The Snow Report
Lake Louise scored well all around but did best in the categories of affordability (seriously, this place offers great value) and hospitality. Its eight hotels include the renowned Post Hotel & Spa and the historic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. Neither is ski-in/ski-out but both have full-service spas and upscale dining rooms.
For other sleeping options, consider condos, log chalets (some with jacuzzis), and the popular Watson House, a four-bedroom rental. If you’d rather have a hardier experience—and have hard-sided equipment at your disposal—the local campground stays open during winter.
Banff National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and nothing short of spectacular. To keep it that way, the resort engages in recycling, water-conservation, and energy-saving endeavors, and works to protect the local bears. During major races, a green rep is tasked with making sure wildlife has room to move.
Kicking off the season’s speed events is the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup, to which a family-friendly festival is attached. Then, during Snow Days (January 12 to February 10), highlights include ice-climbing, hockey, and curling games. January 19 to 27 are particularly pretty here—that’s when the Ice Magic Festival invites in world-class snow sculptors who compete to carve the most beautiful temporary edifice.
Even without these celebrations, there’s much that brings this place to life: Three ice-skating rinks—including Lake Louise itself, which is as fabled when it’s frozen as it is when it’s wet—sleigh rides, history tours, and a nightlife scene featuring famous DJs and sufficient places to drink and dance.
More of a family outing you’re seeking? The resort’s a great place for kids. Its daycare accepts clients as young as 18 days old, and the Fairmont’s activities for little ones range from photo expeditions to tea parties. Lake Louise spends at least $2 million annually on improving its guest experience and this year, that cash was spent on remodeling the beginners’ area and on a new kids’ fun zone with two magic carpets and a tube park.
Also new this year is the Bag Jump, designed by pro boarders and Hollywood stunt people to let riders work on big tricks without needing to worry about landing them. Lake Louise has three terrain parks but is also one of the rare ski resorts that offer snowboarding-only runs.
As for the rest of the terrain (4,200 skiable acres; 3,250 vertical feet), it’s fairly evenly spread over skill levels, and groomed and track-set trails exist for Nordic skiers. Average annual snowfall here is 180 inches, which isn’t a lot, but last year set a record high (10 percent) for powder days. The season here is long—last year’s dates spanned from November 5 to May 6—and so are many of the 139 trails. Instructors help add to the good numbers here: This season’s staff will have at least 16 Level 4s who’ll help you feel secure in going all in on the mountain.
Even if all you end up doing at Lake Louise is ride the gondola up to admire the spectacular Canadian Rockies, your trip here will have paid for itself.
CONTACT: (877) 956-8473, skilouise.com
SEASON: Early November to early May
TICKETS: General: $79 ($67 to ski between 12:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.), children: $24, ages 65 and older: $59, ages 4 and younger: free