There can be few more spectacular locations in the world in which to strap on skis or a snowboard for the first time, and fortunately Lake louise has the friendly but professional, high quality, dedicated ski school staff you need to make the experience rewarding and enjoyable as well as a visual feast. There are nursery slopes conveniently located at the base of the slopes and easy progression slopes to move on to once you’ve learned the basics. Lake Louise also provides a good learn-to-ski package that combines lift pass and tuition at a discounted rate.
One especially nice feature of the ski area is that novice, intermediate and advanced runs descend from every chair, so that groups of varying abilities can meet up at the bottom of every run and ride the chair back up together.
Popular runs for beginners include the Wiwaxy (run 9) from the top of the Glacier Express Quad Chair on the front side of the mountain, or on the backside, take Pika (run 65) from the top of the Grizzly Express Gondola. The Saddleback (run 109) goes from the Top of the World Express Chair all the way down to the Ptarmigan Quad or back around to the front side.
Lake Louise is part of a tri-area lift ticket which covers its own slopes, which are among the most extensive in North America, as well as those of Sunshine, a 45 minute drive away (inclusive shuttle buses run on some days but not all, most people self-drive) and the small community ski hill of Norquay, next to Banff town itself. Unlike those based in Banff however, you may not feel the need to go travelling, except, perhaps, because you can, as Lake Louise has plenty to offer skiers for one, two or more weeks on the slopes.
There are around 80 easy and intermediate standard runs to enjoy with trails up to 8km (five miles) long spread over 4,200 acres. Some of the blacks can be tackled by confident intermediates too, including both the Men’s and Ladies’ World cup downhill runs which are wonderful fast cruisers down to the resort’s main base area.
As Lake Louise is so big it is well worth signing up for a free tour of the area with a volunteer ‘Lake Louise Friend’ who should be easy to spot in a bright yellow jacket. Tours run daily at 10am and 1.15pm (try to arrive 15 minutes early) and depart from the left side of the lower deck area at the ski area base when looking up at the mountain.
Lake Louise is a dream for advanced skiers having the three key assets of great black pistes (some gladed, some mogulled, some just steep, sharp drops), steep drops, fantastic off-piste powder fields stretching on beyond the ski area boundaries (a guide is particularly essential if you venture outside the patrolled zone and recommended within too) and low temperatures to keep the snow in great shape for longer.
A third of the terrain is graded advanced and you’ll particularly enjoy the extensive bowl skiing, and the Ultimate Steeps area of chutes up to a kilometre long are a big draw for the brave.
If you’re in resort when a big snow storm is forecast, remember to sign up for First Tracks, the chance to get out on the slopes at 8am and on to the fresh powder before everyone else gets on to to the hill. There’s a maximum group size of five and participants must be over 10 years old.
Snowboard / Freestyle Skiing
A wonderful resort for boarders who have the best of everything, with great freeriding terrain across the ski area, served by plenty of high-speed uplift, and a great terrain park to top it all off. The resort’s Showtime Terrain Park is built each year on Easy Street run beneath the Glacier chairlift. The park is always being expanded and improved, adding ever more jibs, jumps, and rails for every level of freestyler. Features include numerous intermediate and pro-level jumps, loads of rails including a rainbow box down rail, butter box flat rail and even a battleship box flat hand rail.
Cross country skiing is yet another area where Lake Louise scores highly, having some 80km of well prepared trails (14km of them local to the resort base itself) cut through the magnificent scenery of the national park. Indeed this is perhaps an even better way than a visit to the Alpine slopes to really get a feel for the vastness and the wonderful isolation of the area – just ensure you are fully prepared for skiing in what’s described, more literally than usual, as the middle of nowhere.
Average Snow And Weather Conditions
Lake Louise has one of the longest and most reliable ski seasons of any major resort lasting for six month from November to early May. Consistent low temperatures allow ultra-dry natural powder to fill the area’s back bowls. On the sunny south-facing slopes, one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated snow-making systems tops on natural coverage if needed.
Like Banff, in the mid-winter Lake Louise can be prone to snaps of extreme cold, with temperatures dropping to as low as -30 degrees Celsius. These snaps are by no means a regular occurrence and tend only to last for a few days at a time.
The resort’s reliable conditions have made Lake Louise the trusted official “Winterstart” venue for the World Cup, hosting both Mens’ and Ladies’ speed events every year in November and early December.