Lake Louise in Winter
Lake Louise is an immense winter playground offering one of the world’s premier alpine resorts, unlimited cross-country skiing, ice skating, and sleigh rides. Between November and May, accommodation prices are reduced by up to 50 percent (except Christmas holidays). Lift and lodging packages begin at $180 per person.
Lake Louise Ski Resort
Canada’s answer to U.S. megaresorts such as Vail and Killington is Lake Louise Ski Resort (403/522-3555 or 877/253-6888), which opens in November and operates until early May. The nation’s third-largest ski resort (behind Whistler/Blackcomb and Sun Peaks) comprises 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of gentle trails, mogul fields, long cruising runs, steep chutes, and vast bowls filled with famous Rocky Mountain powder.
The resort is made up of four distinct faces. Resort statistics are impressive: a 990-metre (3,250-foot) vertical rise, 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of patrolled terrain, and 164 named runs. The four back bowls are each as big as many midsize resorts and are all well above the tree line. Larch and Ptarmigan faces have a variety of terrain, allowing you to follow the sun as it moves across the sky or escapes into trees for protection on windy days. Each of the three-day lodges has a restaurant and bar. Ski and snowboard rentals, clothing, and souvenirs are available in the Lodge of the Ten Peaks, a magnificent post-and-beam day lodge that overlooks the front face.
Free guided tours of the mountain are available three times daily—inquire at customer service. Free shuttle buses run regularly from Lake Louise and the town of Banff to the hill. For information on packages and multiday tickets that cover all three park resorts, go to the SKI BIG 3 website.
The most popular cross-country skiing areas are on Lake Louise, along Moraine Lake Road, the Great Divide Trail, and into Skoki Valley at the back of the Lake Louise Ski Resort. For details and helpful trail classifications, pick up a copy of Cross-Country Skiing to Nordic Trails in Banff National Park, from the Lake Louise Visitor Centre. Before heading out, check the Lake Louise weather or a Lake Louise webcam online.
Lake Louise Skating and Sleigh Rides
Of all the ice-skating rinks in Canada, the one on frozen Lake Louise, in front of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, is surely the most spectacular. Spotlights allow skating after dark, and on special occasions, hot chocolate is served. Skates are available for rent in the chateau (near the lobby) at CHATEAU MOUNTAIN SPORTS (403/522-3628).
BREWSTER WINTER SLEIGH RIDES (403/522-3511) offers rides in traditional horse-drawn sleighs along the shores of Lake Louise beginning from in front of the chateau. Although blankets are supplied, you should still bundle up. Reservations are necessary. The rides are scheduled hourly from 11 a.m. on weekends, and 3 p.m. on weekdays, with the last ride between 6 and 9 p.m.