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.
Lake Louise Mountain Resort
Canada’s answer to U.S. mega-resorts such as Vail and Killington is Lake Louise Mountain Resort (403/522-3555 or 877/253-6888, www.skilouise.com), which opens in November and operates until mid-May. The nation’s second-largest winter resort (behind only Whistler/Blackcomb) 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 and eight lifts, including western Canada’s only six-passenger chairlift. Resort statistics are impressive: a 990-meter (3,250-foot) vertical rise, 1,700 hectares (4,200 acres) of patrolled terrain, and more than 100 named runs. The four back bowls are each as big as many midsize resorts and are all well above the treeline.
Lift tickets are $79 per day adult, $65 senior, $54 youth, and $23 children younger than 12. Free shuttle buses run regularly from Lake Louise accommodations to the hill. From Banff you pay $15 round-trip for transportation to Lake Louise. For information on packages and multi-day tickets that cover all three park resorts, go to www.skibig3.com.
The most popular cross-country skiing areas are on Lake Louise, along Moraine Lake Road, and in Skoki Valley at the back of the Lake Louise ski area. For details and helpful trail classifications, pick up a copy of Cross-Country Skiing–Nordic Trails in Banff National Park, from the Lake Louise Visitor Centre.
Ice Skating and Sleigh Rides
Of all the skating rinks in Canada, the one on frozen Lake Louise, in front of the Chateau, is surely the most spectacular. Spotlights allow skating after dark, and on special occasions hot chocolate is served. Skates are available in the chateau at Monod Sports (403/522-3837, $12 for two hours).
Brewster Lake Louise 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. The one-hour ride is adult $28, child $14. Reservations are necessary. The rides are scheduled hourly from 11 a.m. on weekends, from 3 p.m. weekdays.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition