Lake O’Hara fire road

by Bob Truman on February 17, 2017

in Yoho

Post image for Lake O’Hara fire road

Considering how warm it’s been, this was a good day of skiing. The snow was cold enough for wax on Lake O’Hara fire road. The most challenging thing to cope with this family day weekend will be the parking.

Doug, Tanya and the kids are on their way to the Lake O'Hara campground for family day weekend.

Doug, Tanya and the kids are on their way to the Lake O’Hara campground for family day weekend.

My challenge today was the waxing. I rewaxed three times. There was a skiff of new snow in the tracks which became about 3 cm at the end. It was also snowing for the final 3K.

Zelma, Chris, Judy and Mike were on their way to Lake O'hara Lodge for the weekend

Zelma, Chris, Judy and Mike were on their way to Lake O’Hara Lodge for the weekend

The air temperature at 12:30 pm was +2°C, the snow was -1 and looked borderline wet at the trailhead. I waxed with VR55(0/-3) and it was overkill. I had way too much grip but I “stuck” with it until the picnic table at 5K. There’s lots of climbing on the first 2K.

At the picnic table, the snow temperature was -2, and I waxed with VR50. It didn’t seem to make much difference. I wasn’t getting high heels or anything too annoying, but I could tell my skis were icing slightly. At 7.3K I scraped and applied VR45(-2/-8).

The picnic table at 5K

The picnic table at 5K

I had lots of grip going up those steep hills on the final 3.5K but I knew the wax was still not right. When I reached the end, the day shelter at 11K, I rewaxed with VR40(-4/-12) which is the coldest wax I had with me. I could still feel my skis grabbing occasionally on the return, and I had plenty of grip anytime I needed it.

There's a skier-set trail beside the warden's cabin which will allow you to ski out onto the lake

There’s a skier-set trail beside the warden’s cabin which will allow you to ski out onto the lake

If it doesn’t snow tonight, the tracks should be much faster tomorrow now that the new snow has been skied in. The temperature is predicted to stay below zero all weekend with a low tonight of -8 and a high tomorrow of -1.

There is spectacular scenery around every corner on the Lake O'Hara fire road

There is spectacular scenery around every corner on the Lake O’Hara fire road

The trail is 11K one-way to Le Relais with a net elevation gain of 410 metres. The first 2K is very steep, the middle 5K consists of rolling hills with a moderate elevation gain, and the final 4K is a demanding test of your fitness with a number of steep hills.

You’ve probably realized by now it’s not an easy trail. The final climb rates near the top on Risto’s Hill Pain Score of Most Exhausting Ski Hills. 

Lake O'Hara trailhead

Lake O’Hara trailhead

There’s an ice flow about 200 metres past the picnic table at the end of a short downhill. It’s quite easily navigable, but I wouldn’t want to hit it at full speed. See the photo in the photo gallery below.

The parking lot is going to be overflowing tomorrow and all weekend. It doesn’t help that some people have made very inefficient use of the space by using up one-and-a-half spots. To make matters worse, the snowplow has issues clearing the snow because of vehicles which have been left overnight.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Doug D February 19, 2017 at 8:51 pm

Hi Bob, Doug here, I’m afraid that my minivan was one of the ones left overnight, on account of we were camping! The parking lot seemed fine today on our way out and there were 10-15cm of fresh wet powder today – it was deep enough that we had to pull our sleds on some of the downhill rather than coasting or snowplowing.
It was a great trip, and though the campground had some messy, noisy campers last night, it also had some well-prepared and friendly campers we have ever met.


2 Pete February 19, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Hi Doug! You don’t know me but myself and family passed by you snowshoeing off lake O’Hara on Saturday. I said to my kids “hey isn’t that the family with the fatbike blog that has all the cool adventures in the backcountry?” Sure enough they recognized you too. We all enjoy reading about your adventures! Awesome stuff! Thx


3 Doug D February 20, 2017 at 9:24 am

Next time say hi, we love meeting other families who enjoy the outdoors. We had originally planned a longer snowshoe hike on Saturday, but we wanted to get back to the campground to build a quinzee.


4 Pete February 20, 2017 at 10:18 am

I was planning on chatting with you but by the time we did a loop on the lake and got back to Le Relais cabin you were no where in sight. (No doubt busy quinzee building!) Hopefully we’ll bump into you in the woods again sometime!


5 Doug D February 20, 2017 at 4:09 pm

The quinzee building was a little on the unsuccessful side, I failed to pack it adequately, so it was settling quite suddenly as I dug. We abandoned the effort at about 80% done.
Feel free to contact me if you want to arrange a meetup,


6 MikeH February 18, 2017 at 10:10 am

It sounds like a fine day out, Bob. Note re: parking – some skiers have also been parking at the top of the access road by the 1A west entrance and then walking down to the Lake O’Hara road – there’s quite a bit more space there. FYI we were stuck behind a train there for 2h a few weeks back when CP had switch problems – hopefully no one experiences the same this weekend.


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