It might be nicknamed “Lake Lindsey” after US ski great Lindsey Vonn but Lake Louise is open to all as the jewel of Canada’s Banff National Park.
The spectacular ski area west of Calgary lies amid the awe-inspiring scenery of the Rockies and has three times been voted Canada’s best ski resort in the World Ski Awards.
Vonn, the most decorated female skier of all time, is certainly at home here. Of her 39 World Cup downhill wins, 14 have come at Lake Louise, with four more victories in super G.
It is at Lake Louise Vonn wants to compete in a men’s World Cup downhill race in November 201 — Her sport’s governing body, the FIS, will decide next spring whether the 33-year-old can go head-to-head against the men. “It is important to try to push the glass ceiling,” she has told reporters.
But with 4,200 skiable acres and 30ft of light, dry powder snow annually, Lake Louise is not solely the preserve of decorated Olympians.
Here’s what you need to know about Lake Louise:
Situated about 112 miles (180 kilometers) west of Calgary, Alberta, Canada and 36 miles (60 kilometers) west of Banff. Calgary International Airport is just a two-hour drive from Lake Louise.
Lake Louise, which was developed by Canada’s first skiing pioneers in 1931, boasts 145 marked runs and 10 lifts with vast views across the stunning Bow Valley to the range that marks the boundary with British Columbia.
It offers everything, from gentle beginner slopes and intermediate tree-lined cruisers to glades gullies and powder bowls in a pristine setting.
Its unique design means there are runs for all standards off the top of every lift.
The ski area is split into three sections — Front Side, with the bulk of the runs, below Mt. Whitehorn (8652ft/2637m); the smaller wooded Larch area; and the chutes and steeps of experts’ favorite Back Bowls.
From top to bottom the ski area plunges 3250 feet (991 meters) with a longest run of five miles (eight kilometers).
In all, the ski area features 25% of beginner runs, 45% intermediate and 30% advanced.
There are more than 11 food and drink outlets on the mountain, including the Lodge of Ten Peaks and Whiskey Jack Lodge in the main base area, Temple Lodge around the mountain in Larch and the Whitehorn Bistro off the top of the Glacier Express chair on Front Side.
A short drive from Lake Louise lies Banff itself, an historic mountain town known for its hot springs.
Above Banff lies the ski resort of Sunshine — with its infamous freeride zone known as “Delirium Drive” — and a short distance away is Mount Norquay. They combine with Lake Louise to make up the region’s “SkiBig3.”
Deep-pocketed visitors will want to stay in the iconic Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, a luxury resort hotel which began life as a one-story log cabin in 1890, overlooking the piercing emerald waters (in summer) of Lake Louise itself.
For everyone else there is a range of accommodation in and around the quiet village of Lake Louise — 15 minutes below the resort — from cozy bed and breakfasts to luxury lodges.
The Post Hotel and Spa is rated as the best restaurant in town on TripAdvisor, followed by the Walliser Stube at the Chateau Lake Louise.
Skoki Lodge is a remote backcountry boutique lodging with a main building and three cabins for up to 26, an authentic and historic base for skiing, climbing, hiking, climbing and fishing.
The good news for skiers and snowboarders is that winter is low season in Lake Louise, meaning prices don’t skyrocket.
In summer, crowds flock for hiking and the outdoors — and that’s just the grizzly bears.