After several years away, it felt great to be back in Alberta. The mountains were calling us, so we were excited to head west from Calgary and see the Rockies up close. And hey, it doesn’t hurt that American dollars go further in Canada these days. 😉
We decided to bypass Banff and head straight to Lake Louise, which is a little less commercial and one of our favorite ski hills.
As we drove, I was overcome with a familiar sense of awe – it’s exactly the same feeling I had when I first drove to the mountains 16 years ago! Growing up in the Maritimes, we have hills and small mountains, but nothing like the Rockies. Quite honestly, I had never seen anything like it before.
The mountains are so majestic and the two-hour drive which winds its way through Kananaskis, Canmore, Banff and up to Lake Louise is breathtaking. There has been a lot of snow in the mountains this winter, so there were many snow-capped peaks. As I looked around, it made me realize how lucky Albertans are to have this in their backyard, so to speak. Some days Houston can feel rather… flat. It also made me feel SO proud to be Canadian!
I could tell by the looks on their faces, the girls were equally as impressed with the scenery. There were lots of pictures, selfies and snap-chats to their friends back in Houston.
The cost for this view? It’s only $20 for a vehicle to enter and drive through Banff National Park.
Lake Louise is a great hill, with enough black diamonds (and double black diamonds!) to keep the older girls happy, and some great greens and blues for my youngest daughter. She thought riding the Gondola was exciting and it’s fun to watch her confidence grow. This is a world class hill and, on any given day, you will find tourists here from Japan, the U.S. and Australia, who love to ski the Canadian Rockies. I also love how all the Aussies come and work at Lake Louise during our winter (their summer).
I decided not to ski this trip, but instead caught up on work inside the beautiful Ten Peaks Chalet . I found myself a cozy table by the fireplace upstairs at the Japanese-inspired restaurant, Kuma Yama. I couldn’t stop looking up at the beautiful wooden beams inside the chalet. We happily curled up by the fire for some apres ski when little hands and feet got cold and tired.
To end the day, we paid a visit to the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, one of the most famous Canadian hotels. It was originally built at the turn of the 20th Century by the Canadian Pacific Railway and continues to be a grand part of the Western landscape.
The Chateau hasn’t changed much – it is still beautiful to walk around, have a bite to eat, stroll through its shops and pet the hotel dog, a yellow lab named Marcus. Unfortunately, we didn’t have our skates, but we stepped out onto the frozen lake and watched as people went skating and played some pick-up hockey. We even saw some of the ice and snow sculptures left over from the Ice Magic Festival that is held here every January.
Lake Louise is also beautiful in the summer, when the ice has melted and the lake is a beautiful turquoise green.
If you haven’t been, you really should consider a visit to Alberta’s Rocky Mountains…they are spectacular! And whether you are a skier, snowboarder, hiker, or maybe you just like to take it all in as the passenger in a vehicle, you will not be disappointed.
Calgary is a great home base for a trip to Banff and Lake Louise, with amazing restaurants, shopping and world class entertainment, including the Alberta Ballet, the Calgary Stampede and many other attractions.
From Houston, you can catch a direct flight to Calgary on West Jet and several other airlines, including United/Air Canada. Prices right now are really decent – I’ve seen a round trip as low as $350, before taxes. And, with the low Canadian dollar, many American tourists are finding it economical to visit Calgary and the Rocky Mountains as either a winter or summer getaway.