Sitting inside the borders of Banff National Park and about a 40-minute drive from the town of Banff, Lake Louise is a stunner. Its namesake turquoise colored lake attracts millions of visitors in the summer (all the more reason to visit when temps drop and snow flies), and striking mountain landscape cater to all your adventurous spirit.
You’ll find the basics (food, lodging, beer) in the town’s center—located almost equally between Lake Louise Ski Resort and the 1,000-resident crown jewel of Banff–Lake Louise. But be sure to pick up anything beyond the basics in Canmore or Banff, because options are limited here.
Get Geared Up
Locals in Lake Louise focus on the best winter sports: Skiing, and hockey. While participating in one of these on your Canadian vacation might be at the top of your list, hauling gear through the airport is a nightmare. That’s where Wilson Mountain Sports comes in. The store stocks quality rentals, so you don’t have to worry about extra baggage fees. Whether you’re looking for something to make turns on at the resort or for a backcountry setup (complete with tech bindings and skins), Wilson’s has you covered. Want to round out your trip with a game of Canada’s favorite pastime? Rent skates and sticks here, too, and the friendly locals will be happy to pint you to the nearest rink—or pond. www.Wmsll.com
Looking for spicy terrain? Head to Lake Louise’s back bowls for chutes and gullies galore. Take the Summit Platter and hike the ridgeline to the top of Brown Shirt Main, UNC, and, if you’re lucky, Boundary Bowl. Powder days in the back bowl are not to be missed, but it’s worth hitting even when the flakes aren’t flying (the sun softens back bowls and wind often deposits snow daily). Add a little more spice into your day with a visit to Powder Keg Lounge for après and try the famous Caesar (Canada’s version of a Bloody Mary). www.SkiLouise.com
A Backcountry Lodge Fit For A Prince
Skoki Lodge is so well known for its beauty, amazing food, and top-notch service that everyone from local ski bums to Prince William (yes, that happened) wants to visit. About a six-mile skin from Lake Louise Ski Resort (if you’re royalty, they might let you heli in), Skoki is not to be missed. The lodge and surrounding private cabins can sleep 22, and they fill up fast in peak season, so go during the early season for the best pricing and fewest crowds. Be sure to stay at least two nights, so you have a full day to explore the area before heading home—which you’ll be reluctant to do after dining on mouth-watering cuisine made from scratch daily (without electricity or running water, we might add). For tips on adventures from the lodge, talk to staff. They’ll provide maps and enough beta to get you going. www.Skoki.com
Sip Fine Wine
Get in touch with your inner sommelier (or just get good n’ sloshed on fine wine) at the Post Hotel. The private wine cellar at the hotel is said to hold more than 25,000 bottles of wine and has one of the most comprehensive wine lists in the country. Just don’t ask them if you can slap the bag. www.PostHotel.com
Play A Game Of Shinny
Shinny might be the most widely participated in sport in Canada (but don’t quote us on that). It seems like everyone plays shinny—which for the laymen, is a game of pickup pond hockey where there are no rules, no positions, and no protective gear. From moms of three, to middle-aged men, to first timers, everyone gets to play, and everyone has fun. All you need is a pair of skates and a hockey stick to show up to a local pond and get your turn at feeling like a true Canadian. Pay a visit to the frozen Lake Louise where there is almost always a pickup game.