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Recent Sightings and what's new at Aurum

What happened, what is going on, what to expect...

Reduced operation due to Covid-19

We are currently only offering our self-contained vacation rentals  (two units in the cottage and the two-bedroom loft apartment). These units allow for guests to ensure physical distancing, which can be more difficult in the lodge. There is a two or three night minimum stay policy depending on the dates and you will need to prepare your own meals. The lodge / B&B is scheduled to re-open early next year for fully vaccinated guests if it is deemed safe to do so and permitted.

November 13 2021

Wildlife sightings in the area are always possible but becoming more sparse. Except our Bighorn Sheep which come down into the valley in winter and can often be seen along the highway, almost all mammal populations have declined noticeably over the past 25 years as a result of incessant hunting, poaching, trapping, increased human activity and habitat change. Foxes are more common in the region now as wolves and coyotes are being decimated. This gorgeous fox barely survived with a badly mangled leg after it managed to extricate itself from a leg trap two winters ago. Winter is a great time to observe animals though as they tend to be more visible and active during daylight.

October 29 2021

Our long time photographer friends Darwin and Sam used to call this time of year the fire and ice season and nature is sure living up to it this year. Ice has formed on ponds, along rivers and waterfalls, like this one in our back-yard. Fantastic sunrises have also returned and that, coupled with the mix of open water and beautiful ice formations, makes this a wonderful time for nature photographers. We have seen little precipitation in the valley recently and temperatures are pleasant enough to spend time outside for extended periods.

October 10 2021

The first snowfall in the valley around Abraham Lake usually coincides with fall colour season, which makes for even greater visual impact. Colours turned out better than expected and peaked around Sept 25 (about normal). The sheep, which spend their winter closer to the lake, have returned to forage in the snow along the highway. The landscape, with open water on the lake and snow along the shore, is spectacular as always. As temperatures drop below freezing, ice will form on stems and branches of any vegetation partially submerged in the lake, making for more magic sights. Stay tuned...

September 21 2021

Abraham Lake levels remain very high with significant shoreline erosion in recent weeks. Most years we see aspen trees partially submerged but this season water levels rose faster and higher than usual, so some of these trees will be standing in water for two months or more. It will be interesting to see how they cope after the stress of a dry / hot summer. Colours are more muted than normal, but there are still many green leaves in this area, so hopefully we can enjoy some  punchy colours as night time temperatures drop below freezing.
Some years we might have had our first major snow around this time.

September 8 2021

As we approach winter season, conditions for star gazing improve. In dark sky preserves like Jasper, you will still need to drive out of town to enjoy night skies without light pollution. At Aurum Lodge, simply step out the door for views like this. September is a great time as nights are longer and darker but not yet very cold (lower temperatures improve clarity though). It is hard to imagine how many stars are up there until you go out on a night like this... Milky way, Jupiter peaking through the tree and increased solar activity promising some Northern Lights soon.

August 25 2021

 Oh, and – by the way… Did we mention that in the mountains it can snow at any time of the year?! Always carry that extra layer with you!

We finally got a good rain this week (40mm), which completely cleared the air and blanketed the mountain peaks around us in snow. Gorgeous sight, albeit a little early. Mushrooms poking their heads out, cool nights make leaves turn colour, misty mornings and bird migration is on (our hummingbirds left two weeks earlier than usual). Looking forward to one of our favourite seasons of the year.

August 12 2021

For a few days, the heat and haze from the forest fires out West have subsided and we are enjoying pleasant summer temperatures and great views again, even though we have not seen much rain. Hoping this will last for a while. Our three self-contained units are fully booked for the rest of August, with some availability here and there in September. Looking at the warm, dry summer this year and other indicators, we expect fall colours to start early this season (before mid September). Abraham Lake is full and colours are approaching their finest right now, even though rivers continue to run higher than usual.

July 24 2021

High wind and wave action are common occurrences on Abraham Lake (one reason the lake is considered dangerous). However, the extreme high water we have seen this season is unprecedented. It is the result of a three times higher glacial melt... Approaching the high water mark weeks before normal, the spillway had to be activated this week to stop water levels from getting dangerously high. At the same time we are finding visibility suffering from the raging forest fires out west. Fire danger in this area and our Parks is extreme too, so area visitors are encouraged to be extra cautious and follow fire regulations.

July 7 2021

No image can convey the fragile beauty and graceful movement of a swallowtail butterfly in a light breeze, feeding on the tiny, fragrant flowers of wolf willow in summer. You have to experience it with all your senses.  Are we about to lose it all though? 

Species extinction is rapidly accelerating worldwide as a result of habitat destruction, pollution and climate change. The recent record-breaking heat wave in the West is yet another warning that mankind needs to act decisively and fast to turn the tide.  How?  Consume less, waste less, conserve more!  Let's all give it our best...

June 21 2021

Summer is now "official", the warmest weather is yet to come, while nights are getting longer again... Now is peak flower season in the mountains. Conditions are great for abundant flora this year, so when out hiking, do take the time to marvel at the many beautiful flowers, their often vibrant colours, intricate shapes / arrangements of petals and leaves and don't overlook the interesting critters visiting the blooms. The great variety of terrain and elevations found in the area make for completely different species of flowering plants, depending on your location. See how many you can see / identify in an hour...

June 8 2021

Did we just say summer has arrived?  Well, mountain weather is unpredictable and always good for a surprise. This could go either way.  It can sometimes snow in the summer months, especially at higher elevations, but 25cm (10") as experienced yesterday around Abraham Lake is definitely out of the ordinary.  Seeing how our vegetation and wildlife like this rufous hummingbird can adapt, is fascinating.
A good reminder though to always check weather forecasts and road conditions, as these can change rapidly.

June 4 2021

Summer arrived in Bighorn Country and so far we have had little rain. May and June traditionally count among our wetter months, but the weather patterns are changing and we also notice more wind than we used to at this time of year.  Abraham Lake without ripples is a rare sight indeed. Lake levels are now rising rapidly as the spring snow melt fills the reservoir. With rivers running high, carrying lots of coarse sediment, the turquoise colour typical for glacier fed lakes will not be as striking as usual though for the next two months.

May 24 2021

This is bear country!! From spring to fall we might encounter bears, although we mostly just see them along the side of a road. Please, be bear aware ALL the time, take the necessary precautions for your own safety and that of the bears. Unsecured food or garbage will attract the animals (at the lodge, we compost indoors for that reason).  This beautiful grizzly bear, observed at and near the lodge recently, posed no problem here but was later put down because it got into inadequately secured garbage in the area. This was  the second bear we lost in less than a year, simply because people aren't careful.

May 10 2021

Located in the Kootenay Plains "climate oasis", at Aurum Lodge we receive less than half the precipitation found a mere half hour drive east or west in Nordegg and Banff Park. The dryness, coupled with a short growing season due to our elevation, makes it harder for vegetation to thrive. Thus, it is important to always stay on trails and avoid damaging ground cover. Located in the mountains, our weather patterns tend to be closer to those in Banff than nearby Nordegg....
This past weekend we saw our first good rainfall of the season (21mm) which will help to bring out the greens and more flowers soon.

April 16 2021

It can snow (and has) every week at this time of year, but that will generally not last more than 24 hours. Rising temperatures have caused snow to melt in the valley and only a few icy patches are left. Lake ice is unsafe now but it is a great time to go hiking in Kootenay Plains, or snow-shoeing in the mountains where there is lots of snow still around tree line. Be aware of avalanche risk though.
Butterflies are out and our mountain bluebirds have returned as we await our first flowers to appear (prairie crocus and yellow draba).

April 2 2021

Happy Easter to you all.
Spring migration has begun. Our feathered friends who stayed with us in winter, are now moving north. Waterfowl and other summer visitors have started to arrive. Five weeks from now, we will see the return of our tiny hummingbirds coming back from Mexico. At this time of year, we also see the occasional migrants on their way from warmer climates to their breeding grounds in the far north. A huge flock of around 200 Bohemian Waxwings visited our surroundings this week, feeding on berries and seeds now that the snow is mostly gone.

March 21 2021

Aurora borealis or northern lights are not too common at our latitude and there has been very little solar activity in the past two years that would cause them to appear. Having entered a new 12 yr solar cycle though, we have seen an increase in the past few months, which will continue over the next five years until another peak is reached. Generally, around spring and fall equinox is a good time to look for northern lights and we did have a few displays lately. Like wildlife sightings, this natural phenomenon is not something that can be "guaranteed" but more like a bonus when spending time out in nature.

March 8 2021

More unseasonably warm weather in the past week (up to +10C) followed by a mix of rain and snow, is causing the lake ice to deteriorate faster than anticipated. The rough surface of the ice will now absorb heat from the sun, instead of reflecting it.  There is more to the lake though than bubbles in the ice, such as these striations which were common this season.
For those who cannot visit the area in winter but would still like to experience a different ice, we highly recommend taking one of the ice walks on the Athabasca Glacier in summer (June to September).

February 22 2021

Winter temperatures in the Rockies tend to vary greatly and once again, following a week of deep freeze, more pleasant temperatures prevail. While this may not last, it does look like spring is not too far away. Water levels on the lake are receding and for those who venture farther from the popular (and often busy) bubble locations, beautiful ice formations can be found. The gorgeous aquamarine blue colour of the ice found along the shore always amazes.  With longer days and more sun, there will also be more of the lacy ice patterns soon. However, it appears that good ice should last well into March this year.

February 11 2021

Using solar energy is cheap and clean. For 21 years, passive solar design has helped keep the lodge warm on sunny winter days. During the current cold spell, our Thermo-Dynamics solar collectors perform flawlessly. At outdoor temperatures of -28C, they will transfer 60C hot water into our storage tank for use in hydronic heating or domestic hot water.  And on perfect days like these, our 6kW PV array can generate sufficient electricity to power the lodge. The technology is proven and some of these systems will pay for themselves within a few years.
So, why not use energy which is free and does not destroy the planet?

January 16 2021

So far, this is the warmest winter we experienced in the area, with  temperatures often above freezing. That said, last winter started off similarly before it turned into a deep freeze and a delayed spring. Bubble are somewhat scarcer this year, with so much milky and textured ice everywhere. Although the lake covers about 50 sq km, the methane bubbles are limited to a few locations closer to shore.  Because of the warm weather, extra caution is advised when going on the ice. And for those who skate, please be considerate enough and don't skate all over the few bubble patches.

December 31 2020

Abraham Lake froze over completely on Boxing Day this year but it will be a few more days before the ice solidifies. Unfortunately, it snowed during freeze up and much of the ice will be milky. It remains to be seen how good the bubbles turn out this winter season. That said, for those who come out to this area in winter and keep an open mind, there are always so many amazing sights to enjoy: from the mountains around us, the patterns and textures of the ice, frozen waterfalls and pristine winter wonderlands. And don't forget: tranquility!
Lots of snow in the National Parks too.  HAPPY NEW YEAR to all.

December 23 2020

Wishing all our guests, friends and supporters a wonderful Festive Season and a happy New Year. It will be different no doubt, but we hope you all can make the best of it nonetheless.
Just in time for Christmas we did get our snow at the lodge and conditions are great, as it is still unseasonably mild. We are booked past New Years day, but will have availability again in January.
If the wind decides to stay away, Abraham Lake is just about ready to freeze over and if we get no snow at that stage, we could be in for some really perfect ice this winter.

December 14 2020

Early winter is a great time for night owls. Night skies at Aurum Lodge are better than some well publicized "dark sky reserves" in the Rockies as there is zero light pollution on Abraham Lake.  Whereas we missed the recent meteor shower due to cloud cover, back on December 1 we enjoyed a balmy full moon night near the lodge.
Abraham Lake is still mostly open with ice now forming at either end and in some of the more sheltered bays. At this stage a few very cold nights without wind could make it freeze over. Usually though, because of frequent strong winds, it will repeatedly freeze and break up again... 

November 24 2020

As the remnants of fall dwindle, lake ice has begun to form at the start of the lake, and with it, the first displays of methane bubbles. Water levels are still high, so we don't expect the lake to freeze completely before year end. Visitors are reminded that ice at this stage is not safe to go on. Unless you are familiar with ice safety, self-rescue and how to read the ice, it is best to simply observe and enjoy from the shore!
We also love this time of year because the occasional light snowfall will reveal which furry or feathered, tiny or large critters have visited our surroundings to forage, den, socialize or pass through the area.

October 24 2020

The transition from fall to early winter happened fast over the past two weeks but, as we like to say: there are 1001 reasons for this place of all seasons... Every day you step outside, nature presents you with another surprise like this gem of a frozen bush on the shores of Abraham Lake. Lake levels have started to drop, but it will be another two months before ice will form on the main body (sheltered areas and shallow bays may freeze earlier). At this time of year, the mist coming off the surface and the ever changing colour of the water make for extra interest.

October 10 2020

Happy Thanksgiving and a big thank you to all our guests who visited us this past summer. We hope you enjoyed your stay.
We are now at the tail end of summer and fall season. Despite frequent strong winds, the lack of rain, snow or frost over the past few weeks did keep leaves on aspen trees for longer, resulting in some amazing fall colour displays all along the lake, Hwy 11 and the Icefields Parkway.  One more week and then we look forward to our "fire and ice" season, which often produces colourful sunrises, beautiful ice formations along waters edge and a clear, star spangled night sky.

September 20 2020

2020 is shaping up to be one of the best fall colour seasons in a long time. With no frost in the area so far and mild days / cool nights  there may actually be more of a peak than we have seen the past few years. Unfortunately, it is very dry and the views are often marred by smoke and haze from distant wildfires. Catastrophic weather events are becoming worse every year as a result of climate change. A reminder that more action is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Energy conservation is key and easy to achieve! To do our part, at Aurum Lodge we have reduced fossil fuel consumption by around 80% (compared to traditionally designed, built and managed properties). 

September 4 2020

Setting moon plus sunrise on Elliot Peak makes for a beautiful start of the day.
We are now entering the season for "sky-lovers": clearer nights, colourful sunsets and sunrises, winds producing interesting cloud formations, meteor showers, milky way and hopefully a few more aurora borealis displays than we saw over the last 12 months.
According to the calendar it is still summer, however, nature tells us that we are into fall / autumn already: foliage turning colour, cooler nights, migrating birds, including our humming birds, moving south.
One of our favourite seasons is about to begin.

August 25 2020

Abraham Lake is within a few feet of the high water mark and generally the most picturesque at this time of year. Coarser sediment from the spring run-off has settled and only the very fine rock flower out of the glacial streams remains suspended. This is what gives some of our lakes their awesome turquoise colour.
A reminder to all area visitors, that this is a LARGE lake and dangerous for boating, swimming and all kinds of dinky inflatables. It is very cold, windy and strong waves can produce ocean like swells in no time. Numerous people had to be rescued this past season.

August 1 2020

Mountain weather is often more variable than in the plains and can change rapidly. In summer this often means storms towards the evenings which can generate extreme winds (and waves on Abraham Lake), downpours causing flash floods and massive lightning. Visitors are well advised to keep an eye on approaching storms and move to sheltered locations. A lightning strike as shown here on the flanks of Mt Elliot embodies enough energy to power our entire facility for three to four months! Note: image was taken through a lodge window as this would not be a good time to set up a tripod outside...

July 2 2020
Naturalist guided tours

There are many activities you can enjoy in the Canadian Rockies. Some of them on your own, some just for the sake of being active, some because you might like the idea of combining physical activity with learning more about our natural environment, mountain ecology, species diversity, geology or glaciology..., Two highly recommended guided naturalist tours which are fun and educational are the Athabasca Glacier Ice Walks and Great Divide Nature Interpretation.