Travel Guide - Lake Louise, Alberta
The Rocky Mountains rise majestically throughout Banff National Park, making the whole area a place of spectacular beauty. Nestled in the heart of this premier Canadian wilderness reserve are the communities of Banff and Lake Louise. As Canada's largest ski area, Lake Louise offers skiers and snow boarders unlimited possibilities. With over 11 square miles of terrain spread across four mountain faces, Lake Louise provides a choice of more than 100 named runs, as well as thousands of acres of wide open bowls. Featuring some of North America's most exciting terrain, it is also skier- friendly with a green, or easy run, from every chairlift on the mountain. Tied together with a system of 11 interconnecting lifts, Lake Louise is hard to beat. With an abundant amount of natural snow (15 feet in the bowls), backed up by Canada's largest snowmaking system, Lake Louise guarantees skiing from early November to mid May. With dozens of long protected tree lined runs, and 65% of the terrain below the tree line, you can ski at Lake Louise even when it is snowing.
The area has been welcoming international visitors for more than a century. In 1883 the attempts of three Canadian Pacific Railway workers to stake a claim to the natural hot springs they had discovered bubbling from the base of Sulphur Mountain led to the establishment of Canada's first national park. Today, Banff National Park is one of four adjoining mountain parks comprising more than 5200 square miles of spectacular Canadian Rocky Mountain landscape. For current visitors, bathing in the same hot springs is one of many activities offered in Banff National Park. If you visit the Banff/Lake Louise area you will quickly see why each year more than 3.5 million visitors travel there from all over the world to enjoy the unique experience of the Canadian Rockies.
At Lake Louise, there a lower village with a wide choice of fine dining, first class accommodations and shopping. Up the hill, the Chateau Lake Louise presents lakeside views of the towering Victoria Glacier amid old world charm and elegance against the backdrop of the Canadian wilderness.
The lower village of Lake Louise is south of the Trans-Canada Highway in the Bow River valley. Next to the Samson Mall at the entrance to the village, is the Lake Louise Visitor Center, featuring exhibits on the history of the area. The center also provides current information on trails and activities.
The Lake Louise trails are busy in summer, and provide a good introduction to the local scenery. They are well worn and well marked, so that the hiker doesn't need to be a skilled map reader. The two most popular trails end at mountain chalets which serve tea.
Skiing started at Lake Louise in the 1920s. The first chalet was built in 1930, the first lift in 1954. The resort's real birth can be dated to 1958, when a wealthy Englishman, Norman Watson, invested a large part of his inheritance in building a gondola up Mount Whitehorn. Further lifts and other developments followed. More would have materialized had it not been for environmental concerns. Further protests forestalled a bid for the 1968 Winter Olympics and put an end to a plan for a 6500-bed mega-resort in 1972. Even so, the resort has experienced environmentally responsible, steady growth, and now regularly hosts World Cup skiing events in spite of the extremely low temperatures during January and February.
The ski area divides into four distinct faces, served by two express quad chairs, one regular quad chair, two triple chairs, three double chairs, a T-bar, a platter lift and a children's tow rope. The vast terrain (some of the bowls are the size of entire European resorts) is divided as follows: Novice 25%, Intermediate 45% and Expert 30 %.
The top elevation is 7900 feet, giving a 3000 ft. drop to the base elevation at 4900 ft. One day lift tickets are available, but the three day Ski Banff/Lake Louise area pass is a much better buy. It allows six days of skiing in Lake Louise, Mount Norquay and Sunshine Village. Facilities in the ski area include three day lodges, each of which has a restaurant and bar, a ski school, ski shop, rental shop, day care center and lockers.
Free shuttles run from Lake Louise, with transfers from Banff. Free tours of the mountain are also available three times daily.
Banff Mount Norquay, Sunshine Village, and Lake Louise are three world-class ski resorts, all within easy access of the towns that provide more than 7,558 acres and over 200 trails offering skiers and snowboarders of any ability countless challenges. From wide-open bowls and tree-lined glades covered with fresh, dry champagne powder, to meticulously groomed slopes and state-of-the-art snowmaking, visitors enjoy unspoiled scenery, short lift lines, and friendly hospitality.
Skiers and snowboarders can easily visit each ski area during their stay and then settle at the mountain that suits their style or choose a heli-ski excursion to find the untracked snow. Banff and Lake Louise present many options, numerous choices and the freedom to try them all.