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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.