Rustic and isolated in the breathtakingly beautiful Banff National Park, Lake Louise is arguably the quietest stop on the World Cup tour, but one of the most consistent for stellar snow conditions, even in early winter. Also on the low-key side, the Lake Louise downhill track is considered one of the mildest speed courses on the tour, beginning at the summit of the Top of the World Express.
The Lake Louise men’s races coincide with the women’s in Beaver Creek the last weekend in November and the two swap locations—the World Cup Tour’s only two North American stops—the following weekend.
Like the Beaver Creek races, the Lake Louise World Cup events are free to watch from the finish area bleachers, space available on a first-come, first-served basis. Though bringing a much smaller crowd than any you’ll find at the Cup’s European stops, the Lake Louise Winterstart World Cup Festival is toasty with revelry, prize giveaways, ice sculpture contests, hot chocolate and the enthusiastic clanking of cowbells.
Lake Louise operates lifts into early May.
Copyright: Banff Lake Louise Tourism Paul Zizka
Again, the bleachers in the finish area are the best place to watch the races, but you can also see a portion of the course and jumbotron from Kokanee Kabin, a great place to enjoy the festivities with a barbecue sandwich and beer in hand. For a panoramic view of the race course, finish area and spectacular surrounding glaciears, plus indoor access to balance the chill factor, the deck at Whiskey Jack Lodge is your best bet.
Race bib draw events (a.k.a. parties where the top athletes get bib numbers assigned) take place from 6 to 8 p.m. the evening before each race in the warmth of The Fairmont Chateau’s Temple Ballroom. Get there early to guarantee a spot and sip a glass of wine.
Situated in one of the world’s most stunning locations, The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise sits directly on the lake and is the hub for World Cup team lodging. This magical oasis is surrounded by snow, icicles and bundled up outdoor enthusiasts ice skating and cross-country skiing on the frozen lake. Like all Fairmont hotels, The Chateau provides every luxury imaginable, from spa treatments to four-star dining, private check-ins and shuttles to the ski area, evening canapés and exclusive lounges.
Located above the lake with tremendous views of the towering glaciers that feed it, Deer Lodge brings a dose of quintessential rustic mountain elegance. Dating back to the 1920s, it comprised the entire village of Lake Louse, first a six-room teahouse, then a drugstore and YMCA residence. These were eventually joined together, totally renovated 25 years ago, and now Deer Lodge is part of Canadian Rocky Mountain Resorts with 73 plush rooms.
Besides the charm of the original log cabin architecture and tarnished antiques around every corner, the lodge’s highly acclaimed rooftop hot tub offers steamy views of the mighty Victoria Glacier and the lodge offers a free shuttle to and from the ski area.
The ambiance of Deer Lodge’s Mount Fairview restaurant, with its sloped roof and walls of solid pine logs, makes you feel like you’re feasting in a high-end mountain estate during the Gold Rush. Local items range from the Wine Spectator award-winning list of local varietals to fresh mountain game that comes into play for every meal, including Wild Caribou Medallions or Buffalo Ribeye Steak for dinner and eggs with elk cranberry sausage or smoked salmon eggs benedict for breakfast.
Opened for dinner only, the arched windows of The Chateau’s Walliser Stube look directly out onto the lake and the Swiss-influenced cuisine includes an array of sumptuous fondue options, including nutmeg or black truffle-infused cheese and tender beef or bison. Meat-heavy entrees range from classic weiner schnitzel to grilled chicken with pulled rabbit. Obviously, you should save room for dessert— piping hot chocolate fondue or fresh apple strudel—and a glass of aged Scotch.
Featuring seating areas in actual railway train dining cars, Lake Louise Station offers an immersion into early 19th century history and lunch and dinner menus featuring no frills but naturally rich-flavored local favorites, such as prime rib and hot turkey sandwiches.
One of the largest resorts in North America with 4,200 acres of skiable terrain, Lake Louise began hosting the World Cup in 1980 with the men’s downhill and has been a regular stop for the men’s tour since 1999 and for the women since 1989.
The area’s most decorated champion is Lindsey Vonn, who has claimed a whopping 14 victories here, from winning her very first World Cup race here in 2004 to sweeping both downhill and super Gs the last two years. On the men’s side, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal also landed his first Cup victory in the Lake Louise super G back in 2005 and proceeded to claim four more wins here.