Hotels: Alberta: Rocky Mountain High



Majestic. Spectacular. Natural wonder. You could apply all of these descriptors, but still you wouldn’t approach the truly awe-inspiring Lake Louise. Just a two-hour drive from Calgary, it sits in one of the world’s most beautiful national parks, Banff, established in 1885. The 119-year-old Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise hotel couldn’t have art-directed a better view.

Nestled near Lake Louise, the hotel is like the icing on Mother Nature’s well-baked cake, with its castle-inspired architecture, a stone’s throw from the lake itself and a short shuttle ride from some of the top ski runs in North America. “I skied Aspen as a kid,” says one 50-plus buff who travelled all the way from Alabama to hit the slopes, “but these hills are the best.”

Skiing aside, Lake Louise is a four-season destination. Come spring, there’s still fresh powder dotting the hillsides, but as it warms up, hiking, grizzly bear watching and the Columbia Icefield Ice Explorer tours, along with white-water rafting and canoeing, round out some of the outdoor possibilities.

Enlist one of the hotel’s Mountain Heritage Guides to help plan your stay or easily explore on your own. A trail skirting the lake leads to a hidden waterfall, after which there’s the Lake Agnes Teahouse, about 3.5 kilometres from the Chateau, which can be reached on foot or horseback. A couple of kilometres farther, the Plain of Six Glaciers features its own tea house surrounded by the splendour of the peaks. (Both open mid-June.) “Don’t be surprised if you see bighorn sheep or mountain goats on the cliffs,” says Fairmont’s Lori Grant.

Tea is also served at the Chateau — don’t miss chef Felix Pfister’s warm scones: frequent guests, such as Alec Baldwin, Michael Douglas and members of the Kennedy clan, rarely do.

–Vivian Vassos