, I tried tirelessly to get a bus ticket for the 22km round-trip to the lake (no private vehicles/bicycles are allowed) to no avail. So months later I arrived at the trailhead little bit earlier than I was prepared to and ran through the larch trees in mid-September – after seeing the area I knew that it would be my first of many times along the shoreline (and looking down on the lake from the peaks).
In the winter the busses shut down and the only way out is via cross-country skis (or snowshoes if you’re so inclined). When my good friend Becky suggested a chilly Sunday on the skinny skis I knew that O’Hara would be our perfect trip! I agreed to this before Michael Matti surprised me with another trip north of the 49th – without ever being on skis (skinny or otherwise) he agreed to the 22km of classic cross-country skiing in search of cozy cabins and a beautiful (albeit frozen) lake.
We stopped along the way in Lake Louise to pick up some rental skis and a few cups of coffee on our way across the boarder to British Columbia. After running into a few friends at the trailhead heading out for a day of ski touring we realized how small the outdoor community is – and the need to get a few more people outside for some variety. The trail had a fresh coat of snow but with the popularity of the Elizabeth Parker Hut (operated by the Alpine Club of Canada) it had been packed down enough to make the ski comfortable even for our novice skier.
After the ski out (a false incline with only a few obvious hills with need for herringbone as you approach the lake) we found a snowy porch to make a cup of coffee and have a snack or two. I tend to forget how much work xc skiing is and as soon as we stopped moving I was immensely thankful for my North Face Summit Series jacket as the temperature seemed to drop off of a cliff. Coffee, laughs, and snacks later we were looking forward to get moving again – especially glad to have the uphill behind us and were looking for some smooth sailing home. I always love showing people things for the first time – I didn’t realize how much I took for granted growing up on the ski hills. Trying to explain the sensation of pressing into your instep while you snowplow down a steep hill is something that took me a few “you just…do it!” before I was able to articulate what I meant and Michael was able to enjoy his first ski.
We made it back to the car just in time for catch sunset from the parking lot before making our way back to the city and prepare for a week in the office.