From opening day in November, Lake Louise is a magnet for mainstay mountain lovers, eager to take advantage of the sensational six-month season. After a six months abstinence from the addictive sport, everyone relishes the face-numbing frigid fresh air on the quad, the whoosh of speed, legs dangling and windchill infiltrating miniscule gaps in hats and helmets.
By Winterstart World Cup, snow blankets most of the 4,200 acre resort as runs open up on the backcountry. Powder runs are wide open while the world spotlight concentrates on the fastest international downhillers. In fact, due to its inimitable early snow record, Lake Louise is the first resort to host the World Cup speed events each year. Ski paparazzi, famous racers and their training entourages all stay in town, giving an international vibe to the rustic but ritzy ski lodges and après ski nightlife.
With everyone getting ready for the holidays, the first three weeks of December are blissfully calm at Louise which gets on with the business of opening up the whole resort just in time for the holiday hordes. This includes the Showtime Terrain Park, Snow Cross course, Sunny Tube Park, extensive learning area and 60-year-old Skoki backcountry lodge.
After a morning of hitting the slopes it’s best to book a table for lunch either at cozy Sawyer’s Nook in Temple Lodge, the charismatic cabin at the back of Lake Louise, or at Whitehorn Lodge, a mid mountain bistro with panoramic patio. Or just ski right through lunch and stop at 3pm for nachos and beers in the Powderkeg Lounge back at base. At night, the Torchlight Dinner and Ski is a festive combo of night skiing, live music, dinner and dancing.
February is peak season but even then prices are reasonable for accommodation. The winter is generally considered low season in Banff National Park with room rates at venues like Lake Louise Inn and even the extravagant Chateau Lake Louise typically half that of summer. A local’s secret for escaping the crowds and limiting expenditure is the Great Divide Lodge just 15 minutes from the hill. Although a remote retreat, there are free shuttles to and from the skiing and the cozy lodge has spacious split level rooms, sauna, pub and an affordable fine dining restaurant.
While lower altitude resorts on the east coast, in Europe and around North America are experiencing spring skiing conditions, March and April can often be the snowiest months of the season for Lake Louise. Powder skiing is prime now especially for those prepared to suffer a short schlep five-minute to East Ridge. The access lifts for these runs–Summit Poma and Paradise Chair–are rarely busy.
With one of the longest ski seasons in the world, Lake Louise stays open until early May. This is the time to ski corduroy groomers first thing, move onto off-piste runs late morning to allow re-frozen slush to soften. From there it’s a lunch late on the terrace at Whitehorn then off to ski soft bumps on Lynx and Larch Poma all afternoon. In the evening it’s time to hit the Outer Limits run from the summit to base arriving at the Kokanee Kabin for après ski aperitifs.
What a wonderful way to while away the winter!