You’re peering into a snow globe. Inside is an Alpine -inspired chateau nestled in a hamlet between the Rocky Mountains and a glacier-fed turquoise lake so vivid in colour it might have been created by Disney. Now shake the snow globe. It’s winter in Banff National Park and the magic of Lake Louise is about to conjure indelible memories…..
A Storybook History
Looking at the spectacular Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise today, it’s hard to fathom that its storybook history began with a simple log cabin built in 1890 by Cornelius Van Horne, general manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Envisioning a hotel for the outdoor adventurist, the two-bedroom abode with dining room and kitchen constructed on the shores of Lake Louise in Alberta, Canada was a welcome respite for his guests travelling east by rail. He proudly christened it Chalet Lake Louise.
By 1896 the majestic Rocky Mountains had became a compelling challenge for mountain climbers but after several accidents, the Canadian Pacific Railway actually hired two professional Swiss alpine mountain guides to teach visitors to ski and climb. Like the great castles in Europe, The ‘chateau architectural style’ extended to hotels surrounded by magnificent scenery, and were huge tourist attractions. Canada became synonymous with the castle-in-the-sky architecture of CPR-owned luxury hotels when New York architect, Bruce Price was retained by Van Horne to build the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City and the Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta. Known as “The Diamond in the Wilderness,” Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise would undergo several architectural incarnations over the years, and today, the 552-room luxury resort located in Banff National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, continues Van Horne’s original vision of a hotel catering to the glory days of mountain adventures.
Ice Magic on Lake Louise
There is nothing like that feeling of euphoria experienced when skating in nature on a frozen lake. With the massive Victoria Glacier, snow-covered Rocky Mountains and fragrant soaring pine trees as your scenic backdrop, you’ll think you’ve been transported back into a 19th -century Currier & Ives Christmas card! At night the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise is ablaze with festive lights and the rink is lit with flood lights for skating under the stars. A separate rink is available for hockey fanatics. And don’t worry about packing your skates and sticks because rentals are available at the Chateau Ski & Snow located off the lobby.
A shimmering Ice Castle constructed by Peter Fogarty and his team from Fire & Ice Creations is their signature piece on Lake Louise, just behind the Chateau.
“Each ice block weighs about 300-pounds and we use 150 blocks that have to be fork-lifted onto the lake in December as soon as its frozen,” Fogerty explains. “Then we construct the 50-foot-long castle on the ice that people can actually skate through.” A chef by trade, Fogarty switched to ice sculpture several years ago and has competed in the annual international Ice Magic Festival that takes place on Lake Louise in mid-January. “It really is a living art,” he says of the dazzling creations, “and I actually love the impermanence of it all. The wow-factor is what’s important but like good food, it’s just in the moment, before it disappears.” Luckily for guests, and depending upon the weather, the Ice Castle holds the fort usually up until mid-April.
Fogerty’s team is also responsible for sculpting the 26-foot-long Ice Bar at the hotel’s outdoor Lounge overlooking Lake Louise. Picture yourself warming up with a liqueur-infused coffee outdoors or sipping on a “Snowball” – cocktail, that is, (Crema di Limone, Amaretto, and Crème de Cacao,) in the stunning indoor Lakeview Lounge.
Now that’s really cool!
Every Day Is A Snow Day
Remember when you were a kid and a snow day meant no school, just playing outside all day? Well, at Chateau Lake Louise, Winter Magic means the most extraordinary outdoor experiences for kids of every age:
- Snowmobile with a guide at White ‘N Wild through scenic mountain trails (always a break for hot chocolate and cookies.)
- Is dogsledding on your bucket list? Mush your own team with a guide from Kinkmik Dogsled Tours. They also offer a Narnia Tour for kids along woodland trails.
- Snow Tubing is an exhilarating way to enjoy winter in the Rockies. Enjoy two lanes of fun at Sunny Tube Park.
- Old-fashioned horse-drawn sleigh rides glide along winter trails beneath Victoria Glacier to the Ice Falls with Brewster Adventures
Contact the Concierge at Chateau Lake Louise for a complete Holiday schedule of activities
Looking for some active sports adventures to get the adrenaline going? All ‘round athlete, Michael Vincent has been conducting guided Mountain Adventure treks for Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise guests since 1997. He’s one of four professional guides there and holds a Master Interpreter accreditation from the Interpretive Guides Association, Canada. From snowshoeing, downhill skiing, hiking the spectacular Johnston Canyon Ice Falls to ice-climbing, cross-country and Heli-Skiing, they’ve done it all!
“Lake Louise is 2nd in Canada for the very best skiing and we take guests on 3-hour trips at all levels from the easiest green runs to blue and double black,” says Vincent. After three hours, they really know the mountain and can continue to play all day if they want to. I have to say that taking people snowshoeing is the most fun of all especially if they’ve never done it before. We don’t follow trails – instead we make our own and come down a mountain shoulder-to-shoulder breaking our own fresh powder. It’s great fun and good exercise.”
Your Toughest Decision of the Day is Where to Après Ski
After an exhausting day on the slopes, rink or trails, imagine a relaxing body massage at The Spa at Chateau Lake Louise. The Ultimate Couples Massage pampers you in the spacious couples suite or try the Hiker’s Foot Therapy Massage that invigorates calf muscles and tired tootsies with an energizing scrub followed by a restorative lotion application.
With a choice of several dining options at the hotel, enjoy traditional European Alpine cuisine at the Walliser Stube including classic and innovative Swiss fondues. Our “Chateau Experience” for two people is a classic from the Alps but we give it a twist,“ says Quebec-born Executive Chef, Jean-Francois Fortin. “A cheese fondue appetizer with a choice of Emmental or Gruyere is followed by a Chateaubriand main with mushroom ragu and a dark chocolate fondue for dessert,” Chef describes. “We also do a Black Forest Dessert that’s incredible! Instead of the traditional cake, we stack it free-form, layer by layer on a plate with lots of Kirsch,” he laughs.
Holiday Magic Kids’ Style at Chateau Lake Louise
Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrated at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise are the glittering jewels of the winter season. Guests can join staff in carol-singing in the lobby Christmas Eve and on December 31st, ring in 2019 with live entertainment and dancing. The Victoria Ballroom, decorated with fragrant boughs in floor-to-ceiling windows, showcases elaborate breakfast and dinner buffets with a kids’ buffet all their own. And, because the Chateau knows that children are especially beguiled by the magic of the season, there are activities galore; from building gingerbread houses, a pyjama party, scavenger hunt and campfires to a visit from Santa – on his sleigh, of course.
Now shake the snow globe again. That’s youtucked in for the night dreaming about tomorrow’s itinerary!