August 20, 2018
Another busy summer season and lots of haze and smoke right now. We recently saw the hottest summer day (35C) we have experienced in our 19 years at the lodge. That said, other than a hot spell over a few days, summer temperatures have been pleasant and it continues to cool off nicely during the night. A fairly warm June took care of the snow pack at higher elevations early on and made the trails above treeline accessible faster than expected. Regular but modest rain in July made sure everything is nice and green and we are enjoying another great year for flowers. Currently though, it is very dry.
The smoke from major wildfires in BC is affecting the area again this year and it seems to become an annual occurrence. Fortunately, the impact is mainly on visibility, which is poor on some days, but then it is always hazy on a hot summer day. There is minimal smell of smoke and breathing is not affected (generally, our area seems to be better off than Banff, Jasper, Edmonton, etc. in this respect).
A wildfire in the Siffleur Wilderness was hardly noticable at the lodge but did result in closure of the Siffleur Falls trail for two weeks.
Other than not being able to marvel at some of the peaks around us (or anywhere in the parks), there are no reasons for not venturing out and enjoying all the interesting things the area has to offer at close range: from flowers, insects, birds and colourful rocks to our varied canyons, ponds and waterfalls. Look for the rapidly growing Ruffed Grouse chicks near the lodge or our Barn Swallows, which are on their second brood after the first three hatched successfully in July.
If you are planning to come out next year in the summer, do book early, as places such as Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper are very crowded and accommodations fill up months in advance. Aurum Lodge is small and we too have only a limited number of rooms / units for rent, so making reservations early is recommended.
Our winter photo tour in January is sold out, but we do still have availability for the November tour, which is equally rewarding, if not better (as there is more variety and weather is usually not quite as cold as mid January). Feel free to contact us for more information.
June 20, 2018
Apologies to anyone who tried to reach us by e-mail early June and received no response or “undeliverable” messages. Server issues at our internet provider resulted in messages not being forwarded to our mailbox. The issue appears to have been fixed. Our remote location means we rely on patchy satellite internet service and a crumbling telephone landline. If ever you do not hear back from us within 24 hours when calling or e-mailing, please follow up by using the other means. We do our best to get back to our callers / writers as soon as we can…
It’s been a while since our last update. For the first time in many years we experienced a winter the way they used to be, with persistently lower temperatures (albeit not extreme) and more snow than usual. By now, as you can see from our lodge windows, there is only a little bit of snow left above 2,200m. That said, in the mountains, it can snow any time of the year, so always come prepared.
Spring arrived approximately three weeks late in early May and was short, mild and dry.
Still, our hummingbirds arrived earlier than normal and by now flowers and vegetation
have caught up.
We expected this to be a great year for flowers,
but the relative dryness in spring has proved us wrong. That said, flowers in the alpine are already in full bloom and we are observing many butterflies visiting the large variety of wildflowers near the lodge.
Most hiking trails above tree line in the Icefields area are in good shape, so now is the time to go out, before it gets too hot. Following images were taken on a recent hike in the Icefields area and Wilcox Pass.
Abraham Lake levels are also significantly higher than usual this time of year, due to the meltwater from the large snow pack in the mountains. Thus, the lake, which is particularly scenic when it is full, should be at its most picturesque by mid July already.
At the lodge, we are now into our busy season and starting to fill up on some dates.
A reminder to those wishing to visit the Rockies this summer, that booking accommodation early is a must (Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise are almost completely booked and will be exceedingly busy again this year).
We also like to remind our potential guests that we do have a three night minimum stay until the end of September.
February 12, 2018
It has been an interesting winter so far and more like we used to experience, with a fair bit of snow and colder temperatures than we have seen the past few winter seasons. Nonetheless, we have been very busy and our guests enjoyed the pristine winter scenery everywhere, as did our photo tour participants.
Again we were happy to host another great group of photographers from four different countries, and show them what this area has to offer. Leslie Degner of Wilderness Light Images led our tour and has been doing so successfully for a few years now. Weather was mixed with a little bit of everything, so we were able to visit a variety of very different locations without having to venture too far from the lodge. Every year is different, and while we skipped some locations we had envisaged to go to because they were simply not great or too risky, other places and different ice patterns made up for this.
It was not a great year for bubbles, as was the case a few years ago. The conditions at freeze up were not conducive to large areas of good bubbles in different locations. This is usually the case if there are heavy winds and snowfall at the time the lake freezes. The few places where the ice is good are being “chewed up” by an ever increasing number of people visiting Abraham Lake in winter. Thus, we continuously have to look for different places to go...
Joining one of our photo tour groups means our guests don’t have to spend time scouting out the area on their own and can rely on the experience of their local guides to take them to good locations, no matter what the conditions. Fortunately, there are always many locations to chose from and no shortage of interesting subject matter.
For those interested, we have just set the dates for two more photo tours with Leslie and/or Mark Degner as follows:
- The other Rockies runs from November 14 -18, 2018 (4 nights). This early winter tour traditionally has been great for very varied conditions, first ice with moving water, good potential for colourful sunrises and sunsets.
- Another Winter Mountain Magic tour is scheduled for January 9 – 13 2019 (also 4 nights), our sixteenth year of offering / hosting this popular tour (all images above are from our 2017 outings).
For more information, check out our activities packages pages .
January 14 , 2018
Time flies and we are looking back at a very busy 2017 season with many wonderful guests, great summer weather and a mild fall. The wet spring and very dry and hot summer in BC caused large forest fires there, which did affect visibility in our area for many weeks, although we noticed much less smoke than they did south and north of us. Whereas it was very sunny in the valley, temperatures were not too hot, which made for great hiking and outdoor activities, such as the glacier walks on Athabasca Glacier and trail riding nearby.
Fortunately, there were few wild fires in our area; unfortunately, much of what we did see, was human caused... The haze or smoke from these fires, does make for beautiful sunrises and sunsets though.
A wet spring made for a perfect wildflower season (June/July) but the dry summer did put some stress on vegetation, so fall colours were less pronounced than most years, other than along waters edge.
Snow in the mountains came end of September already but not until November in our area.
A very mild December turned extremely cold around Christmas and since then we have seen a constant see-sawing of temperatures with the occasional snow fall. The year end cold spell may have been a little too late and too short to have an impact on the pine beetle infestation which has hit the Jasper region, turning forests brown there. Bighorn Country so far has been largely spared by these pests (which, while endemic to North America, are spreading large scale destruction in Western Canada as a result of climate change and failed forestry practices).
Abraham Lake for the fourth year in a row did not freeze until the last week of the year and since it did so during a few very cold, windy and snowy days, the ice is not clear in most parts. Bubbles are limited as a result but there are many interesting ice formations to marvel at, for those wanting to venture out when conditions are safe.
We are not on the ice daily and here’s a reminder to area visitors that, for a variety of reasons (ever changing conditions, local variations, not checking the ice daily, liability issues), we DO NOT provide information on ice conditions, safety, where to go, etc.. Photographers looking for good locations, may purchase and download the winter editions of the Abraham Lake / Kootenay Plains and the Icefields Parkway e-guides published by www.oopoomoo.com, which are a great resource. For those, going out on the ice, please note that you do so at your own risk and responsibility. Abraham Lake is a reservoir, water levels fluctuate, ice breaks up and refreezes constantly and whereas it can be very thick and stable in most places, there are always weak spots one has to be able to identify and avoid.
We are now into our booking season for 2018 and it is shaping up to be another busy summer.
If potential guests are looking for a specific room or unit, it is recommended to book early as we are a small operation with limited rental units. Do note our three night minimum stay policy in the peak seasons (mid June to end of September and Christmas to end of February).
Visitors wishing to escape the crowds in the National Parks, while planning to explore the mountain nature and go hiking, will appreciate our area, location and facility. We also find that the number of winter guests is growing since Alberta visitors who are not looking at downhill skiing or snowboarding are discovering the beauty of the Rocky Mountain Parks in winter, when there are no crowds and the sights are as pretty and varied as they are all summer long. Some facilities and attractions may be closed. However, nature lovers who don’t mind to bundle up, will find an amazing variety of beautiful scenery, winter hikes, snow-shoe tours and ice-climbs. For those who wish to learn ice-climbing, the Center for Outdoor Education near Nordegg offers instruction.
Parks Canada’s ill advised “gesture” of providing free access to the National Parks in 2017 resulted in a huge increase of visitation in all the iconic locations of the National Parks, which also impacted our area. As the carrying capacity of the National Parks is exceeded, both visitor experience and ecological integrity suffer greatly. Wildlife populations are under pressure, sensitive areas are degraded, while at the same time there is no money to maintain, improve or add infrastructure, facilities and trails. Accommodations in the National Parks are hard to find in peak season and consequently the crowds are spilling over into adjacent areas, including Bighorn Country. Unfortunately, with minimal tourism infrastructure and insufficient environmental protection, this impacts our region as well. Activities which are not allowed in the Parks such as off-roading and random camping are taking their toll in parts of Bighorn Country.
The Province of Alberta is currently reviewing the possibility of added protection for this region and we are hoping it will be declared a park soon, with some sensible development restrictions. However, it is uncertain as to whether this will be significant or happen soon enough to avoid the damage that has been seen elsewhere, when tourism development is left uncontrolled as a free for all (see our Action Alerts page).
May 5, 2017
Springtime has arrived somewhat later this year and there is still a lot of snow at higher elevations. However, flowers are out in the valley, grass is starting to green and we expect the ice to clear off the lake completely within a few days. The vibrant fresh green of budding aspens is only a week or so away.
Hiking is great lower down as the ground has dried sufficiently and snow and ice on trails are gone. Because it is so dry and often windy, fire risk is increasing rapidly and, with a warm summer forecast, we may see some wild fires again this year. A number of prescribed fires are in the works right now in the region, none of which will affect us at the lodge though.
At tree line it is still possible to go snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. Avalanche risk is high however, so use caution. The Parkway was just closed for two days following a massive avalanche north of Lake Louise on May 4th. A reminder that no matter what time of year, it is always a good idea to check local weather and road reports before travelling in the mountains.
We have seen the first grizzly bears out and about in Banff Park and we expect our humming birds to return to the lodge soon. Ospreys and other migrating birds have already taken up residence and are nesting.
This summer we are looking forward to a very busy season and we wish to remind our (potential) guests that we do have a three night minimum stay policy in high season for both the lodge and our self-contained units. The reasons for this are many, e.g.:
- longer stays reduce environmental pressure in many ways;
- as a small operation, we have limited resources and can only turn over so many rooms daily;
- the area we are in has a lot to offer and we see it as a destination on its own, comparable to adjacent Parks (without the crowds!). We do not offer "a bed between Banff and Jasper" as there are three motels in the area, which are better suited to provide that convenience;
- our guests confirm that longer stays work well for them as they can unwind in a more relaxed atmosphere. After all, we do offer clean and comfortable rooms with superb views, tranquility and seclusion, healthy meals and personal service;
- it allows us to spend more time with guests, providing advice and suggestions on where to go, so as to make their stay more memorable.
We realize that not everyone has the time or interest to stay in this area longer, however, those guests who are willing to tread lightly and take the time to enjoy our valley and the central portion of Banff and Jasper Parks do appreciate our product, service and what the area has to offer.
Our rates are competitive, our taxes and fees are lower than what is charged in the Parks and we DO NOT jack up our rates at times of high occupancy, like many of our competitors do.
Last but not least, getting here is easy and fast on Hwy 11, a drive which is just as scenic as the very busy Icefields Parkway.
Whereas summer is approaching right now, for those interested in visiting in winter, we are happy to announce that Mark and Leslie Degner have agreed to run another of their popular winter photography tours out of Aurum Lodge next year. The date has been set for January 17-21, 2018. Most of our past tours were sold out, so we suggest booking early.
March 19 , 2017
This past winter (which is still lingering) was more like the winters we remember: temperatures repeatedly dropping to below -30C and a fair bit of snow on the ground much of the time in most areas.
Abraham Lake froze over late again around New Year, despite the extreme cold weather back in December. Water levels were higher, following a protracted and mild fall season, and it takes weeks for the enormous amount of water to cool down sufficiently.
Currently, we are seeing a mix of wet snow, rain and sun almost daily, signaling the end of our winter season. However, we often get our last snowfall as late as mid May so be prepared. There is still snow on the ground in places and unlike last year, it will be a few weeks before our first flowers are out. With the exception of one red-winged blackbird, our migrating birds are taking their time to arrive this year, which means T-shirt weather is not imminent.
Snow pack in the National Parks is very deep this winter season and we expect it to last well toward the end of June at higher elevations. If you are planning to go anytime soon, the snow is great but so is the avalanche risk in many areas. Know how to read the conditions, consult the avalanche bulletins and stay away from locations which are on or close to avalanche prone slopes.
Back in January, we hosted our 14th winter photography tour led by Leslie Degner and attended by a great (and fun) group of participants from all over the world. Conditions were challenging but got better by the day and, unlike other years, we spent most of our time around the lake and close to the lodge as there is so much potential all around Aurum Lodge. If you are interested in joining a photo tour next winter season, we suggest you contact us early.
Currently it is off-season and we are closing down for a few days at a time for R&R, maintenance and repairs and spring cleaning. Most accommodations in the area are still closed as well, so make sure you call / book beforehand. We are open for the Easter weekend and will resume normal operations in May.
Visitors planning to come out in summer, should book their accommodations now. The major tourist destinations like Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper are already fully booked at times and you may find yourself without a room, if you wait until the very last minute. Note that we do have a three night minimum stay policy in high season (June to September), so make sure you allow sufficient time to spend in this part of the mountains.
If you love nature, plan to go hiking in the mountains and like the idea of staying away from the crowded tourist destinations in the National Parks, you will appreciate our facility and area.
We look forward to welcoming you at Aurum Lodge in Bighorn Country.
December 22 , 2016
From all of us at Aurum Lodge, we wish our guests, friends and supporters a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy and successful New Year.
For the first time since we opened in 2000, we have decided to close over the holidays to celebrate with family, but will be opening again December 31st for regular business. Whereas we are generally open year round, there may be quiet times during the year when we might close for a few days for some R&R, maintenance or renovations, so please do call ahead of time, if you wish to stay at Aurum Lodge.
Also, for those of you planning to visit the Rocky Mountains and stay with us in 2017, a reminder that booking early is more important than ever, as visitation of the National Parks nearby is expected to increase 10-15% next year and the major tourist destinations like Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper are generally booked solid for the peak holiday season (July to early September).
Whereas we look back at a rather cloudy, cool and moister summer than usual, our fall and late fall ended up being very mild, dry and pleasant this past year. Unfortunately, fall colour season was not as vibrant as some years but other than that, conditions were really pleasant for most of October and November. Visitors wishing to travel outside of the busy season should keep that in mind, as we have seen this development for a few years in a row now.
Winter arrived in full force end of November this year with a cold spell that lasted a full two weeks and beat anything we experienced last winter season. However, we have seen little snowfall so far in this area and Abraham Lake has still not frozen over completely despite the extreme cold. Heavy winds are keeping the ice from solidifying. In areas, where the ice formed early on, the bubbles are deep down as a result of the rapid freezing in those sections which are more protected. However we expect some interesting ice formations and pressure ridges this winter, as a result of the broken ice piling up in numerous locations.
Despite the cold weather, rivers in the area are running higher than usual at this time of year, making for interesting but dangerous ice along moving water and in the canyons. However, waterfall ice is exceptionally pretty this season so far and it should stay that way unless it gets very warm again. Siffleur Falls in particular isamazing right now as an ice jam appears to have blocked the flow of water above the falls and created conditions, where the river is now flowing 2 meters above normal through a tunnel in the ice. We recommend staying well away from river ice and lake ice where it is not possible to gage the thickness / safety of what is underfoot.
September 3 - 11, 2016
Fall / autumn has arrived very early this year with leaves turning colour two weeks earlier than usual. This is likely a result of a dry winter and spring and a cooler than normal summer. Hopefully the first frost and windy weather will wait a while, so we do not lose all the leaves too soon.
We are now also back into the time of year, where colourful sunrises and sunsets are more frequent and intense than what we experience in summer. A sprinkling of snow on the mountain peaks adds to the beauty of the scenery in the parks where conditions for hiking are ideal at the moment.
August 8, 2016
Summer so far has seen more rain than other years although extended periods of precipitation in our area are not so common. However, the effects are noticeable: the grass is green, flowers and - more recently - mushrooms are plentiful and temperatures have been much cooler than other years around this time. It is not unpleasant though and our guests are still enjoying themselves outdoors, be it in the Parks or closer to the lodge somewhere.
Whereas the scenery is always great, summer is
not the best season for wildlife sightings however and the "success rate" here can vary greatly. One day you may not see much, whereas the next day you may luck out and observe four or five different species.
Our hummingbirds will probably leave in around two weeks or so to head back towards Mexico, whereas our resident chipmunk family will hang out a little longer in the yard until the frost arrives.
Right now, we do already notice the first signs of fall / autumn, with the odd tree starting to turn colour, fall flowers, a bumper berry crop and mist rising over Abraham Lake in the mornings. Despite the amount of rain we had, the lake is filling up relatively slowly this year, likely because temperatures are lower and there was less snow at higher elevations this past winter. We do still expect it to fill up by end of the month though.
Favourite guided activities in the are for our guests include the visits to the historic mine site in Nordegg, trail riding nearby and the guided glacier walks on the Athabasca Glacier, all of which we can highly recommend. Mine tours end September long weekend, whereas the glacier tours are usually possible until the end of September.
Even more so than last year, the Canadian Rockies were very popular with visitors this year. For those planning to come to the mountains next year, we highly recommend booking early as many accommodations will sell out months ahead of time. Also, you should consider visiting outside of the main tourist season (before June or after September), as the mountains are always impressive, the parks are far less crowded and your chances of seeing wildlife (other than bears) are generally better in the off-season. Right now, we are looking forward to another great fall colour season end of September / early October (at higher elevations this starts as early as end of August).
Scroll down on this page for a feel of what you can expect to see at other times of year in the region.
May 23, 2016
Spring arrived early this year as expected and the ice melted off Abraham Lake starting end of February already. March and April were very pleasant and mild with minimal precipitation until early May.
Alas, as so often happens on this May long weekend, it turned cold and we were hit with rain and snow like almost every year around Victoria day. The mountain peaks around us are covered in snow again and it is hard to believe that we were able to climb Mt Michener end of February with virtually no snow on the ground and three weeks ago at the beginning of May we found a variety of Alpine flowers blooming at 2,200 meters elevation in the Icefields area.
We spotted our first humming bird and Calypso Orchids on April 25th this year, a good two to three weeks earlier than usual, and the number of wildflower species blooming around the lodge and in the alpine is probably twice as many as we’d expect to see in a normal year.
Wildlife sightings around the lodge and in the Parks have also been good, but then spring is the best time for wildlife viewing in this part of the world, as many animals still spend time in the valley before retreating into the back-country and to higher elevations for the summer.
Looking forward, we expect a warm and dry summer once we get past the next two weeks or so of spring rains. Nature definitely needs the moisture right now and hopefully it will make for another good year for flowers. Since the area around the lodge has its own micro-climate, which is much drier than everywhere around us, it is exceptionally rare for us to see extended periods of heavy rainfall and even “rainy” days will usually allow you to go out for a hike or bike ride. Worst case, you are never too far from the comforts of the lodge or your cabin.
For those planning to stay with us this summer season, please remember that we do have minimum stay requirements. Since our surroundings and adjacent National Parks are simply stunning and offer so much to the avid hiker and nature lover, if you like the idea of staying away from the crowded tourist locations Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper, why not make Aurum Lodge or one of our cottage units your base to explore the Canadian Rockies this year?!
We are confident that you will enjoy your stay in the area.
Do book sooner than later at this point however, as we are starting to fill up at times for June, July and August. Just remember that swimming in Abraham Lake may be fun for the very hardy, but it is not recommended as the water is extremely cold even in summer and the shoreline is uneven and unstable.
We look forward to welcoming you at the lodge this year:
close to nature…far from the crowds!
February 27, 2016
And before you know it... winter is almost over! If ever this was a "winter", it was by far the warmest that we have experienced since we built Aurum Lodge 17 years ago. In February, daytime temperatures were consistently above freezing and the thermometer did not even drop below -13C at night (compared to some -25C to -30C cold spells we would normally expect at this time of year). Global warming is getting worse and El Nino is still disrupting climate, so we are looking at a very early spring. We have already noticed our first migrating birds in the area too. The sunny and warm weather feels great for us humans, but puts a lot of pressure on the environment, flora and fauna and it may become another bad season for forest fires in the West. Around the lodge, we have recorded minimal precipitation since early December and our new snow blower has been sitting there unused for three months...
Abraham Lake was great again this year and different from other years. The bubbles were not as prevalent as usual, even though it started off well. By now, bubble season is over and there is open water in many places, so it is becoming even more dangerous to venture onto the lake, although there are still interesting ice formations along the shore.
Back in January we ran another photography tour with a small but very enthusiastic group, that came away with amazing images in the span of four days. These tours are great for photo enthusiasts who don't want to worry about where to go when or spend a lot of time preparing and scouting out locations before their visit. We take care of that and make sure our participants will go home with good pictures, no matter what the conditions. We have currently scheduled another event in September 2016 and January 2017 and the details can be found on our activities page.
If you wish to visit us in winter, there is no such thing as a best or worst time, as there are always so many places you can go and locations to explore, even without bubbles in the ice (which are dependent on many different factors that vary from year to year and day to day). Winter hiking, snowshoeing, ice climbing, nature photography and more are almost always possible, if not around the lodge, then in the adjacent National Parks. Just make sure you allow sufficient time.
Going forward, we will be closing for parts of March and April to get some renovations done and catch up on office work after a busy winter (hence our lag in providing you with updates!), so make sure you e-mail or call before coming out here. A reminder too, that we have minimum stay requirements and do not rent rooms on an overnight only basis.
We look forward to welcoming new and past guests at Aurum Lodge this year in one of the most beautiful areas of the Canadian Rockies - Bighorn Country.
For more frequent updates and images of our area, don't forget to:
December 19, 2015
The holiday season is almost upon us and winter has finally arrived in the valley.
We wish all our guests, friends and supporters a wonderful holiday season and all the best for the new year.
Temperatures are still warmer than we normally experience at this time of year and we have not yet had any extreme cold spells. Snow has been fairly limited around the lodge too, other than a few days back in November. There is good snow cover in the mountains at this point.
Ice is finally starting to form on Abraham Lake and unless we get warmer weather or high winds in the next few days, it may freeze up completely between Christmas and New Years. We look forward to another bubble season on the lake. Likely it will be a short one, judging from what we saw the last two winters. Here's what we experienced one cold morning last January:
For those interested in joining our winter photography tour with Leslie Degner in January (13th-17th), do not hesitate too long, as we only have six spaces in total. The winter tours are ideal for visitors who are serious about nature photography, like to do something a little different, but are not overly comfortable or experienced with winter conditions and ice safety, or simply do not wish to venture out on their own. Joining our small group tours will allow you to maximize your time in the area and explore a variety of great locations at their best, without having to worry about where to go when or spending a lot of time scouting out locations of your own. We can never predict what the weather or bubbles will be like, but we will always find you some great spots for winter photography as we do know the area well.
Our tours are not just about the bubbles or the iconic locations of the Canadian Rockies, but rather about offering as much variety as possible for excellent winter photographs for our participants. See below, or scroll down for more images taken this past winter.
November 2, 2015
Only a few remnants of fall colours remain at this point, but we are looking back at an excellent fall season as far as weather, temperatures and foliage are concerned. Our 2015 fall photography tour with Royce Howland was a success yet again, for those who joined and we were fortunate to enjoy great conditions with lots of variety and an enthusiastic group of photographers. So much so, that we ventured less far than other years because there were amazing locations and potential right in our valley. Here are some images of the intense colour we witnessed during the tour. You will find more on our facebook page.
We plan to offer another fall tour next year, so feel free to contact us for details.
Abraham Lake is full, full this year and is particularly beautiful right now, no matter whether it is on one of those windy pre-winter days with whitecaps and waves crashing against the shoreline, or on a rare calm Indian summer day. Temperatures hovering around freezing in the mornings are still comfortable and slightly above average. Like last year, looking at temperatures and high water levels, we expect Abraham Lake to freeze up late this year, so whenever we do get some snow before Christmas, it will be quite stunning. Definitely looking forward to our next photo tour with Leslie Degner, November 18-22.
One reason for holding our November photo tours at this time of year is a good likelyhood of spectacular sunrises and sometimes sunsets (better and more colourful than in summer and at a more humane time of day...). Weather is unpredictable of course but most years we have had some good ones. Here are two fiery sunrise grabshots from the last two weeks:
Whereas we have not had any snow worth mentioning at the lodge so far, there have been a few snowfalls at higher elevations, and the mountains are really pretty with their white cloaks right now. For those who wish to visit Aurum Lodge in the winter season, do remember that Hwy 93 (Icefields Parkway) is snow and ice covered much of the time (yesterday, Nov. 1 as seen below, we experienced 4 inches / 10cm of snow just south of Sunwapta Pass in the morning, all of which had cleared by the evening).
On rare occasions, the Icefields Parkway may close for a short period in winter, whereas Hwy 11 tends to be well maintained and open all winter long. Before you head for this area or onto Hwy 93, make sure that:
- your vehicle is properly winterized, has good tires, and you have emergency supplies along,
- your fuel tank is always at least half full (there are no gas stations between Lake Louise, Jasper and Nordegg at this time of year, so fill up before coming out here,
- you check weather reports ahead of time for Nordegg, Banff and Jasper . Although we are closer to Nordegg, weather at the lodge is generally more like what you find in Banff or Jasper,
- check regional road reports
For our many guests who are less familiar with winter driving, here are a few tips:
1. Slow down and adjust speed based on road conditions and visibility, especially going around bends.
2. Think / look ahead for traffic, obstructions, wildlife, etc. and avoid sudden, hard braking or cornering,
3. Keep your distance from the vehicle in front of you and signal early to warn the vehicle behind you of your intention to turn,
4. Turn on lights, fill up windshield washer fluid and make sure wipers are working well,
5. Avoid pulling over onto a snow covered, sloped shoulder and avoid side roads and tracks which are not visibly maintained. The fact that someone else has driven there, does not guarantee you can drive there (Last winter we had numerous incidents of area visitors getting themselves stuck, trying to pull off the road or drive closer to the lake!)
6. Allow extra time to get from A to B, in case you encounter poor road conditions, accidents, temporary road closures, etc.
7. If others drive faster than you, that doesn’t always mean it is safe to go faster! They may have better equipped vehicles, more winter driving experience or simply may not be good winter drivers and going too fast…
8. Look out for wildlife, especially along Hwy 11 at dusk, dawn and in the dark.
August 28 , 2015
All signs have been pointing towards an early autumn / fall this year, as we observed earlier than usual migration of birds and amphibians, fall flowers and fall colour, cooler nights, etc.
and indeed, we experienced our first frost in the valley on August 21st with some fresh snow at higher elevations. In the mean time, temperatures are back to normal for the season.
Abraham Lake is close to full and will be at its best for the next few weeks. We expect it will be a mild and protracted fall this year with an extended fall colour season but no distinct peaking of colour (unless we were to get a more severe frost at some point). Above the treeline, peak fall colour is usually around the end of August.
Whereas at times we had some significant haze from the forest fires in WA and BC, air quality is not an issue and it is mainly the mountain views that are affected - unlike last year, when we had heavy smoke during the Spreading Creek Fire. Fortunately, there are so many places one can go on overcast or hazy days, as natural attractions such as canyons, waterfalls, hidden lakes and such are abundant in the mountains.
This is another great time for hiking and to be outdoors, and for those planning to spend a few days in the area this September or October, we have availability again starting September long weekend. Note though that we do have the minimum stay policy (two nights in the lodge and three nights in self-contained units). We don’t wish to operate Aurum Lodge simply as a provider of beds between Banff and Jasper, but feel that this area has enough to offer to nature lovers who like hiking, cycling, climbing, etc., so one can easily spend a couple of days in the region. Getting to know and interact with your fellow guests is one of the reasons why visitors appreciate the laid back atmosphere of our property.
Abraham Lake and Aurum Lodge are the perfect anti-dote to Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper for travellers who wish to get away from the crowds and commercialism of those major tourist destinations (see difference below)…
July 7, 2015
To learn about fire ecology and natural regrowth following a fire, there is a great interpretive trail for visitors, which was established after a prescribed burn in 2009. It is truly amazing to see how quickly nature can regenerate after a wildfire. That said, and although fires are a part of the ecology in this part of the world, they should not be taken lightly.
A year ago, the Spreading Creek wildfire burnt 90 square kilometers of forest just outside Banff National Park (scroll down the page for our post at that time).
Warm and dry weather in the past few days has yet again resulted in a fire risk for the valley which is considered extreme, and visitors are required to use utmost caution. Unfortunately, this is a severe fire season already in BC, northern and central Canada, and we are hoping there will be no repeat of last years blaze in this region. With a good 50% of wildfires caused by humans, and most of those as a result of negligence (campfires, ATV's, cigarettes, etc.), we can all make a big difference there.
This is the time of year where we sometimes experience the 3H (heat, humidity and haze) and right now, looking out the window, is one of those days... Fortunately for our guests, heat and humidity in the mountains are not normally opressive and there is always the option to move to higher elevations. Conditions above treeline are great right now for hiking, wildflowers, etc..
For birders, our valley is primarily of interest in the migration season, but birds are always present and visible, unlike other wildlife, which at this time of year tend to move away from the road and into the back-country / higher elevations.
Abraham Lake levels have been rising rapidly and in a few weeks it will look like this again.
Come and join us at the lodge while summer lasts, to enjoy and explore this wonderful area.
June 14 , 2015
Despite a very dry spring, not only are we seeing a profusion of wildflowers this year, but they all are flowering noticeably earlier than usual. The past two days have seen some much needed rain, so we expect an even better display soon.
What many guests comment on are the sweet smelling scents around the lodge or when walking through the forests in the area. Many of our inconspicuous smaller flowers on closer inspection are actually really pretty and very fragrant; Rock Jasmine and Wolf Willow in particular. Don’t forget when you are out in nature, to occasionally ignore the beautiful scenery, close your eyes and simply allow your sense of smell (or hearing for that matter), to connect to your surroundings.
Birdlife is abundant too and we had a record number of hummingbirds at the start of this season (and bluebirds in Kootenay Plains). Some seem to have moved on by now though, as there is abundant food around.
Unlike other years, unfortunately we have encountered virtually no bears in the vicinity of the Lodge. Hunting and poaching seem to be taking their toll on these majestic animals...
Mentioning bears, visitors to the area are sometimes concerned about their safety in case of bear encounters. We don’t consider bears a reason to stop you from enjoying the great outdoors, but they are wild animals, and it is important to understand the risk and behave properly, to reduce conflict. Information sheets about wildlife safety can be picked up at most Park visitor centers and some outdoor equipment stores, so you may wish to look for that. Important rules that work:
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings to avoid a surprise or close encounter,
- If you see a bear or fresh bear signs, keep your distance, back off slowly and get out of the area,
- Don’t run, don’t panic, don’t act aggressively so as not to challenge the animal. Avoid direct eye contact but talk calmly, while increasing the distance between you and the animal,
- A bear may follow you because it is curious or make a mock charge because it feels uncomfortable and wants you out of the area. Even then, body contact is extremely rare. If all else fails, bear spray is the most effective deterrent.
Our philosophy is, that once you survived the road trip here, don’t worry about the bears and just be prudent. Fatalities in the mountains occur for many reasons, but very rarely as a result of a bear attack…
Accommodations in the Rockies are filling up fast, so if
you haven’t booked for the summer by now, we recommend you do so (or you may have to sleep out with the bears). At Aurum Lodge, since we have different unit types (e.g. only one unit designed for four to five persons), if you are interested in a specific room or unit, we also suggest booking earlier.
Please also remember that we request minimum stays in the peak season and cannot rent rooms on an overnight only basis. If you love nature, care about sustainability, plan to do some hiking in the mountains and like the idea of staying further from the crowded tourist centers Banff and Lake Louise, you will appreciate our facility and location. There is no shortage of things to do and sites to explore in our valley.
And for those who have ample time, you can now also follow us on facebook. Based on unrelenting guest “pressure” we have finally decided to go this route to keep you up to date on a more regular basis. Our goal is to make one post per week as to what we have experienced, plan to do, recommend to our guests, etc., so feel free to follow our fan page.
For our photographer friends who are interested in exploring the area in the company of like minded individuals, our next photo tours are as follows:
Sept 21-27 2015: fall photo tour with Royce Howland (6 nights)
Nov 18-22 2015: the other Rockies photo tour with Leslie Degner (4 nights)
Jan 13-17 2016: winter mountain magic photo tour with Leslie Degner (4 nights)
Scroll down this page to see some images from that time of year, for an idea of what to expect, check out our activities page for more information or call / e-mail if you are interested.
May 17 , 2015
Victoria Day / May long weekend signifies the start of the holiday season in Canada, when most seasonal tourism destinations are back up and running. From now on, expect to see more visitors in the Parks and everywhere. For those visitors who like to stay in a more remote and less busy mountain setting, Aurum Lodge is an ideal choice.
It is definitely not quite summer yet and as so
very often on this weekend, we did experiece some rain, snow and sub-zero weather, although it has been a very pleasant spring so far.
Nature is used to this of course and everything is starting to turn green, our calypso orchids are blooming in the surrounding forests and our rufuous hummingbirds have returned to the lodge on May 6th. For all intents and purposes, summer is off to a good start!
We have had a number of enquiries lately about Abraham Lake, regarding bubbles, fishing, boating, etc.. Here's what Abraham Lake looks like right now, as seen from a 20 minute scramble on Visionquest ridge (the top can be reached in 1 1/2 to 2 hours by the average person for even better views)!
Abraham Lake is actually a reservoir and as such sees significant fluctuations in water levels over the course of a year. In May it tends to be the lowest but from now on it will start to fill up with the snow melt and spring / summer rains in the mountains. Normally, the peak levels are reached in August and start to recede again in late September.
"Bubble season" can last from November to March but in the past few years has been shorter every year due to climate change / global warming.
Because it is an artificial water body, the lake is not overly good for fishing, compared to other lakes in the region. Most avid anglers tend to go fly-fishing in the area streams
and the central portion of the Alberta foothills is considered to be a great destination for fly-fishing. Nordegg area has a few smaller lakes which are stocked and suitable for families and beginners.
Boating on / swimming in Abraham Lake is not recommended due to unstable shorelines, very cold water coming out of the glaciers, submerged rocks and the prevailing strong winds which can result in 4 foot waves with whitecaps developing over a very short period of time.
April 8 , 2015
Springtime at Aurum Lodge is just another great time to enjoy nature in the area. We spotted our first flowers at the end of March (prairie crocuses) in Kootenay Plains and guests have seen signs of bears in the area already, which is quite early. As well, this is the time when many different migrating birds pass through the valley, so we are always on the lookout for feathered friends we have not encountered before. The mountain bluebirds in Kootenay Plains have also returned.
Hiking is superb in the valley, as the snow retreats to higher elevations. Cold nights and moderate daytime temperatures make for good visibility and great hiking. Guests often ask about trails they can use directly from the lodge and so far we have had limited opportunities in that regard, as most popular hiking trails in the region require a vehicle to get to the trail head, whereas the walking paths down to the lake and along the shore are relatively short. With the help of our friends Andrew and Oliver, we now have a new trail laid out on our lease, which ties into the existing trail network and makes for a pleasant stroll through the forest surrounding Aurum Lodge. We call it the meditation trail and we managed to design it with minimal gradients and minimal need for removing live trees or existing vegetation. Meandering over soft ground through the open pine forest and enjoying the tranquility of the area and the wonderful smell of the woods will hopefully be another relaxing experience for our future guests. Our chief receptionist Aura has certainly taken a liking to this new option for checking out our surroundings.
March 27, 2015
Abraham Lake has lost 90% of its ice cover at this point and we are heading into an early
spring with temperatures 5-10 C warmer than the average for this time of year over the
past few weeks. The colour is still exceptional, which will change for a few weeks with the
spring run-off. Lake levels are high though for this time of year. For those contemplating
boating on the lake, remember that despite all the beauty, it is not considered a safe lake
for boating: sudden high winds, strong wave action, submerged rocks, unstable shorelines
and very cold water combine to make this a dangerous lake to be on.
At 33km long,
there are plenty locations where you can enjoy it from the shore.
March 6 , 2015
Bubble season is over, but the lake is as beautiful
as ever and numerous freeze /
thaw cycles this year
produced interesting ice sculptures in many locations.
Availability is still good for the summer, but please be aware that for the high season
many accommodations in the mountains appear to be filling up. If you plan to tour the
Canadian Rockies this year, love nature, wish to do some hiking in the mountains
like the idea of staying away from the crowded tourist locations Banff, Lake Louise and
Jasper, do consider a longer stay in this area...
We look forward to hearing from you and
welcoming you at the lodge this year.
February 1 , 2015
Once again, we look back at another successful winter photography tour, led by Royce
Howland. With a small but keen group of photo enthusiasts with very different "aspirations"
we were able to explore the area around Abraham Lake and Kootenay Plains, experiencing
the entire winter weather spectrum except extreme cold. Indeed, it was unseasonably
warm for a few days, which resulted in melting ice and pooling water on the lake surface.
There is a lot of open water along the shoreline in places so extreme caution is advised.
Colder temperatures at present should improve the situation somewhat and whereas the
famous bubble clusters are way past their peak, there is no shortage of interesting and
sometimes weird formations in and around the ice. The lacy shoreline ice is what we would
normally expect in March or so and because of the different conditions this year, we have
come across intriguing patterns we have never seen in the past. Conditions change from
one day to the next, so every time we venture out
there are some surprises.
Below is a selection of images from this year's winter tour. Participant images will be posted
on Royce's website in due course, so check it out too, if you are interested in joining next
year's event (dates to be announced in due course).
January 22 , 2015
Abraham Lake continues to amaze with its many ice formations and conditions this past
week have been excellent. Unfortunately, the warm weather forecast over the next few
days will have an impact on the clarity of the ice and there are open areas of water in
places along the shore, which can make it less safe.
A cancellation on our Winter Photo tour this coming weekend has opened a spot for that
event for anyone willing and able to jump at a great opportunity at short notice. Our tours
are not just about photographing lake ice and bubbles but incorporate the wide spectrum
of wintery subjects found in the area, so no matter what the weather conditions are, we
always come up with great photo opportunities for our participants.
If you are interested,
check out our activities / vacation packages page.
The downside of running the lodge is that we often have very little time to go and scout
out / enjoy the many interesting locations for ourselves. Following are a few images from
hour trip down to the lake this week.
January 15 , 2015
Abraham Lake froze over December 27th last year during a short but intense cold spell.
Since then it has been snow covered much of the time.
Since then, temperatures have been unseasonably warm again, but fortunately we
were spared from rain and it has not gone above freezing much. There is a lot of
milky ice this season, yet some areas are very clear providing a lot of variety for our
winter photography workshop and tour participants.
A reminder to the bubble hunting photographers: if you come here for the bubbles and
bubbles only, you are setting yourself up for disappointment, especially, if you are only
allowing one day . The conditions are very
variable and literally change from day to day.
That said, there is so much more to see
and explore in the area, both inside and outside
of the parks, which some visitors just
seem to forget completey...
Nature is unpredictable, and you have to accept what it has
in store for you so do come
here with an open mind. Like wildlife, we think that coming
accross the "seven layered
prosperity bubbles" is a bonus over and above the exceptional beauty you
can find in
Conditions are good for snow shoeing too at the moment and
visitors wishing to explore
along the Icefields Parkway in Banff Park will find excellent
and uncrouded conditions.
Be avalanche aware though, as the snowpack is not very stable right now.
Please do not call or e-mail us about lake ice or bubbles, as we cannot provide you with
information as to what the conditions will be two days, two weeks or two months from
now! Whereas we live an operate here, we cannot check on conditions of the lake daily,
as it is 33km long!
For a variety of reasons, we no longer make recommendations as to
timing, etc.. We will assist our guests in where to go, depending on their
interests, but it
is always up to the individual visitor to assess conditions before venturing
into the back-
country or onto the ice. Every location is different and the general rule is,
in case of doubt, don't do it!
Photographers, who wish to visit the area are advised to purchase and
e-guides on Kootenay Plains and Abraham Lake, as well as
editions) from www.oopoomoo.com, which will give you a head start
as to where to go. They are amazing value and full of useful information and ideas on
winter photography, which can be applied anywhere. That said, we recommend not to
be too fixated on where you go, since conditions are so variable and you can really only
decide on the actual day, where the best places are, based on weather, cloud, snow and
A reminder too that we have a two night minimum stay policy in effect right until the
end of February and that we will be closed for most of March
If you are planning a spring or fall outing in the region, we are happy to announce two
more photo events for 2015 as pre-advised.
May 21-24 (three nights) Developing your photographic style workshop with Leslie
Degner of Wilderness Light Images.
Sept 21-27 (six nights) Fall photography tour with Royce Howland of Vivid Aspect
December 14 , 2014
As the long range forecast is for a warmer than average winter due to El Nino currents in
the Pacific, we did not quite expect what we got at the end of November this year: 50cm
of snow (20") and temperatures dropping to -30C (-20F). This was a record snowfall in
the 15 years we have operated the lodge and may well be a sign of things to come. If
we do get a warmer winter, snow will likely be more frequent than other years. As for now,
it has all but disappeared again, after temperatures climbed to +12C (54F) earlier in the
(coupled with some really strong Chinook winds).
These temperature swings are
normal though for this part of Canada, so if you come here in winter, be prepared to
whatever you get: there is just no guarantee.
On the plus side, the variable weather
make things interesting, as conditions change often and fast. The large temperature
swings we experience in the region are one reason, why few deciduous trees (other than
survive in this climate.
October to December, when temperatures drop below freezing and moisture is low, we
experience amazing night skies too. Whereas the displays of aurora borealis /
northern lights in our region were somewhat dissappointing (due to a lack of solar flare
activity), we have
had some great views this year of lunar eclipses and meteor showers.
Right now, the annual
Geminid meteor shower is going on and last night we witnessed an
incredible display with
shooting stars overhead at a rate of about one per minute, on a
very mild winter night.
Places such as Jasper and Cypress Hills boast about being "dark sky preserves". This area
beats them all, we just don't bragg about it.
As for the bubblographers, they will need to be patient this season. Abraham Lake is still
open and water levels are high. However, the water temperature has finally dropped
enough to allow ice to form in some places on the main body of the lake, so if average
temperatures stay well below freezing and we have little wind, there is still a
it will freeze over by Christmas. Chances are about 50/50 for that to happen.
We certainly don't expect the bulk of the ice to be safe to venture out before January.
have stayed here before know there is much more to the area than stacks
methane bubbles in the lake ice...
(we hope that some of our images illustrate this!)
If you wish to stay at Aurum Lodge this winter, please remember to book ahead of time.
Our four legged and feathered friends come
and go as they please, but we are a small
property with a limited number of rooms and
have group reservations and events booked
for next few months. Minimum stays apply
most of the time and we are currently offering
halfboard option only in the lodge
and dinner included), since there are no
restaurants to eat out and our lodge
do not have food preparation facilities.
For guests wishing to look after their own
meal arrangements, we recommend our self-
contained units with kitchen. Note that
are no fixed roof accommodations along the
Icefields Parkway at this time of year, other
What is there to do in winter you ask? A day
trip along the Icefields Parkway on a crisp
be one of the most
spectacular drives you ever get to experience.
A far cry from the crazy crowds, bear jams
and bumper to bumper tour bus congestion
you find there in summer. Amazing scenery,
frozen waterfalls, and an empty road beg
be explored. Around the lodge, Abraham Lake
is the No.1 attraction, but visiting some
canyons, ice falls, hiking in the Kootenay Plains
(often free of snow), wildlife
observation and taking in the serenity of the entire area are
Ice climbing, winter hiking, snow-shoeing, winter photography, are among the more
whereas some guests come here simply to relax and enjoy the
seclusion and tranquility
lodge or one of our cabins, or to catch up on their reading.
November 15 , 2014
Winter arrived on the morning of November 9th with a good storm and 15cm of snow
over two days. Temperatures plummeted by 20C and are still hovering slightly below
average. That said, weather like this is not abnormal for November but what turned out
different this year was the sudden change from very mild weather with hardly any frost
right into the early days of November. We have never been able to keep the flowers out
until this late and the ground had not even started to freeze.
The onset of snow has also brought the sheep, overwintering birds and other critters
back into the valley.
The delayed onset of colder weather has resulted in Abraham Lake being much fuller than
normal around this time of year. This makes it particularly beautiful now that we have
snow along the shore. As the heat is drawn out of the water, the mist coming off the lake
in the mornings makes this one of our favourite times of the year. High water levels will
produce significantly different ice along the shore this year as spots where we would
normally see interesting ice formations at this time of year, are still under deep water.
Access onto the ice may be a little more challenging this season, but we do expect some
interesting ice slabs along the steeper rocks and bubbles in places where we would usually
not get them.
People always ask us when the lake freezes over which is about as difficult a question to
answer as what the weather will be like on Christmas day… It all hinges on the
temperatures and also the amount of wind around the time of freeze up. If sub-zero
temperatures continue from now on, we could see it freeze as early as the second week
of December. However, since the volume of water is so much more than usual, it may
well take until around Christmas and if it warms up again, even later. In the 15 years we
have operated the lodge we have seen it freeze over completely between December 6
and January 10. That said, there is interesting ice along the shore, including bubbles in
some locations, as soon as the average daily temperature drops below freezing.
The countdown has started…
For those who wish to come out and photograph our winter wonderland in the company
of a small group of like minded enthusiasts, we recommend you join our winter
photography tour with Royce Howland, which starts January 24 2015.
October 20, 2014
A magnificent fall / Indian Summer continues at Aurum Lodge and Abraham Lake with
temperature hitting a high of 18C today. It has been a great season end and hopefully
will last another week or two before old man winter arrives. Fall colours were with us
for almost four weeks this year and would have lasted longer still, if it wasn’t for the
strong winds we experience this time of the year and throughout the winter season.
However, it is still great hiking weather and the lake and surrounding area are quite
spectacular right now. A 20 minute scramble towards Vision Quest (behind Aurum
Lodge), will reward you with this view…
Following another successful photo workshop with Darwin Wiggett / Samantha
Chrysanthou in September and subsequent fall photo tour with Royce Howland /
Dan Wheeler early October, we are gearing up for another photo workshop right now.
Photos shown hereafter are all from a one day outing to Lake Louise on Royce’s fall tour
and exemplify the sheer endless choice of light and subject matter available to nature
photographers in the Rocky Mountains.
November 4th we shall be hosting the last oopoomoo workshop out of Aurum Lodge and
still have two spots open. This Fire and Ice tour / workshop traditionally has been the best
time of year for great sunrises and sunsets. So for those who have always struggled with
the challenges of high contrast situations at dawn or dusk and would like to learn more
about how to get the perfect shot in difficult lighting, here’s your chance. For details, check
out the workshops section on the oopoomoo site.
For January 15 – 19 2015, Royce Howland and Olivier duTre are offering a NEW black &
white photography workshop at the lodge which includes capture, processing and printing
of B&W images at yet another amazing time of year along the Abraham Lake.
If you are looking for something a little different, this may be it. For details, check out
Royce's website and this write-up. For reservations, contact us at Aurum Lodge.
Sepember 20 , 2014
Fall colour season is here and it is a good one this year, although about a week
earlier than usual. A very early snowfall and frost this fall has caused leaves in
some areas to turn brown right away, however in most locations it has helped
to produce intense colours and we are probably only two or three days away
from the peak in the area along Abraham Lake and Kootenay Plains.
Wildlife sightings are increasing as animals start to move back into the valleys.
Unfortunately, mature ungulates and predators such as wolves shown here are
rarely seen in this area due to excessive hunting and trapping. To see these
majestic animals you almost have to visit the National Parks, the area around
Jasper generally being the most “productive” from our experience. You will see
sheep, deer, elk and coyotes though on a regular basis in our valley.
Hiking at this time of year is superb including at higher elevations such as the
Columbia Icefields region, Bow Pass and the area around Lake Louise and
Yoho Park, where the larches are currently at their
best (Larch Valley,
Saddleback and Lake O’Hara). Temperatures are very mild,
so the snow on the
ground has largely disappeared again.
At the lodge, we have some very colourful ground cover and the aspen trees
along the lake are in stark contrast to the vibrant shades of blue of Abraham
Lake which is within a meter or so of its high level. As winds pick up this time
of year, there are often whitecaps on the lake, which make it look even more
impressive. A calm day with good reflections on the lake as seen below is
quite rare. If you come here, make sure you are dressed for whatever the
weather may have in store for you...