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Friday, March 9, 2018

Winter on Lake Louise - Banff, Canada

Are you sick of me talking about Lake Louise yet?  You could say I am a little obsessed with this part of the world, tucked away in Alberta.  So far I've talked about Lake Louise Ski Resort and even a hike/snowshoe which starts at the Chateau and takes you above the lake to smaller Mirror Lake with the Big Beehive looming behind.   This post is just going to be a general overview of the lake because a) I am so smitten with this area and b) I have so many gorgeous pictures I want to share with you all.  

Lake Louise is located just off the Trans Canada Highway (Highway 1).  You've probably seen this famous lake on your favorite travel channel or have seen the stunning photos of this turquoise lake on Instagram.  As amazing as these photos are, a trip to Lake Louise is something to experience for yourself.  It sort of stands alone in a secluded area, with the luxury hotel the only thing on the lake's shore.  The charm of Lake Louise in the winter time is hard to entirely capture as you need to see the detailed ice castle, figure skaters, open fires, ice bar, horse-drawn sleigh rides and snowshoe trails for yourself - all while the opera plays on the speakers heard across the lake of course.   Visit after Januarys Ice Magic Festival and you get to enjoy all the amazing ice carvings in front of the lake as well.  

Mount Victoria is the famous backdrop behind the frozen lake, and the snowy peaks and dramatic winter sky makes this area a must see.  Let's not forget the fact that the ski mountain down the road offers some world-class skiing with a view of these famous peaks and the lake off in the distance.  How about the town?  The town by the lake is known as a hamlet, which is typically a small settlement, normally smaller than a village- The Hamlet of Lake Louise, does it get more quaint than that?

The lake was previously known as Ho-Run-Num-Nay (the Lake of Lake of Little Fishes) by the Stoney Nakoda First Nations people.  Lake Louise was later renamed for Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter.   The lake is about 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles) long and 90 meters (295 feet) deep and the Victoria Glacier looms in the background of the lake.

During the summer the lake turns that famous turquoise color due to the light refracting off the rock flour (glacier silt) that makes its way in the lake via glacier runoff.   The color is brightest in July and August with the increase in meltwater.   If you are going for that hue, plan accordingly and expect to see this lake covered in snow for a large portion of the year.  The lake sits at a high elevation (1,750 meters - 5,740 feet) and typically takes until June to thaw. 

The hotel developed with the boom of the railway at the end of the 19th century.  The hotel was a vacation destination aimed to convince wealthy travelers to head west by train.  Even as airplanes and automobiles became the new way to travel, the hotel had already developed a name for itself perched on famous Lake Louise.  In 1999, Canadian Pacific Hotels (a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway) acquired Fairmont Hotels and the Fairmont hotel was "born".  The hotel is said to have 548 guestrooms, 8 restaurants, and 3 bars and lounges.  There are various shops throughout the hotel and portions of the hotel are open to the public to walk through, shop and enjoy the opulence of this famous hotel.  Dining in the main restaurant lounge in front of the windows is open to the public however, guests receive first dibs and on the busy weekends, this area appears to be off limit to guests.   On a busy Sunday, we were unable to sit in the area to get a drink which was a bummer but understood.  We had to settle for the view as we walked by, warming up after snowshoeing around the lake. shows the rooms starting at $387 a night for a Saturday night in March.  This same room, their cheapest option, is $774 a night on a Saturday in July.  If you want to stay at the chateau, you will certainly need a larger budget than the one I had. 

If a night at the Fairmont isn't in your budget, you can just spend the day here, hiking, snowshoeing, skating, or just sitting by the fire outside and enjoying the view.  There are two large lots with free parking open to the public and we were able to find ample parking in the upper lot each time we stopped at Lake Louise.  The charm of this place is so hard to describe and I hope you won't just take my word for it.  Lake Louise has climbed the ranks to one of my favorite spots in the world.  Until the next trip that is. 

Happy Wandering,

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