Story by Jody Robbins and Dan Pigat
LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA — I’m sprawled across one of those massive wingback chairs indulging in my third hot chocolate of the day. It’s not even Irish and not even noon, yet here I am, nestled under a canopy of birch branches strung with hundreds of fairy lights twinkling down on me from the ceiling.
Gazing through the window pane I spot the slopes of Lake Louise Ski Resort unfurling in the distance. I should get back on the hill, I think, but sometimes winter is best appreciated from indoors. Curled up in front of a roaring fire with my Sunday papers, I doubt it’s possible to feel more content than I am at this moment.
I’ve hunkered down with my family in Lake Louise at the Post Hotel. Acclaimed around the world as one of Canada’s top resorts, this is a hideaway that encourages a leisurely pace. It’s a place to reconnect with nature, with yourself and with those you love. A member of the prestigious Relais & Châteaux group, the property is quaint, quiet and radiates old-world charm. Thoughtful touches such as Aveda bathroom amenities and fruit baskets in every guest room feel very grand, yet the resort is relaxed — like bedding down at your own private chalet. I’m keen to sample the spa or perhaps take a spin on the outdoor ice rink, but we’ve come here to ski and so to Lake Louise Ski Resort we go.
Hitting the Slopes at Ski Louise
Most famously known for being on the World Cup circuit, Lake Louise is one of the few ski hills to host both the men’s and women’s speed events every year. Louise is a skier’s mountain. If you like challenging terrain, this is the hill for you.
“We don’t get heavy lineups here. If we do, it’s only when everyone arrives at the beginning of the day. After that they’re spread out all over the mountain. You’ve got all this space to yourself,” says our guide Chris Moseley, arms open wide.
Spread over three mountain faces, Louise sports 10 runs that whisk skiers and boarders across the front and backside of the resort. What’s great about Louise is that from every chairlift you’ll find a green, blue and black run, allowing folks of different abilities to traverse similar territory at the same time. Our fave? Heading to the backside via Larch Express chair, and then going down the slightly beaten path to the remote Rock Garden — a surreal place to visit, let alone ski. While the larch trees themselves are more glorious in the fall, these runs end at the backside Temple Lodge, a great place for an outdoor BBQ lunch while hanging out with the brave whiskey jacks who swoop in on anything you drop.
Beauty of Banff National Park
It’s not just the kick-ass terrain that draws skiers and boarders from around the world to Louise. Being located in Banff National Park adds an extra dimension to the experience. You won’t spot power lines, logging roads or condo developments from the mountain. What you will see is Victoria Glacier and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, both majestic backdrops to Lake Louise itself. What you see now is what tourists saw almost a century ago, and will continue to see in the future.
Respecting the Environment in Banff
The resort would expand dramatically if given the chance, but stringent Parks Canada regulations ensure there isn’t a growing impact on the beautiful Banff area that provides such dramatic scenery from the Top of the World Express chair. Everything from how much water they draw for snow making to the type and speed of the lifts is strictly monitored and reported, ensuring a healthy balance between recreation and preservation.
The result is a few remnants from the past at this otherwise very modern operation. This keeps the crowds to a minimum on runs serviced by the old-style Summit Platter lift, which, as the name implies, gives access to the very top of the resort. Platter lifts are a bit of an art for skiers to use — and quite a challenge for snowboarders, as it was invented before the sport’s time. But on a good snow day, there is a race by the locals to the double-black diamond runs it opens along the summit ridge.
Après-Ski in Style at the Lodge
After wearing out our quads, we limp back to the warmth of the Post. After a day spent plunging in and out of powder, we’re ready to dive into upscale regional cuisine. The dinner menu changes seasonally, focusing on fresh market cuisine with classic preparations. Standouts include veal medallions, Pacific salmon and inventive seafood dishes.
With fine food comes fine wine. Every year since 2002, the hotel has won the Grand Award from Wine Spectator Magazine, an honour held by fewer than 75 establishments worldwide. Recognized as one of the most impressive collections in the world, you’re sure to find something suitable from one of the 25,000 bottles in the Post’s cellar.
For us, it’s time to roll ourselves to bed. It’s been an invigorating day layered by roaring fires, mountain air and a bottle of Burgundy. But before we say good night, we make time for one last hot chocolate.
MORE ABOUT LAKE LOUISE SKI RESORT
Address: 1 Whitehorn Road
Telephone: 1-403-522-3555 / 1-877-956-8473 (9-Louise)
MORE ABOUT THE POST HOTEL
Address: 200 Pipestone Road
Telephone: 403-522-3989, Toll Free 1-800-661-1586
Room Rates: From $315 a night. Try a mid-week two day ski package that includes two nights accommodation and breakfasts for $430 per person, double occupancy.