Lake Louise Travel Guide

Lake Louise
Lake Louise © Edwin van Buuringen

Canada's largest holiday ski resort area covers the slopes of four mountain faces that surround the village of Lake Louise, in the heart of the magnificent Banff National Park, right on the Trans-Canada Highway, 35 miles (57km) west of Banff itself. With plentiful natural snow and an extensive snowmaking system, skiing is guaranteed at Lake Louise from mid-November to mid-May, and it has the reputation of offering some of the best powder skiing in the world. The pretty village nestling in the Rockies provides every amenity required by visitors, and a wide choice of cosy accommodation and dining options. Shuttle buses and an efficient system of interconnecting lifts provide easy access to the slopes. Put all this together with the spectacular scenery and pristine terrain, and it is not surprising that Lake Louise has been dubbed the 'diamond in the wilderness' and is such a popular resort destination.

Lake Louise offers a perfect mix of beginner, intermediate and advanced terrain for skiers and boarders. The unique layout makes both easy and challenging runs down from every chair possible, on a choice of 113 groomed runs, as well as limitless off-trail adventures and acres of open snow bowls. The efficient lift system also means minimal queue times. Private and group lessons for all levels of skiers and snowboarders take place daily, but reservations are necessary for the busy Christmas and Easter season. Snow conditions are excellent, but snowmaking is possible on about 20 percent of the runs if needed.

Lake Louise's shopping precinct is the Samson Mall, located in the lower part of the village, offering many shops for holidaymakers to enjoy browsing through, with competitive prices and no provincial sales tax on purchases. Here, and in nearby Banff, shoppers will find an eclectic selection of goods including brand-name clothing, winter sports clothing and equipment, art and handcrafts, souvenirs, jewellery and photographic goods. Unique Lake Louise souvenirs to look out for are paintings by local artists, beadwork by native peoples and jewellery set with Alberta's ammolite gemstone. Another unusual souvenir many visitors take with them is a bottle of water from the lake itself, which is crystal-clear and clean enough to drink.

The resort offers a number of restaurants and bars in the village itself, and several eateries with terraces and spectacular views on the nearby slopes, serving everything from ethnic cuisine to famously tender Alberta beef. There are family restaurants, cosy cafés and elegant eateries to choose from. In some of the rip-roaring cowboy-style eateries line dance lessons and sleigh rides are offered along with barbecued beef, baked beans and homemade pies. Gourmet Canadian cooking and fine wines take centre stage at some upmarket restaurants. Staples like pizza, pasta and hamburgers can be found in a number of casual eateries. For scenic dining, ride the Lake Louise sightseeing Gondola to the Whitehorn Terrace where the deck affords a breathtaking view of the lake and surrounding peaks and glaciers.

Après ski in Lake Louise does not mean wild partying, but there are plenty of more subdued but enjoyable ways for holidaymakers to wind down after a day on the slopes. Many local bars and eateries offer entertainment like live music, a little dancing, karaoke, limbo competitions, pool tables and darts, shuffleboard, or big screen television. Guided night ski tours and sleigh rides are also on offer. Most visitors, however, are content to settle down in front of a roaring fire nursing a cognac and rehashing the day's adventures.

Holidaymakers who take a break from skiing or snowboarding can indulge in a host of other fun winter activities including dog sledding, canyon ice walks, snowmobile tours, snow-shoeing, icefield tours, sleigh rides or ice-fishing on the lake. The lake also forms a wonderful ice-skating rink, which each winter is transformed into a wonderland with the addition of ice sculptures on the shoreline.

Skiing at Lake Louise can be quite expensive.