As unbelievable as it may seem with summer-strength sunshine blazing in Calgary, there’s plenty of snow in Lake Louise. The mountains are still open for top-to-bottom runs. Deer Lodge, just a five-minute drive from the ski hill, is the perfect location for a last hurrah spring skiing weekend getaway.Staying at Deer Lodge is like traveling back in time, to the era when this fabulous woman went boating on Lake Louise (just a few minutes up the road from the hotel). You’ll find photos like these all over the rustic hotel, which opened in 1925, after welcoming guests for two years as a teahouse.If you stay here, know going in that the operating word here is rustic, and that the main aspect of the lodge’s charm. This is not a five-star hotel. There’s no room service, and no elevators. After climbing three flights to the top floor of the Tower, we found the Crosby Room, full of delightful nooks, nary a television in sight. It’s named for Gertrude Crosby, the original founder of the lodge who opened it to bust the exclusive the Chateau had on the area.The bed, with its super-thick down duvet, was tucked into its own alcove…… with this glorious view of the Victoria Glacier. Which definitely made up for the Scald Warning sign in the bathroom. With the charm of original hand hewn logs comes original plumbing. Although, fyi, I didn’t find it dangerous. I kept the temperature warm instead of hot, and experienced a few cold shots instead of scalding.The charm carries through to the bar, the restaurant, the games room and the library, where ivories are available for guests to tickle. I found one television, downstairs with the pool and foosball tables….. but who wants to watch TV in the Canadian Rockies, when there are a stack of books and games for fireside entertainment?Up next, did I pay attention to this sign on Lake Louise? How did I possibly entertain myself without easy access to television? How was the snowboarding this late in the year? And what about apres ski at Deer Lodge? Hint on that last one: so good that I will probably break my food porn rule. Again.
It’s the middle of April and the ski season is still going strong in the Canadian Rockies. Lake Louise Ski Resort, located in the heart of Banff National Park, is just a two-hour drive from Calgary.The Lodge of the Ten Peaks at the base could be the ultimate ski chalet. Those are hand-skinned logs btw. It is Canada’s second largest log structure. But (sorry!) I can’t tell you where to find the first largest. More on Canadian manners further down in this post.Once you’re on the hill, if you take a rest stop on the first run (like I tend to do) you may notice that you’re at the same altitude as the ski hill’s namesake: Lake Louise, still frozen and looking like it’s tilted. (Although that’s crazy, because lakes don’t tilt. I checked.) Can you see it across the valley? And yes, that would be the Valley of the Ten Peaks. If you’re a vintage currency collector, you may recognize the vista from two former versions of the Canadian twenty dollar bill.
Next, head to the lift that you can see just past my right foot.There’s plenty of room to stretch out on the Top of the World six passenger chair.At the top, aka Top Of The World, you have a double black option. I went for the poser option.Luckily there’s a green run down from every chair lift. And look at those Rockies!A handy sign tells you the distance to Tokyo and Cape Horn, just in case you feel like a long run. If you can tear yourself away from the epic spring ski conditions, check out the Whitehorn Lodge. It’s always been here, mid-mountain on the front side, but it was only just converted to an upscale restaurant this season. Normally the ski racks out front are packed, but we were here on a Monday. Nothing like eating lunch 6700 feet above sea level. Usually I just have beer and wings on a ski day, but the the Rocky Mountain Game Platter for Two at Whitehorn couldn’t be passed up. After a winter of snowboarding 4 different mountains in 3 different provinces/states, and sampling the restaurant fare with all associated mountain resorts, I now feel it is safe to say that I am a game platter expert. The air-dried buffalo, cured chimney sticks, peppered duck breast, artisan cheeses, figs, sun dried cranberries and raincoast crisps on this one qualify it as Awesome.
Just to keep it carnivorous, I followed it with the Bison Burger. At Whitehorn, it comes three ways: with blueberry compote and brie, roasted red pepper and goat cheese or bacon and cheddar. I hadn’t had a burger with blueberry jam before, so I gave it a try. Delicious. The bison is locally sourced. The only other high-end mid-mountain dining option I’ve tried in recent memory was at Jackson Hole. Couloir may use Kobe beef in their burgers instead of bison, but Whitehorn is a lot closer to home. It’s not pictured here, but the inside of the lodge has been nicely decorated with wood accents on the walls and tables with amazing views.With a belly full of food and enough libations to inspire your inner Robert-Redford-from-Downhill-Racer, take a fast one down the front side. The Grizzly Express Gondolas will float you up to the top in minutes.From there, if you head over to the back side, you can pick your poison: green, blue or black diamond.The Larch Chair will take you up another peak. With 4200 skiable acres, Lake Louise is one of the largest ski resorts in North America.Back at the base, there’s nothing like having a beer at the end of the day — right by the lift. I took this after they’d closed up shop. With blazing sun at 5:30 pm, I wasn’t the only one lingering in the 10 degree temps. (That’s Celsius, folks).This being Canada, even the No Smoking signs are super polite.The lifts will keep running at Lake Louise until May 11. Saturdays they’re open til 5pm. Then they shut down … and open for summer season just three days later. Which will probably go for ages, since they have still have a 200 cm base. See you soon, Lake Louise! Hopefully on another day when it’s so sunny and bright I need my goggles on, even after I take my snowboard off.