Sherbrooke Lake and Ogden Bench Ski Touring had been on my radar all season this year. Yoho has such a different snowpack that it warrants its own sector on the avalanche.ca website. Fortunately, in our case, this meant the snow was deep and soft. Perfect for an afternoon of even bigger smiles.
The route starts at the Great Divide Lodge in Yoho National Park, just west of the BC/Alberta border. A 4km skin up a well-packed trail leads past access to Paget Glades on the right and eventually spits you out at Sherbrooke lake proper. It becomes immediately apparent at the lake just how much skiable terrain there is in the basin, from long avalanche chutes on Paget, big couloirs and spins on Ogden, and high-fun factor benches at the end of the lake.
If this is your first time skiing here, check out our Guide to Ski touring in the Canadian Rockies here.
Given the changing avalanche conditions, we set our eyes on the popular Ogden Bench area at the North end of the lake. We skied up an old skin track through the trees below Ogden itself, slowly traversing out towards the very foreshortened bench further up the valley.
From a distance, the bench looks fairly short and steep. But as usual, getting closer tells the real story… almost 2 km of distance over a few hundred meters of elevation gain with some of the best snow we’d seen all year. The Rockies might get a reputation for poor ski and snow quality, but days like this one prove that reputation wrong every time.
A couple of hours from the care we found ourselves near the top of the bench. I wandered up a little further to poke around, but some whumping turned me around quickly about 100m from the top. Time to switch over and make some turns.
If it’s not already apparent, we were in for a treat! The snow was deep and incredible. The top half of the bench was excellent ski quality, and after a small traverse below Ogden, the final avalanche slope to the lake offered a second shot of blower powder before we skinned up and descended to the car.
Accessing Sherbrook / Ogden
Access Sherbrook Lake and Ogden Bench/Mt by parking at the Great Divide Lodge and using the heavily traveled Sherbrook lake trail. Once you’ve reached the lake, you have multiple options available. Follow the South Ridge of Ogden to access runs on Ogden proper, or cross the lake and gain the bench via the mellow SE slopes.
This area is covered in depth in Marcus Baranow’s new guidebook “Kicking Horse Pass: Day Tripping” and I highly recommend you pick up this guide for more in-depth information and maps.
Approximate Return: 12km (to top of ridge)
Approximate Elevation Gain: 900m (to top of ridge)
There are MULTIPLE large runouts in and around Sherbrook lake, and Ogden Bench access and most of the terrain is subject to high avalanche risk. Always exercise your own judgment when accessing avalanche terrain, and use https://avalanche.ca to acquire the latest avi report/forecast. Yoho Avalanche Report available here.
If you are looking for a reasonably accessible alpine zone with potential for long turns in perfect powder, Ogden Bench and Sherbrook lake are a perfect destination. Much like Dolomite Shoulder, Surprise Pass and other day trips, this can easily be done in a couple hours with somewhat minimal driving required.
Important note/disclaimer: There is a significant amount of avalanche hazard in the Ogden/Sherbrook Area with multiple intersecting avalanche paths surrounding the lake. Both the west and east-facing slopes are relatively large and extremely high consequence in the case of a slide. This can be a highly reactive and dangerous zone when conditions are unstable.
Further, even in low avalanche conditions, massive cornices often overhang the eastern aspects of Mt. Ogden, and must be approached with extreme caution at all times. During the spring, it is a good idea to start early and leave the area early to minimize exposure to these looming giants.
Always use your own experience & judgment when making decisions, and check https://avalanche.ca for the most up to date avalanche forecasting.