SKI-BUZZ

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Lake Louise resort guide and skiing tips, Alberta, Canada

”As God is my judge, I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene.”

Lake Louise is famous winter and summer for some of the jaw-dropping scenery you can find in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

A ski trip to this part of Alberta is pleasure for every part of you – a treat for your eyes to gaze upon, fun for your legs on the slopes, delicious local food for your taste buds, and some of the most relaxing surroundings for the soul I’ve ever come across.

It’s very easy to never want to leave this place – perhaps Prince William and Kate Middleton felt the same. The newlyweds managed to duck under the radar of the world’s media during their official visit to Canada in July 2011 to spend a short time at Lake Louise.

Skiing in Lake Louise

Not taking any nonsense, skiing in Lake Louise can be more challenging than than Sunshine Village or Norquay, the other ski resorts making up Alberta’s Ski Big 3 area. But that’s not to say that beginners and intermediates can’t have a great time on the slopes here too. Different parts of the mountain have different characters, so skiers and boarders of different levels can all head to their preferred playground in this, the biggest of Canada’s Rocky Mountain ski areas.

The ski resort make the following recommendations for skiers and boarders of different abilities:

Beginners

The Wilderness Adventure Park is a fully enclosed learning area for youngsters new to skiing and riding. The area is served by a surface carpet lift and conveniently located near the daycare centre.

Novices have the sunny T bar area located to the east of the Wilderness Park. This area is safe and comfortable to develop your skills before you head further up the mountain and is served by a T bar lift. The next step for beginners is to try their new skills out on Wiwaxy (run number 9) which can be accessed from the top of the Glacier Express Lift, before taking the next progression on to the Grizzly Express Gondola.

Intermediates

For low intermediates, look out for the ‘Easiest Way’ signs which are located at the top of all the lifts. The best runs for beginners of the front side are Wiwaxy from the top of the Glacier Express, “Deer Run’ (number 56) and “Eagle Meadows’ (run number 55) from the top of the Grizzly Express lift. The back side is not off limits either – try the “Pika” (run number 65) from the top of the Grizzly Express Gondola, “Saddleback” (number 109) from the top of the Top of the World 6-pack chairlift, and “Marmot” (run number 143) and “Look Out” (number 150) which can be found in the Larch Express area, which can be found the other side of the Temple Lodge from the Back Bowls and the main ski area.

Advanced

For intermediate and advanced skiers, there is a great combination of “Grizzly Gully” (run number 39) and “Cameron’s Way” (run number 8). Run number 148, “Larch Express” accessed by the Larch Express chair is another great run. For those feeling confident, the more tricky “Boomerang” (run number 132) is worth a look for a great alpine experience. And that is not even touching on the endless fun that can be had in the powder bowls accessible by the Paradise Chair, Top of the World Chair, and Summit Platter.

If the cloud comes in, the the Ptarmigan Chutes, Glades area or “Lynx” (run number 147) in the Larch Express area are worth a look. And then there is also the World Cup Downhill course to try. The first meet of the World Cup season meets annually in Lake Louise, attracting world famous skiers from across the world like Bode Miller and Didier Cuche.  And if you want to stay in the same hotel where the top class skiers stay, then you have a good chance – they all stay in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise a short drive away from the slopes.

Stuart, Our Purchasing Manager describes his perfect ski day in Lake Louise:

“The perfect ski day in Lake Louise would certainly take in both the mainly groomed Front Side and back Powder Bowls of this varied ski area. Taking the Grizzly Express Gondola up from the base lodge gives you access to some nice wide and long green/blue runs to properly warm the legs up, or for more of a challenge the blacks in the upper front side area, particularly Upshoots and Steep and Flat, are certainly worth a visit.

Once you’ve warmed up, the Powder Bowls on the back side of Lake Louise, should certainly be your destination. The Whitehorn 2 area, accessed from the Front Side Platter lift, is a personal favourite of mine and contains some brilliant double black diamond chutes or for something a little wider, continue on the Boomerang trail into Boomerang Bowl. The Eagle Ridge offers a good challenge for those who like their bumps or if you’re like me and prefer some tree skiing, head for the tree runs under the Ptarmigan Quad.”

First Tracks – skiing ahead of the crowds at Lake Louise

If you’ve always wanted to be the one to carve up that fresh corduroy or take that first line through fresh virgin powder, now’s your chance. First Tracks means you can get on the lifts 30 minutes before the crowds and ski with one of Lake Louise’s friendly instructors.

First Tracks begins daily at 8.30am and includes an early morning shuttle pick-up. Prices start from £67 per person for 2 hours and £134 for 3 hours.

Lake Louise by numbers:

  • Vertical rise: 991 metres or 3250 feet
  • Top Elevation: 2637 metres or 8650 feet
  • Skiable area: 1700 hectares or 4200 acres
  • Longest run: 8 km or 5 miles
  • Number of runs: 139 marked plus back bowls
  • Number of lifts: 9, including 1 express gondola, 1 6-pack express chair, 3 quad chairs and 1 triple chair
  • Terrain breakdown: 25% beginner, 45% intermediate, 30% expert
  • More information visit www.skilouise.com

Lake Louise resort

The village of Lake Louise is very low-key, but that’s what gives it its charm. People come here for the scenery, the wilderness and the wildlife rather than bars and booming apres ski music. The small village is home to just a handful of hotels down near to the junction of the Icefields Parkway that heads north to Jasper and south to Banff. Like many places in Alberta, wildlife roams freely in Lake Louise, so don’t be surprised if you spot an big horned sheep or elk licking the salt off the roads in town.

History of Lake Louise

A couple of kilometres away is the lake, and here is where you will find the 500-plus roomed Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on the lake shore. The views across this frozen lake are some of the most breathtaking winter views in the world, and many of the rooms in the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise benefit from these spectacular views when you open your curtains in the morning. Not that you’ll want to get out of bed – I think this hotel has the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in.

With friendly staff (including ‘Director of Pet Relations’, Marcus the Golden Labrador), formal dining, informal bars, relaxing spa treatments, impeccably decorated rooms and public areas, it’s almost a shame to leave the hotel to head to the hill for some skiing. But when you do, the Fairmont arrange their own shuttle service to and from the ski area, which takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

One of the oldest rooms in the hotel is the Victoria ballroom, the opulence of which is overwhelming. But equally, there are many more informal areas to the hotel, including the Glacier saloon which serves favourite Canadian snacks like nachos and chicken wings, along with beers in tumblers so huge they need a good pair of hands to take your first sip from. And if you do need a bedtime snack, there’s a 24 hour deli open too.

The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, like the other Fairmont hotels in the resorts of Jasper and Banff, have the Canadian Pacific Railway to thank for their beginnings. In the summer of 1882, young Thomas Wilson, from the small hamlet that is now the village of Lake Louise, was employed by the railway company to move supplies and equipment up to the teams on Kicking Horse Pass.  It was during this time he was camped out one night with the local group of Stoney Indians, he heard the rumble of avalanches.  The Indians explained that the noise was coming from ”snow mountains above the lake of little fishes” and the following day, Wilson set off to explore exactly what they meant. It was at this point that Wilson was shown ‘The Emerald Lake’ (as he named it). He was captivated by the by the blue and green water feeding down from the glacier. He sat and gazed, sharing a smoke with his companions.

”As God is my judge, I never in all my explorations saw such a matchless scene.”

And this matchless scene soon became a must-see sight for railway tourists, but was not known as the Emerald Lake for long. Lake Louise got the name it has today when it was renamed in honour of Queen Victoria’s daughter, Princess Louise Caroline Alberta.

The hotel, from its small beginnings as a single storey log cabin, had welcomed over 50,000 guests by 1912, just over 20 years after it opened. And things went from strength the strength, with the ski areas at Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village and Lake Louise all in operation by the 1930s, and growing ever since. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise opened its doors to winter skiers from the 1970s and a decade later the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics was hosted in the Banff National Park, fully introducing this ski area to the world.  Today, the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is now one of the highlights of the international ski circuit when it welcomes the ski teams from across the globe competing in the Lake Louise World Cup in November.

Hotels in Lake Louise

For a smaller scale, more intimate option that the Fairmont, the Deer Lodge is a very popular option with couples. This hotel has a historic feel and is full of character, but still with great service and comfort. It’s all about the wilderness here as the rooms don’t have any TVs – so you can really get away from it all.

Closer to the Lake Louise ski area is the Lake Louise Inn, which is a welcome place to unwind with a large indoor pool, steam rooms and hot tubs. There is a large selection of room types to suit all types of groups, from families to couples.

For more information on ski holidays to Lake Louise visit Crystal Ski’s website.

Have you skied or snowboarded in Lake Louise? What’s your favourite spot on the mountain? Leave us a comment below, or join in the conversation on our facebook page.

Win a ski holiday to Lake Louise

Crystal Ski currently have a fantastic competition to win a ski holiday for 2 to ski in the Alberta resorts of Jasper, Lake Louise and Banff. To enter, all you need to do is explain in 100 words why Alberta is such a superb destination for a winter sports holiday. Competition closes on 31st January 2012.

Find out more and enter competition

To find out more about what’s happening in over 130 resorts across the world, details of more offers and competitions, join Crystal Ski on facebook or twitter.

This post was written by Amy Fletcher, Online Content Executive for Crystal Ski

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