Every winter I look forward to a magical weekend spent at Lake Louise. Coming here is as close as you’ll ever get to stepping inside a snow globe – it’s that enchanting. Even though we recently took our daughter Eve with us, it still felt weirdly romantic. There’s something about Lake Louise that makes it easy for us to connect: to nature, to each other. Even in winter you get a good dose of the great outdoors as Lake Louise is one of the prettiest spots in Canada’s Banff National Park.
When Eve was a toddler and I was losing it from lack of sleep and my mom’s Cancer diagnosis, it was to Lake Louise we retreated. Year after year, we come back for a winter weekend, and fall in love with the season all over again. Here’s a few good reasons why you should head here, too.
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Lake Louise Skating
Arguably, Lake Louise has the world’s most beautiful natural ice skating surface. Anyone can take a twirl here, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to skate on the frozen lake. (Though it’s worth the splurge to bed down at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise) Even if you’re not into skating, you’ll want to head out onto the ice to admire the ice castle and snap some pics. The scene is pure Canadiana, without the maple syrup. Skates and cross country skies can be rented from inside the hotel.
Legit Canadian Ice Bar
Sure, you can enjoy après at any ski lounge, but there ain’t nothing like sipping mulled wine outdoors while inhaling the fragrant mountain air. The Fairmont crafts an epic ice bar each winter on their Lakefront Terrace. It’s one of those quintessentially Canadian experience you won’t want to miss.
In true winter style, you’ll sit an an ice booth or belly up to the bar for a boozy warm cocktail, while gazing at the snow capped peaks. Kids are welcome (hot chocolate is on tap) and they’ve got patio heaters for the wimps who didn’t dress properly. Toques are cool, kids!
Lake Louise Restaurants
Ski hill food isn’t usually that enticing to me. Since dining at Kuma Yama, however, I’ve changed my tune. This restaurant is situated at Lake Louise Ski Resort and it’s one of the best restaurants in Lake Louise. They hired this awesome chef from Vegas to overhaul their food and beverage offerings, and the results are notable.
Having lived in Japan for four-years, I’m super picky about my sushi, but Kuma Yama ticked all the right boxes. Sushi needs to be firm – it’s all about texture, and on this front they delivered. The rolls were inventive and filling. You can’t go wrong with their version of the rainbow roll and the beef tataki is a fine choice for raw fish haters. On a cold day, nothing warms you up better then pimped out ramen, and you’ll want an order of the edamame tossed in truffle oil, too.
Another of my favourite restaurants in Lake Louise is Alpine Social at the Fairmont. This replaced the saloon in the basement, and has quickly become the social hub of Louise. If you’re looking for hearty, gourmet comfort food – you’ll find it here. Portions are large and meant for sharing. The chicken strips are basically upscale chicken fingers that are lightly drizzled with hot sauce and blue cheese dip. A lot comes on the plate! The fish bites were my favourite, and if you’re a fan of cinnamon sugar dusted mini-donuts, order the apple fritters for desert. Worth. Every. Calorie.
Lake Louise Snow
The big draw to Lake Louise vs the town of Banff is the amount of snow they get. It’s insane. You’ll notice it once you drive into town. There’s piles of snow on the side of the roads that are at least 3 feet deep. And the snow for downhill is fantastic. It’s plenty dry here, so the powder is light and you float through it. There’s a reason why locals call this snow champagne powder.
If you’re staying at the Fairmont, they offer guests a complimentary shuttle service to the mountain. Once you’re at Lake Louise Ski Resort, you’re spoiled for choice. A lot of folks like the mountain’s back side, but as a snowboarder, I prefer the easy blue and green cruisers on the front. Whichever chair you take, you’ll find runs at all ability levels.
And if you’re headed to Lake Louise in summer, my top rec is watch the grizzly bears from the Lake Louise Gondola – also at the ski resort. We saw 7 bears (four babies!) in one afternoon!
Lake Louise Cross Country Skiing
If you don’t downhill, try cross country skiing. There’s about 17 trails for cross country and snowshoeing in the Lake Louise vicinity. Best is, you can ski straight across Lake Louise! From there, you can duck into the woods and do the 4 km Lake Louise Loop. It’s a good one for beginners with minimal elevation gain.
My favourite, however, is the Fairview cross country ski trail that begins from the Lake Louise parking lot. (The actual lake, not the village parking lot.) It’s a 7.5 km loop that isn’t too difficult for beginners.
But if you are a beginner, I recommend signing up for the Mountain Adventure Program out of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. On this program, certified guides take you out on half day excursions. You’ll learn technique and will hear great stories of the region. I’m so glad we did this when Eve was young as she took instruction so much better from the expert than from us. And you can nab cross country skis from the Fairmont rental shop.
Lake Louise Ice Festival
The great thing about the Lake Louise Ice Magic Festival is you don’t have to attend to get the benefits. Of course it’s fun if you do, but you’ll still get to wander around the impressive ice sculptures for weeks afterwards. This ice festival takes place each year from mid to end of January in Lake Louise. Check out our family’s experience here.
Have you ever been to Lake Louise in winter? What are your favourite activities to do here?
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