Art / Food / Snow Sports / Winter Vacation

Lake Louise Snowshoeing: Snow Glazed Mountains, Ice Castles and Bison Reuben Sandwiches

Like every mountain snow-starved urbanite, we head to our choice mountain area for some snowshoeing.  This time after an overnight stay in Banff, Alberta, we went to Lake Louise to explore both some familiar and other new trails.

Snowshoeing on the Tramline trail between village of Lake Louise and Chateau Lake Louise. Alberta 2012. Photo by J.Chong

Snowshoeing on the Tramline trail between village of Lake Louise and Chateau Lake Louise. Alberta 2012. Photo by J.Chong

I last visited Lake Louise twelve years ago in the fall, when we were travelling across Canada from Toronto in a small moving van when Jack first relocated to Vancouver.  On earlier trips, I had seen Lake Louise, dazzling in her turquoise bejewelled summer waters when 2 years prior to my move, we cycled on the Continental Divide route to the town of Field.

Vintage poster promising mountain adventures in Lake Louise area, a mecca for hikers, mountaineering and winter sports. Archival display at Banff National Park, Lake Louise Visitors' Centre 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Area becomes a mecca for hiking, mountaineering and winter sports –as promised by vintage poster. Archival display at Lake Louise Visitors’ Centre 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Along the way, we spied a baby bear playing by a stream.  That meant mama bear was near by. We scrambled onto our bikes and spun as fast as we could up a hill along with an overly ripe banana inside my pannier.  Another time, when we cross-country skied the Continental Divide for 18 km., I recalled a nagging fear as the wind blew slanted with snow falling steadily:  we saw no one for over an hour while we crossed the snowy foothills under towering mountain shadows.  I wondered if I would finish the route before nightfall.  I was not a good cross-country skier.

Cradled Among Snow-Draped Evergreen Forests
Between the village of Lake Louise and the world-famous iconic hotel, Chateau Lake Louise by the lake, it was a perfect 11 km. snowshoeing round trip with some gradual hills, groomed trails flanked by snow-draped thick evergreen forests and rising mountains ahead at each bend.  Every winter, I always forget how much snowshoeing energy is burned up, especially when I suck in dry, fresh and pure air.

On High Line snowshoe trail. Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

On High Line snowshoe trail. Lake Louise, Banff National Park, Alberta 2012. Photo by HJEH Becker

While traversing through these soaring forests topped with snowy creaminess, you are cradled along Nature’s protective snow forest canals, away from harsh winds.

To avoid the avalanche of tourists and higher accommodation prices, we were there a week after New Year’s Day.  Perfect, since we had the trails to ourselves, and attentive restaurant servers.

This time the Chateau Lake Louise had its first  ice castle sculpture of the year, planted at the lake edge where skaters swirled around it.  In a few weeks, there will be more ice sculptures to draw more visitors until the icy creations melt down.

Lovely lady figurine chandeliers in different areas of Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park. Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Lovely lady figurine chandeliers in different areas of Chateau Lake Louise, Banff National Park. Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Though I had been in the famous hotel, Chateau Lake Louise, I had not seen it since its last major retrofit.   The hotel is a historic evocation of Canadian Pacific Rail’s few deluxe, luxury  hotels along its main railroad across Canada. It was first built in 1890.

To keep visitors entertained and satisfy their adventurous spirit, both Lake Louise and Banff  became a mecca for hikers and mountain climbers.  In the late 19th century, Canadian Pacific Railway hired Swiss guides to develop its network of trails. In the Chateau, at Parks Canada visitors’ centre and at the Whyte Museum in Banff, the mountaineering , backcountry skiing and hiking legacy is highlighted.

Bison reuben sandwiches with red cabbage slaw and handmade aioli -- elegant fireside culinary grubb at the Chateau. Lake Louise, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Bison reuben sandwiches with red cabbage slaw and handmade aioli — elegant fireside culinary grubb at the Chateau. Lake Louise, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

 Evocation of Refined Adventure Travel And Grub
Chateau Lake Louise has some lovely figurehead chandeliers, wild animal taxidermy pieces (or simulations) and occasional curious wall tapestries to emulate baronial furnishings. By the third floor entrance stairway landing, is a wall hanging that is a tongue-in-cheek Canadian  parody of the renaissance pastoral vision:  a caribou or deer  seems to be swimming through the lake.

Curious tapestry harking back to renaissance pastoral visions with deer (or elk) swimming in lake. Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Curious tapestry with mock renaissance pastoral visions with deer (or elk) swimming in lake. Chateau Lake Louise, Alberta 2012. Photo by J. Chong

In the Lakeview Lounge, we munched happily through the restaurant’s signature bison reuben sandwiches with delicately grated red cabbage and their house aioli. Surely, the

Mountain ice climber spotted while snowshoeing around Lake Louise. 2012. Photo by J. Becker

Mountain ice climber spotted while snowshoeing around Lake Louise. 2012. Photo by J. Becker

finest interpretation of the local fireside grub.  A memorable lunch with a lakeside view of Temple Mountain, its glacier, ice castle and horse drawn sleigh before we hit the downhill Tramline snowshoe trail back to the village.

Further Reading and More Adventures:
History of Chateau Lake Louise.

Chong, Jean.  Canadian Reindeer Look-alikes:  Caribou, Elk and Mule Deer.  In Cycle Write Blog. Dec. 26, 2011.

Chong, Jean. More Snowshoeing for Snow Mountain Addicts and the Vertigo Inclined. In Cycle Write Blog. Feb. 12, 2011.

Ice castle at edge of Lake Louise in front of the Chateau. Lake Louise, Banff National Park 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Ice castle at edge of Lake Louise in front of the Chateau. Lake Louise, Banff National Park 2012. Photo by J. Chong

Chong, Jean.  Rocky Mountain Cycling Interlude:  Bighorn Sheep, Ragged Peaks and Turquoise Waters.  In Cycle Write Blog.  Aug. 4, 2011.

Chong, Jean.  Roaming Around for Bison:  Distinctly North American, Lean and Maybe Gourmet. In Cycle Write Blog. Dec. 17, 2010.

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17 thoughts on “Lake Louise Snowshoeing: Snow Glazed Mountains, Ice Castles and Bison Reuben Sandwiches

  1. Magnificent! Thank you so much for posting these beautiful pictures. I had to laugh, though, when you referred to an “avalanche” of tourists. What a choice of words! My husband, son, and I visited the Banff Springs Hotel about 20 years ago and skied at the Sunshine Village ski area. Beautiful, but I’ve never been so cold in my life. I’d like to go back.

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    • It would lovely to visit it in late summer or early fall for instance because the area does have a different character during those seasons. But then you know what I mean, since you are from the Northwest coast. Speaking of winter cold, this week, we just experienced -30 degree C temperature (or 44 degree C temp with wind chill) for past few days! I’m glad we weren’t there at those temperatures.

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  2. Wow – those are amazing photos! I am strictly a warm weather girl, so snow shoeing is not a sport I’ll ever indulge in, but your description is positively romantic!

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    • It’s a beautiful area. I knew someone who had her marriage proposal there. Definitely the only place where there is tenderly, not overly salty bison reuben sandwiches!

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  3. That is absolutely gorgeous. I’d heard of Lake Louise and Bamff, but those photos express more than I’d ever read about. I’m a cross country skier myself and those photos contrasted with our distinct lack of snow here makes me a little sad. Nonetheless, that is definitely going on my list of places to visit.

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  4. Hi Jean,
    Wow! Do your photos ever bring back memories for me and my husband too. We haven’t been to Lake Louise for over 30 years and when I showed my husband the images we had a great time reminiscing. It’s one of the places we would like to visit again along with the Columbia Icefields. However, I’m not longer able to snowshoe or hike since my foot was fractured last spring and my bone structure started to break down. On the up side I’m doing well with my walking stick.

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    • I’m sorry to hear about your foot! I had no idea, TiTi. I really hope that problem is not permanent at this stage in your life. The trail that we walked, as you can see by the photos was doable with only gentle rises here and there. I haven’t been to the Columbia Icefield yet. Maybe I’ll get there..before more of the glacier disappears.

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  5. Oh, this makes me so jealous. I thought my winter photo essay was fun, until I read your post and realized how much more fun fun can be! What kind of bear did you see? I am in northern Pennsylvania and wondering how far away this beautiful place is…

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  6. Jean, it’s 50 below here today and that sandwich and the chandlers look lovely from where I sit. The ice climbing, however, you can keep. Although you were probably still much warmer than we are in Fairbanks!

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    • At those very cold temperatures and darkness during the winter day in Alaska, because you’re much further north, all more the reason to find inspiring, healthy dishes.

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  7. Having done a bit of travel writing in the short form myself, I am amazed at how much information you manage to tuck in, (so neatly!), into such a brief space. Not only have I learned a few new things here, but I think I’m going to be thinking about this gem all day:

    “…a tongue-in-cheek Canadian parody of the renaissance pastoral vision:”

    I love that idea, and the picture that you posted nearby to frame out this heady statement. (Also, can I say the photographs are fabulous? Excellent use of context! And very pretty!)

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    • The tapestry, upon closer inspection, was an amusing piece to discover. There are other tapestries at the Chateau but others aren’t as witty as this one.

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