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Even jaded travelers turn into drop-jawed gapers once they catch sight of the views surrounding Lake Louise. These mountains simply raise the bar on beauty, hacked and sculpted as they were by glaciers that apparently reserved their finest artistry for western Alberta. Scoring No. 1 for Scenery, this resort delivers the kind of aesthetic rewards that make ski conditions seem secondary (No. 20 for snow, with 179 inches annually).
The terrain (No. 9), however, earns props for its variety: Choose between long, steep groomers (like the World Cup race course), steep glades filled with Western larches that drop their needles in fall, broad, open bowls, and tight, cliff -studded couloirs. Yet the resort layout is simple, with one frontside base area where brown-baggers stash backpacks and après feels chummy. Locals are particular about Alberta’s beef (showcased in the resort’s burgers and steak salads) but they’re easygoing about everything else, including visitors, so expect to make new friends over nachos at the Powder Keg, where the revelry ends early— with no overnight lodging at the ski area, visitors typically bunk in the lively town of Banff, a 40-minute drive down the Bow Valley. In short, Lake Louise feels wild in all the best ways. — Kelly Bastone
SKI’s Reader Resort Ranking for Lake Louise, Alta.: No. 15 in the West
- WHAT’S NEW: This winter, the Westbowl expansion adds 480 acres of steep frontside glades. Also, a new quad chairlift replaces the sketchy Summit Platter (circa 1977) that offered access to Mt. Whitehorn’s fabled backside and its alpine cirques and chutes.
- BRAGGING RIGHTS: Watch for a rope-drop on the seldom-open Gullies: nine chutes off the Summit’s backside that preserve deep, blown-in powder.
- ON-HILL RESTAURANT: At the mid-mountain Whitehorn Bistro, the food is great—but the view is incomparable, dominated by 11,375-foot Mt. Victoria and its knifelike sub-peaks.
Catch up on No. 16 in the West: Banff Sunshine, Alta.
See who’s next at No. 14 in the West: Vail, Colo.
Lake Louise’s 2020 SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey Rank: 13th in the West
Nearly every single comment submitted by readers about Lake Louise includes the words “beautiful,” “stunning,” “spectacular,” or “gorgeous.” And our favorite: “It’s stunning staring at aged glaciers and a geomorphology that tells a tale millions of years old!” says one geology-loving fan. Her good looks aside (No. 1 in Scenery), Lake Louise is a bucket-list-worthy family destination that’s simply all about the skiing.
Located in Banff National Park, the ski area is curbed from overdevelopment thanks to regulations set by Park Canada—a blessing if you like your views free of slopeside condos and après bars. (Not so much if you want ski-in/ski-out digs or to enjoy a few beers after your ski day, No. 27 and 24 respectively.) But that’s what the endlessly charming town of Banff, 40 minutes down the road, is for. At Lake Louise, you come for the whopping 4,200 acres of every type of terrain you can think of (No. 8), precious few crowds, and a Canadian exchange rate that makes taking the family a reality rather than a pipe dream (Value, No. 11). “One of the most beautiful places in the world!” — Samantha Berman
- LOCAL TIP: Sign on for a free guided tour, offered twice daily, on your first ski day. This place is too big to figure out your own.
- LUNCH SPOT: Make time for a European-style lunch, complete with the wine flowing, at the mid-mountain Whitehorn Bistro.
- FAMILY TRAIL: Take your intermediate-and-up skiers over to the Rock Garden, a boulder field that fills in with snow, for a skiing-on-the-moon experience.
SKI Magazine’s 2019 Review of Lake Louise, Alta.
If you’ve ever seen a postcard of Lake Louise—specifically of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise and the view across the lake to Victoria Glacier—and wondered if it really is as pretty there as it seems … well, there’s a reason it won the top score for Scenery. It’s as if each vista in this neck of the Canadian Rockies is just slightly more scenic than the last. That’s also true at Lake Louise Ski Area, 10 minutes from the Chateau.
With over 4,000 acres of terrain, Lake Louise easily satisfies all levels of skiers. The frontside is mostly long, cruisey greens and blues with a stately National Park-style wood-beam lodge at the base, while the expansive backside is where the action’s at: chutes, nicely pitched steeps, and high alpine bowls that funnel down into perfectly spaced glades. Experts, be sure to take the Summit Platter to the chutes, a sweet spot when conditions are good.
And though there’s very little development due to its National Park location—we can rest assured that cookie-cutter condos will never mar the views—the ski town of Banff is 45 minutes down the road.
Come to Lake Louise for the…
- SCENERY The panoramic vistas from Sunset Terrace are picture-perfect. You can see the Chateau in the distance.
- SERVICE Hop on a complimentary mountain tour, running daily at 10 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
- ON-MOUNTAIN EATS Whitehorn Bistro has a European-chalet feel and a menu to match.