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Article and Photos


Larry Turner


Seldom do you get a bathtub view like this. Then again, I asked: how often do you get a chance to stay at the legendary Chateau Lake Louise, Canada’s “Diamond in the Wilderness?” Not often enough was my answer—though this was my third visit—as I viewed the light, snow geese white feathery snow glissading past the ample bathroom window, the view no less than poetry.

I remembered the old claw foot tub—which I filled with cold water on hot Texas Hill Country bluebonnet days—in the secluded mesquite and cactus patch but it was still a distant second to this view.

It was twilight as I lingered in the fine bubble bath suds up to my chin, the outside rush of the snow hypnotic to my gaze. Equally mesmerizing: Fairview Mountain as a backdrop, an abrupt and formidable piece of the Canadian Rockies’ puzzle. I felt a bit nervous under its’ deep forested green and twilight blue gaze. Throughout the day, I heard the “thunder” of Lake Louise, early spring avalanches breaking and swooshing down the many chutes in the nearby mountains and from the glaciers of Mount Victoria. The sound generally follows 30 seconds after the avalanche breaks—denoting a safe distance away…yet alarming enough to realize that one does not venture into the nearby wilderness carelessly.

The deep seated tub soothed the aches resulting from a vigorous Nordic ski outing that friend John Paulson and I had taken along the lake’s north trail—a trail that skirts the frozen lake, leading to Lake Louise’s main feeder stream, coming from the melting glaciers of Mount Victoria. The lake generally stays frozen until June.

What made our trek interesting—aside from the immense scenery—is that we were carrying some of Canada’s finest ice wines in our daypacks for a photo shoot. Paulson, a devoted downhill skier who seldom Nordic skis, summarized the outing: This kind of Nordic skiing suits my fancy well. Ski, stop, set up ice wine bottles in the snow, pour a glass, photograph, drink—it’s a sin to waste ice wine—and mush on to the next location and repeat!”

The Chateau sells and serves some of Canada’s finest ice wines from the Okanogan and Niagara appellate. Though on the expensive end, they are all unique and worthy of dessert before dinner, as was our photographic circumstance. Later that evening—after skiing and soaking—we had a memorable fondue dinner at the Chateau’s superb Walliser Stube Restaurant. When I called my lady after dinner, she asked me not to give her too much information about the Chateau, as she was too green with envy.

Walliser Stube Restaurant
Day view of the Walliser Stube
Walliser Fondue


Though the lake was named after Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter Louise, the Native Americans called it “the lake of little fishes.” In 1890 the Canadian Pacific Railway built its first log chalet along the lake. After it burned down, a split-level structure was built, followed by two timber wings—an odd yet attractive Tudor and Victorian style—in 1900. The 94-room Painter Wing came in 1913 but a catastrophic fire in 1924 took out the wooden wings. The intrepid Canadians didn’t miss a beat though as dinner was served the evening of the fire in the spared Victoria dining room. A concrete structured wing was built a year after the fire and the Chateau would remain the same the next 60 years. The current Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise architecture dates back to 1913 when Canadian Pacific Railway’s chief architect Walter Painter came up with a Chateau style unlike any other in the world—including windows, terraces and projecting towers and inside finishing detail from the Palladian villa designs of the Italian Renaissance period.
The Chateau became an all-season resort in the early 1980s with a $65 million-dollar redevelopment beginning in 1986, leading to the 140-room Glacier Wing, bringing the Chateau’s capacity up to 1100 guests and 515 rooms. Modern meeting rooms were added at that time, too, to a tune of 36,000 square feet.

Chateau days of yore
Lake Louise Montaineers
Lake Louise Memories



Blessed with abundant snowfall and breathtaking scenery, Lake Louise—a World Heritage Site-- has become a world class winter recreation site, including Nordic and downhill skiing, ice skating, mountaineering, ice climbing, dog sledding, snow shoeing and horse drawn sleigh rides.

Lake Louise Ski Resort has 12 lifts; 4200 acres of terrain spread over four mountain faces and 113 named runs to choose from, including their back bowls famous for light and dry powder. The most spellbinding aspect is the views of Lake Louise and the immense Canadian Rocky Range. Ski season is November to mid-May. Ski Magazine has awarded Lake Louise Ski Resort five Gold Medals for scenery, challenge, terrain, value and dining.

There are over 50 miles of cross-country skiing trails in the area.

In front of the Chateau, along the lake’s edge, each winter an ice skating rink is built along with an ice castle. Sixty-minute sleigh rides begin here, traveling over the romantic trail to the lake’s end and back. Private two-seater cutter rides are available, too. That is the one I want to take upon an eventual return with Amy. The Brewster family who owns the sleigh ride adventures also has western barbecues and barn dances every Saturday night.

In the tradition of the early Swiss mountain guides in the area, the Chateau maintains a Mountain Heritage Program whereas one can hire a guide for winter tours, including nearby Johnston Canyon Ice Falls, snow shoeing along the Great Divide, moonlight snowshoe or ice cleat treks and cross country ski tours.


Though I had downhill skied Lake Louise with my son a few years ago, on this trip, I elected to spend more time inside the Chateau, exploring, photographing and relaxing within its’ rapturous confines. Since it was during the week and in April—the off-peak season at the Chateau--, plenty of privacy was to be found wherever I ventured in the “mansion” (the French word for chateau).

The art work murals and wall hangings in the Glacier Wing was fascinating with homage paid to the wildlife of the nearby Canadian wilderness, the early mountaineers and rock climbers, native Americans and explorers.

Ice Wines at the Lakeview Lounge
Lounge filling up
The music begins


Each public room in the Chateau is unique. Among my favorites is the Lakeview Lounge, a great place to sit near one of the large arched windows with immense views of the lake and Victoria Peak with its celebrated hanging glaciers. The Lounge serves light lunches, classic cocktails, imported beers, specialty coffees and teas and wine.

John and my favorite cocktail was the Alberta Centennial Icewine Sour, a unique and refreshing drink made with ice wine, whiskey, frozen grapes and lemon juice. The Lounge is also the perfect place to try a dessert wine flight, which includes an ounce each of three Canadian award-winning ice wines from the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. Ice wines are hand picked and whole clusters pressed while frozen to maintain concentrated sweetness and varietal intenseness.

The Lounge has a friendly formality to it as the waiter always addressed me as Mr. Turner and anytime I would reply to her, she would say “excellent.”

John Paulson Downhilling
Cross-Country Skiing
The Victoria Room

Twilight is the perfect time to be in the Lounge as the last light falls over the lake and mountains, leading many travel writers and travel magazines to exclaim the Chateau as having “the best hotel view in the world.” No argument from me. With warm candlelight and low incandescent lighting inside—accented by the cherry wood tables and burnished wood walls--, contrasted with the blue and white winter light outside, the feeling of romance is undeniable.

The Chateau has eight dining options, including the elegant Fairview Dining Room and the Walliser, the Tom Wilson Dining Room and Victoria Ballrooms (both open seasonally), the Poppy Brasserie (casual dining), Chateau Deli, Glacier Saloon and the Lakeview. No postcard could do complete justice to the Fairview dining view. The Walliser is simply charming—a tribute to the famous Swiss Mountain Guides that explored nearby. John and I ordered two of their specialty fondues. “Heaven could not taste any better than this bison tenderloin,” exclaimed Paulson. I chimed in with the same observation with my order of black truffle cheese fondue.

Like its first cousin, the Banff Springs Hotel, the Chateau is a unique travel destination location equal to the best the world has to offer. Simply do it once…but beware: you’ll get hooked and will want to do it time and time again.

Chateau Lake Louise
Sled Rides
Chateau Cheers


IMPORTANT INFORMATION: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise: telephone 1-800-441-1414(403-522-3511 direct), www.fairmont.com/lakelouise.
Lake Louise Ski Resort: 1-800-661-1431 (403-762-4561 direct), www.SkiBig3.com


Prints may be purchased by contacting Larry at Skiturn789@yahoo.com.

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